Just hours after the McKearn family reluctantly surrendered their dangerous dogs to the city on Thursday, someone started a Facebook campaign against the Schenectady animal control shelter.
Lindsay McKearn had said she considered the shelter so bad she would rather see her dogs euthanized than held there for a week. Now, a page called “Justice for Schenectady AC dogs” is calling for protests, making allegations of abuse and even urging people to break into the facility.
The page includes a picture of a dog that appears to be in poor shape, but police spokesman Lt. Mark McCracken said police didn’t neglect the animal.
“The city regularly takes in strays that have been turned over by concerned citizens, and this is the condition that we receive them in,” he said in a news release.
Two local animal advocates toured the shelter with police Friday to take a look at the conditions for themselves. Libby Post, executive director of the state Animal Protective Federation, said she saw no signs of cruel treatment.
“I think that it’s adequate,” she said, adding that it was built precisely to standards set forth in state Agriculture and Markets law.
But she asked the city to consider adding on to the shelter by building outdoor runs. Currently, the dogs each have a window that faces outdoors, but must stay inside on concrete or on their beds. City officials seemed receptive to the idea.
Brad Shear, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, who also toured the facility, will provide technical assistance on building the outdoor runs, Post said.
She had no other quibbles with the facility.
“The place was pretty clean,” she said. “I think they’re doing their best. They’re doing what they need to do to keep the dogs safe and healthy.”
The McKearns allege that their dogs were left in their own feces and urine for days at a time and were unfed whenever animal control officers were out sick or on vacation. Post said she gets frustrated by such claims.
“First of all, how would somebody know that?” she said. “There’s lots of allegations that are being spread around. Where’s the proof? It doesn’t do any animal welfare group any good to make these kinds of allegations without proof.”
The creator of the Facebook page posted a portion of the Agriculture and Markets Law that says anyone can break into a shelter to feed and water animals if they have been abandoned for at least 12 hours. But the issue of feeding and cleaning was discussed at length before the City Council approved the new shelter, and city officials added part-time animal control officers to the budget. They are called in whenever dogs are brought to the facility and handle feeding and cleaning when the full-time officers are unavailable.
McCracken said the kennels are always cleaned once a day, and four times a week they are cleaned twice a day. He said “soothing” classical music is played, as well, although no music could be heard when the McKearns’ dogs were brought there Thursday.
He acknowledged the shelter does not have air conditioning, but said overhead fans provide air circulation.
The Facebook page compared the shelter to a dog being locked in a car on a hot day. The page also claimed dogs could spread disease, but McCracken said the shelter was built with 5-foot-tall cinder block walls between each kennel to minimize the spread of disease.
He said the kennels are 3 feet wide and 14 feet long, in response to criticism about the size of the shelter.
“These are not cramped runs, as has been claimed, but are larger than some local dog boarding facilities,” he said.
The McKearns are hoping to win back their dogs, a pitbull named Vic and a bull mastiff named Tyson, after a court hearing Wednesday. Until then, the dogs must stay in the shelter, by order of visiting City Court Judge Stephen Swinton. Swinton will decide what to do with the dogs and whether they are too dangerous to go home.
Vic and Tyson leaped out a window at the home, ran across the street and attacked a smaller dog being walked by its owner on June 30. That dog later died of its injuries.
It was the third attack involving Vic and Tyson, and the two now face possible euthanization.