The ASPCA reluctantly promised to investigate itself after it was leaked to the press that 20 dogs died in its custody when it cut corners during transport. Seven months later, the ASPCA refuses to say whether such an investigation was conducted and, if it was, what it uncovered and whether any changes were made to prevent it from happening again.
The ASPCA took in roughly $263 million in 2017. That same year, ASPCA CEO Matt Bershadker had take home compensation totaling $852,231. Yet according to transporters, the ASPCA did not spend $15,000 to protect dogs by equipping each transport van with an HVAC system, a fraction of Bershadker’s salary and only 1/200th of 1% (0.006%) of total revenues.
Last May, 20 dogs died at the hands of the ASPCA because it cut corners during transport. According to the New York Post, which broke the story based on an internal email from ASPCA CEO Matt Bershadker which was leaked to the press, the “dogs died while the nonprofit was transporting them from a site in Mississippi to one in Wisconsin…”
The ASPCA does not know “where along the trip the dogs died” other than to say it “was not the result of a car crash.” That means no one checked on the dogs on the 700-mile trip between the time they left Mississippi and arrived, dead, in Wisconsin, roughly 11 or so hours later assuming no delays and no “pit stops.”
The ASPCA appeared intent on burying the incident, according to a complainant asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees interstate transport of animals, to open an investigation. That complainant indicated that the ASPCA reluctantly claimed it would investigate itself only after the story broke in the press. Seven months later, the ASPCA refuses to say whether such an investigation was conducted, what the investigation uncovered, whether anyone was held accountable, and more importantly, whether any changes have been made as a result of the investigation in order to ensure that it never happens again. Repeated requests to the ASPCA for that information went unanswered.
While the ASPCA isn’t talking and the USDA declined to investigate, claiming the ASPCA transport was outside its jurisdiction as it was “not conducting regulated activity,” transporters claim the most likely cause of death was either heat or carbon monoxide.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association,
The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can rise almost 30º F… and the longer you wait, the higher it goes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that’s 110 degrees inside your vehicle!
With temperatures near 90 in Mississippi and dogs packed tightly in crates, the temperature inside the vehicle could have reached almost 135 degrees in as little as one hour.
An ASPCA position statement on transport for animals says that it advocates “Protecting animals from inclement weather and adverse environmental conditions such as excessive heat or cold” and “Planning for unexpected changes in routing or schedule, including access to food, water and rest at appropriate intervals.” It failed to practice what it preaches.
Despite over $250 million in annual revenues, making it one of wealthiest charities worldwide (and that includes all charities, not just “animal protection” ones), the ASPCA also did not spend the $15,000 or so it would cost to equip the transport van with climate control and other protections. The transport van is a low-budget cargo van with dogs in crates, packed in tightly, held from bouncing around with bungee cords. They did, however, spend the $5,000 it cost to wrap the vehicle with their name on it in order to promote themselves.
By contrast, one transporter noted that when he transports animals from shelters to rescuers, he only drives them in a trailer with climate control. All dogs in his care also receive water, dog food, positive ventilation/air conditioning, and music to reduce stress. In addition, he maintains CCTV so he can see the dogs while driving and a digital thermostat reader so he always knows the temperature in the bed. Additionally, his trailer includes a carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector.
Roughly every four hours of driving, he stops to inspect the dogs, top off the water, and walk the dogs. The dogs are taken out by members of his crew individually and walked using a slip lead. If they are soiled, their crates are cleaned and disinfected, and if necessary, the dogs are bathed. He has never had a dog die in transit.
Given that the ASPCA does not know where the dogs died along the route, it is clear that they were not afforded minimal protections during the drive. “It’s inhumane,” he said.
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