One of the many things I love about living in Wisconsin is that the state is chocked full of animal lovers. From border to border, county to county, city to city…even street to street…animal lovers are everywhere.
Another thing that I love about my home state is that there are plenty of opinions about issues related to animals and there are, thankfully, even more people who are willing to debate different animal-related topics. Some of my readers disagree with what I write for yeahstub.com from time to time and share their thoughts at the bottom of whatever article they consider to be controversial. While I don’t always agree with their opinions, I continue to value each and every single comment that my readers have shared. The only way that we, as a community, can effect change, after all, is through thoughtful conversation that inspires action.
With that said, I’m writing this editorial about recent events in Sauk County, WI, after weeks of contemplation. While it won’t take you long to realize that I was not, and am not, a main character in what I’m about to share with you, I do want to make it very clear that what transpired over the past few months is very personal to me even though I live in another county.
Why? Because, as a result of me conducting some cursory research, I was told by an attorney, Lisa A. Baiocchi of Pautsch, Spognardi & Baiocchi Legal Group, LLP, that if I wrote about what happened between the Sauk County Humane Society and Kendall Witter and her mother that whatever I published would somehow jeopardize a binding agreement reached by two parties I’ve never had any dealings with.
More specifically, in an email sent to me on August 15, 2014, Baiocchi wrote, “Thanks Cindi for the note. But no article is to be written about this matter or the settlement is off. If you cannot give me that assurance in writing then there are deeper issues here.”
“Furthermore, you should not even be aware if [of] the adoption of the cat and to whom is part of any settlement. This matter was to be kept confidential so I don’t know why you are even referring to ‘the return of the cat.’”
Baiocchi sent me that message because I had the nerve to inquire about an agreement that was reached between Kendall Witter and the Sauk County Humane Society after two of the non-profit’s representatives reclaimed a cat that Witter adopted from the SCHS based on claims of neglect made by a man who is both Witter’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her toddler this past summer.
And that’s where the real story here begins and should end since Witter eventually got her legally adopted cat back from the Sauk County Humane Society, yet the story of the SCHS continues and will do so indefinitely…but not for the reasons you might think.
If you’re like me, you probably assume the Sauk County Humane Society’s legacy will persist because of the animals the organization exists to serve. You might even think the organization’s story would be inclusive enough to involve humans who are willing to welcome abandoned dogs, cats and other creatures into permanent, loving homes. In other words, you might be naïve enough to think that the Sauk County Humane Society actually cares and tries to improve the lots of the living, sentient beings in its community regardless of whether they have two feet, four paws, wings or some other mode of transportation.
Unfortunately, if you are like me in this context, we are both wrong.
In its 2014 mid-year report, the Sauk County Humane Society makes the following claim, “Over the past, almost three years, the shelter has emerged as an organization that puts compassion and empathy for animals first while also serving the pet owners of the community.” The same document also unmistakably reports that 300 of the 889 animals that were turned into the Sauk County “Humane” Society in the first half of this year were euthanized.
The same document heralds this year’s 33.74% euthanasia rate as a victory, too. Not because it’s below the national average, which it isn’t. Not because killing more than 30% of the animals the shelter takes in is laudable, which it isn’t. Instead, the report claims the shelter’s current murderous rate is symbolic of the positive changes the non-profit has made since 2011 simply and exclusively because the rate is lower than what the shelter has recorded in the past.
Even still, the group hedges against its ability to maintain a kill rate of 33.74% by saying, “While we are grateful the need to euthanize has been significantly lower for the first half of 2014, historically, the rate increases the second half of the year due to the increase in unwanted litters born in the spring and summer, resulting in more ill and injured animals entering the shelter. However, we are cautiously optimistic that despite any such increases for the remainder of 2014, the annual rate will remain its lowest in three years.”
The report does not say that the SCHS will increase the number of adoptions it arranges as more animals are brought in. Instead, the report says that it is likely that it will increase the percentage of animals it puts down between now and the end of the year, but that’s okay because the group will still have slaughtered a smaller percent of animals than it has in recent years. Where is the “compassion and empathy” in that?
Where was Dana Madalon’s and Rosemary Greenwood’s compassion and empathy when they showed up at Kendall Witter’s home and seized the cat she had adopted from the charity the two woman represented based on the ridiculous accusations made by Witter’s former boyfriend, James Brandt? Where was their compassion and empathy when they, according to Witter, threatened to show up at a custody hearing regarding Witter’s and Brandt’s young child to testify on behalf of Brandt without ever having met the child in question if Witter didn’t relinquish ownership of her cat?
In a document she submitted to Sauk County Circuit Court on May 8, 2014, Dana Madalon, the current interim executive director of the Sauk County Humane Society, clearly states that the radical action she and Greenwood took to retrieve Tiny, Witter’s cat, from the woman’s home was not “in any capacity under its [SCHS’s] contract with Sauk County.” So…well, so what does that mean? Apparently, it means that Madalon and Greenwood considered it appropriate to reclaim a cat from a loving, stable home by bullying the animal’s owner because they were not doing so to fulfill the terms of the lucrative contract SCHS has with Sauk County. More accurately, it seems that the two most visible people at the Sauk County Humane Society feel free to fulfill the organization’s obligations to the local government in a manner that is very different from the way they treat the people the government exists to serve…”the pet owners of the community” that SCHS exists to serve along with the animals it treats with such compassion and empathy before euthanizing them unnecessarily.
After I thought about what she said in the email she sent to me, I filed a grievance against attorney Lisa A. Baiocchi of Pautsch, Spognardi & Baiocchi Legal Group, LLP. Now, it’s time for the residents of Sauk County and everyone who supports the Sauk County Humane Society to voice the grievances they have with the way SCHS operates.
The Sauk County Humane Society needs to change. It needs to save more of the animals that enter through its doors. It needs to adopt out more companion animals to people who are willing to give them forever homes instead of denying adoption applications based on ever-changing standards that seem to vary by application. It needs to attract staff and volunteers who treat all living beings, four-legged or otherwise, with the respect they deserve.
In short, the Sauk County Humane Society needs new leadership…like yesterday. Luckily for the residents and animals in Sauk County, Dana Madalon is the shelter’s INTERIM executive director. It’s time for the non-profit to hire a permanent replacement for Madalon before more adoptable animals are euthanized and more pet owners are abused by her and her minions.
It is time for the Sauk County Humane Society to actually emerge as “an organization that puts compassion and empathy for animals first while also serving the pet owners of the community” instead of just claiming to have done so…something that cannot happen until a genuinely compassionate and empathetic person is brought onboard to lead the charity in the right direction.