This is what a health and well-cared for Basset looks like.
Some months back, a handful of reactionaries went off half-cocked, and contrived a manufactured crisis. It seems the "Animal Rights" folks in Pennsylvania had "raided" Wendy Willard "without warning" and seized her legally kenneled pack of Basset Hounds.
Eh? And what was the supposed reason for all this? Ostensibly it was because the "Animal Rights" loons hated hunting.
Something was clearly wrong with this story, and from the get-go I urged caution and a go-slow-and-get-the-facts approach.
For one, Basset Hounds are generally not used for hunting in this country. The activities of a Basset Club are mostly comprised of overweight and aged matrons playing dress-up as they walk around a hay field with their dogs ambling around in front of them. After an hour or so, there is a break for lunch and tea. No one has a gun, and "no animals are killed in the making of this movie."
The second issue is that all this was supposed to be happening in Pennsylvania, where hunting deer, duck, rabbit, geese, turkey, elk, fox, raccoon, bear, and coyote are wildly popular, entirely legal, and heavily promoted activities. If you were to wage a war on hunting or hunting dogs, Pennsylvania is NOT where you would want to start that fight.
The third issue is that it was not PETA doing the "raid" on this kennel; it was the Pennsylvania SPCA. These folks have a regular television show on national TV where they rescue animals from cruelty and abuse, and they are funded by the state of Pennsylvania to act as Animal Control officers.
But never mind. The pack mentality of the paranoid took over and all kinds of nonsense made its way onto the Internet thanks to the breathlessly inflated right-wing nuttery of a blogger by the name of David Zincavage, who describes himself as a "right-wing web aggregator and purveyor of unpopular opinions."
In fact, he is simply a man who has a very casual relationship with the truth, and it soon tumbled out that almost everything he claimed and said about the Murder Hollow Basset pack on his blog was demonstrably wrong.
For example, Mr. Zincavage said Wendy Willard's dogs were seized without notice. Not quite. In fact, the PSPCA had stopped by and given Wendy written notice that she needed to contact them, and she ignored that notice. Then, when the PSPCA stopped by again, Ms. Willard went "Madwoman of Chaillot" and started throwing rocks at the officers and screaming at them. Needless to say, those officers came back very quickly with police officers in tow, and what they found at the kennel was shocking enough that they seized the dogs, took pictures, and filed criminal animal cruelty charges.
Zincavage said Willard's kennel had always been in compliance until a new law was passed in the dead of night changing all the rules. In fact, there was no new law, Willard's kennel has been wildly out of compliance for a very long time, and Philadelphia's dog laws are some of the most permissive in the nation, as I pointed out by actually doing the research.
So what's the update?
The short story is that Wendy Willard and the PSPCA went to court yesterday, and Ms. Willard lost after a judge looked at the pictures and heard the evidence.
Ten of the 11 seized dogs are to be permanently rehomed by the PSPCA. The PSPCA may consider rehoming suggestions made by Ms Willard, but they do not have to follow her suggestions; the PSPCA has the final say. Ms. Willard will be allowed to have one dog back -- the dog she said she kept in her house.
The criminal animal cruelty charges are still pending against Ms. Willard, but provided she cleans up her Kennel, fixes the roof, installs a drainage and watering system, and allows unfettered inspection by the PSPCA, those charges will be dropped in six months.
This is the kind of sentence a judge will impose on someone caught drunk driving or with illegal drugs in their luggage: "If you check yourself into rehab and go to Alcoholics Anonymous for six months (and get signed notes at each meeting saying you attended), we will drop the charges."
In a sentence like this, there is no question a serious violation occurred, but the judge is tempering his justice by trying to train the offender to go in a different direction in his or her life. The judge is saying: Show me six months worth of real change, and maybe you won't have to go to jail. But jail time is still hanging out there, which is why those criminal animal cruelty charges have NOT been dropped and are still pending.
The judge was apparently NOT amused by the kennel pictures he saw. What he saw was real abuse. And while he may be sympathetic that folks do, occasionally, get over their head with dogs or cats, there is a place to draw the line. And the line is a simple one: take care of the animals. Run a clean kennel. Make sure the roof doesn't leak, that parasites and bugs are kept at bay, and that dogs get veterinary attention. On all of these counts, Ms. Willard had been failing, which is why the order for remedial work is in place, and the criminal animal abuse charges are still in place.
Of course, all of this is typing, and sometimes a picture really is a 1,000 words. Have you noticed that Wendy Willard has never posted any pictures of her kennels or dogs?
Well, Amy Worden at the Philadelphia Inquirer Philly Dawg blog has. The picture below is of one of the Bassets found at Ms. Willard's kennel.
As Amy notes,
"Look closely at those little black dots on the dog's face, those are ticks. PSPCA officers say all the dogs in Willard's kennel were covered in ticks and some were suffering from Lyme Disease. Many had severe cases of parasites too."
This is what a "Murder Hollow" basset looks like; a flithy dog, shit caked on it ears, cherry eyed, tick-infested, with a healing wound over the left eye, standing on wet concrete.
The dogs were also covered in feces and were standing in water from a leaky roof.
In short, misery.
No wonder the judge was not amused and the criminal charges are still pending!