Following DCSPCA's recent rescue of 6 Great Danes in Milan, NY as part of a collaborative effort among a number of nonprofit organizations, many of you have had questions about the role that we played. Additionally, the online media outlet Mid Hudson News has published two articles containing inaccuracies and misinformation despite our providing them with a detailed statement containing facts they had requested. The below was sent to Mid Hudson News on January 16, 2024. The outlet communicated that they would publish it, but instead chose to ignore the facts and continue to publish their false claims.
Dutchess County SPCA's Statement:
"The rescue of the Great Danes was a wonderful act of collaboration, and we are grateful to all the organizations involved. In light of the incredible amount of misinformation that is being spread, deliberately or mistakenly, about the Great Dane case, I would like to clarify some basic facts. First, the owner was not “a monster”. I never met him, but I viewed the bodycam footage of the investigation that was led by John Anderson, then our humane law officer, and Stephanie Fitzpatrick, ACO for the town of Rhinebeck in September 2019. The owner was an elderly gentleman who was clearly overwhelmed by his circumstances. We removed dogs from his property and found new homes for them. Officer Andersen closed the case. A couple of years later, we received an alert that more dogs were on the property. We returned and removed those dogs.
"Although there were far too many dogs for him to care for properly, he was trying his best. Therefore, we alerted human service agencies about the man, because he clearly needed help. DCSPCA has no wish to punish a person under these circumstances; we did not move ahead with prosecution. The primary concern of our organization is the well-being of the animals, and we were successful in rescuing them. He asked to keep two of the dogs whom he loved, and family and friends, including a veterinarian pledged that they were to help him in the future. Unfortunately, that was not enough to prevent him acquiring more dogs, and so as soon as we got the alert of additional dogs, we acted again.
"A few facts about DCSPCA and humane law: we do not, and legally, cannot move in like a swat team and just shut down hoarders and put them in jail. Under NY State law, animals are considered personal property, so an investigation needs to be conducted. The standards under which animals may be seized are very high, perhaps too high in the view of some, so we first offer support like food and assistance with housing if there is no evidence of malicious intent to harm animals. Animals that are clearly sick or neglected may be removed. In addition, DCSPCA is, like every other rescue, operating on a knife’s edge of financial means. We do not have cash reserves or unlimited funds. We don’t have the resources to canvas the county continuously and monitor every pet owner. That’s one reason why we have a new agreement as of this year with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office so that their detectives will investigate and enforce humane law cases. Also because of our limited funding, we can only take in as many animals as we can support.
"Thus, we determined, in this case, we could take and care for 4 of the Danes. We ended up taking 6 of them. We received notice from Stephanie Fitzpatrick on Friday, January 12 and immediately sent two ACOs to help with the removal of the dogs. We were initially told there were 9 dogs; we found 19 there. The house was in much worse condition than the last time we saw it. Our ACOs worked with the other rescues, the Sheriff’s Office and the State Police through the day to transport the dogs to the shelters. The 6 dogs we took were safely situated at DCSPCA by late afternoon.
"I am grateful to the other rescues that have assisted and made balanced comments that showed empathy for the owner and the animals. I am dismayed at those and their followers who seem to want to damage any shelter that provides for the animals. What is the purpose of that other than to limit even more the resources available in our county to animals in need? Also, it is important to show empathy for not only animals, but humans that love animals, but that may also be struggling physically or mentally and desperately need the support of governmental resources, rather than incarceration.
"Everyone who has been following this story may like to know that the six dogs in our care have now received full medical attention and baths. They are responding well to their new environment and are beginning to allow pets, while some are already receiving leash training. We’re pleased with their progress and we look forward to sharing more news on them all soon.
"Finally, please keep in mind that there are other animals out there right now, in Dutchess, Ulster, Orange and every other county in our state that are neglected and suffering. Our chances of finding and helping them are increased dramatically by unified efforts of all shelters everywhere. Those chances are decreased by petty and unproductive accusations and misinformation. Let’s be humane both to animals and to people, and work together to combat animal abuse and neglect.
"We respectfully request that this statement be distributed to your readership and that Mid-Hudson News retract and issue a corrective statement with respect to your article published on January 14, 2024." -Lynne Meloccaro, Dutchess County SPCA Executive Director