Thursday, July 15th, over 1000 “animals” were taken from the home of a USDA licensed breeder in the Houston area. There are many aspects of the seizure that give pause. The facts of the case need to be clarified. The HSPCA may or may not be right in having had these animals taken.
Around Houston there are numbered precincts each of which employs constables to enforce the law. The seizure was reportedly carried out by constables from a neighboring precinct. The case is reportedly being heard by a judge several precincts away rather than by the local judge who has jurisdiction. Although on the day of the raid media reported no court date was set, the judicial arrangement and the decision to have the action carried out by constables from a different jurisdiction must have been made in advance of the seizure since, by Texas law, a hearing date must be set before a raid.
The HSPCA has a video posted. Watch it, with its superfly music, and tell me what you see that is so horrible. Yes, in my opinion, too many birds, but is not enough reason to raid an individual’s home. The birds probably sound distressed because dozens of strangers have come into their home and they are afraid. Meera Nandlal, HSPCA Public Relations, was in charge of the seizure and stated the reason for the seizure as “poor environmental conditions and cruel confinement.” ABC News noted some of the birds are “Extremely valuable” and asked when they would be “Up for adoption.” If the county wins in court, this raid will bring money into the coffers of the HSPCA.
Last year I reported on an animal seizure and published photos which clearly showed distressing conditions and abuse. The photos from this recent raid do not show anywhere near the same level of bad conditions. The HSPCA had only one photo that shows the bottom of a very dirty cage, but the dirt is below the cage floor level and there seemed to be no birds in that cage. The dog run photo below taken at the raided property shows an average run and a bowl clearly containing food. When animals are seized they need to go to a situation that is an improvement over the one from which they are being removed. I am not sure this is the case in this instance. Above are 2 photos: One of 2 macaws caged as they were found on the property; the second of 2 macaws dangerously caged for transport many miles in a large tightly-packed semi truck. Additionally, as show in another video and according to the HSPCA itself, they are not capable of caring for this many birds. Another video gives a clearer look at the outbuilding. Currently birds are being kept caged in storage rooms, closets, etc., very poisonous environments for birds. Why take all of these animals from a property where they are not in immediate danger?
Last year in Pinellas County Florida there was a similar bird seizure that made headlines. The object of the seizure was even accused of providing inappropriate living conditions for her son which would have led to removal of her child from her home. They also took a couple of dogs and cats; personal pets. What did not make headlines was the resolution of the case. A judge returned her birds and a few pets to her. Unfortunately many of her birds died in the county’s care.
Within the past few years seizures of animals and plants have become common around the USA. These are often accomplished with the help of a disgruntled neighbor. The recent Houston raid credits “a concerned neighbor”. Do we want to live in a nation where our home may be entered and our things, our animals and our children may be summarily seized and we are put in a position of having to prove our innocence? Do we really want to worry about what are neighbors think of our lifestyles?
I would not keep hundreds of animals and birds. But I have no moral or legal right to tell you what to do as long as you are not inflicting pain on another creature. We may not approve of mass breeding practices, but do we have a right to take these animals away from someone who is really doing nothing technically wrong? If you feed your dog Old Roy and I think it is nutritionally incomplete, do I have the right to call the authorities to take your dog away from you? If I can do that to you, can the authorities come to my property and take my outdoor cats because a neighbor thinks cats should live indoors?
Whether animals are being abused is a matter of opinion. Several years ago I reported a neighbor who was breeding pit bulls to fight. He kept them chained outdoors in deplorable conditions. Each dog was kept on a short chain attached to a stake outside a dog house. The 24 houses would go underwater in a heavy rain. Young pups were left outside with their mothers in these conditions. I contacted the HSPCA several times and finally they claimed that they visited and that they could do nothing and that the dogs were not abused.
Many Houston shelters do not re-home or in any way try to save the lives of Bully-type dogs, Rottweilers or Dobermans. They will not let a private person come and take such a dog. Once confiscated or “rescued” those dogs will die if not taken by a private organization.
Persons who have had no more contact than a short walk with a dog are considered qualified to work in the animal and animal rescue industry. Houston is a prime example of this hiring issue as they hired a business consultant last year at an enormous fee to revamp BARC. Laws need to be more specific and there needs to be credentialing so that the people who decide what is and is not an appropriate living condition for an animal have proper education and real-life experience.
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