A Pennsylvania woman, Wendy Willard, has filed a huge lawsuit against the PSPCA. Those of you who are members or who have been following NAIA are probably already aware of this story, as we have been supportive of her case from the beginning. But for the uninitiated, Wendy Willard is a sportswoman, schoolteacher and environmentalist, who was harassed and bullied by the PSPCA into surrendering 11 of the 23 dogs in her hunting pack under the threat that they would all be taken if she didn't sign their so-called "surrender agreements."
Well, she's back, and here are some choice excerpts from her complaint:
"Rather than seek a warrant, the officers and wardens, however, simply entered the adjoining property of her neighbor, crossing from that property's grassy area to trespass onto the wooded area on Miss Willard's property," according to the complaint.
Willard says the manager of the 340-acre preserve next door had told the PSPCA officers they were trespassing, but the officers responded "that they did not care and that as PSPCA agents they would go wherever they pleased and do whatever they wanted."
Wow, that's pretty amazing! Even the police don't have the power to go wherever they please and do whatever they want! And you get to carry guns. Where do I sign up?
But wait, there's more...
Willard says defendant PSPCA officer Tara Loller falsely accused her of violating Philadelphia's "Limit Law," which prohibits having more than 12 dogs in a single residence.
"Defendants improperly brandished this 'Limit Law' as the pretext to seize Miss Willard's hounds from the heated barn. This inapplicable ordinance was used to oppress and badger Miss Willard into complying with defendants' demands."
Willard says she involuntarily signed "surrender agreements" for seizure of 11 of her dogs after officers threatened to take all 23 of them "if she refused to sign over the others." She says the officers told her "that the forms had to be signed immediately because one of the dog wardens was going into diabetic shock and needed medical attention; that if she did not sign the dogs over she would get so many citations that PSPCA would 'own her home;' and that defendants Bengal and Loller would not leave her kitchen until the documents were signed."
False charges? Bullying and threats? Well, they did say they can do anything they want. Including going through her mail, apparently:
Willard adds: "While in Miss Willard's kitchen, defendant Bengal began to look through Miss Willard's mail. When Miss Willard asked defendant Bengal to stop reading her mail, he retorted, 'We got a warrant. We can look through anything we want.'"
And perhaps even killing one of her animals:
The arbitrary abuses did not stop with the seizures, Willard says. She claims that for months, PSPCA acted as if all the seized dogs were still alive, though it knew that one had been euthanized after a botched surgical procedure.
And "Incredibly, defendant PSPCA records list 11 hounds being spayed or neutered in its facility, despite the fact that two of those seized hounds had previously been spayed," Willard says.
Like I said...Wow. If even half of this is proved in court this does not bode well for the PSPCA. If you've got the time, here is a copy of the suit. It's definitely worth a read.
You want a piece of me?
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time complaints have been made about heavy-handed behavior by the PSPCA. In recent years they've been accused of ignoring a lack of evidence in favor of hype and sued to the tune of $75,000 for false imprisonment. Not the best track record.
Animal welfare concerns and enforcement are sure signs (I'd even say a "perk") of living in a stable, civilized society. There are people out there who hurt animals; people who hurt them through innocent mistakes, neglect, or wanton cruelty. And having mechanisms in place to alleviate and prevent such suffering is a good thing. But where investigators used to hail from criminal justice backgrounds, we are seeing more and more activists and publicity hounds (pardon the pun) among their ranks, and these PSPCA-type situations are the result. If animal welfare agents are going to have law enforcement powers, they need accountability, proper training, and respect for the laws they are upholding.
Such behavior tramples the guilty and innocent alike with little regard, and only serves to foster an environment among pet owners (especially breeders) where animal agencies are "the enemy," rather than a partner to work with and improve the lives of their animals and communities.