Gracie’s Story: a Rescue Tail and an Exposé of Animal Suffering at the Stockton Animal ShelterPosted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on January 16, 2014
When local government fails to enforce laws that protect animals from suffering, turning to the courts is often the only remaining option—and that is why ALDF is monitoring the situation at the Stockton, California animal shelter closely. When Eileen McFall first visited Stockton Animal Services on March 2, 2012, she thought she knew what to expect. Having heard media accounts of nearly a thousand animals destroyed under the newest supervisor, Eileen had also heard disturbing stories from current and former shelter employees. Still, what she found shocked her.
She saw animals with obvious injuries who showed no sign of having received veterinary treatment. Most disturbing was a pit bull with a large, untreated swelling on her face. With her camera, Eileen documented what she witnessed and asked to see the records of sick and injured animals, but shelter staff refused. City council member Dale Fritchen was allowed to see the shelter’s records, which defused the situation, but Eileen was still prevented from seeing these public records.
Outraged, Eileen posted the images of the wounded dogs on Central California Pets Alive, a Facebook page she organized to advocate for shelter reform in Stockton. When concerned citizens called Stockton Animal Services, they were told the dog with the swollen face had been taken to a local veterinarian and diagnosed with tumor they were told would be too expensive to treat. Working with a local rescue, Eileen used the provisions of the California state law “the Hayden Act,” to place “rescue holds” on several dogs, including the one with the swollen face, now named Gracie.
Eileen fostered Gracie, who turned out to have an abscess and ear infections. A local veterinarian drained the abscess and put in stitches, gave her antibiotics for the ear infections, and spayed her, once she was healthy. For less than $500 retail, a higher price than Stockton Animal Services would pay if it had simply employed a veterinarian, Gracie was treated. Within a month, Gracie was adopted by a local family—and she is now a beloved family member.
Since then, Eileen has helped rescue dozens more dogs and cats in urgent need, mostly pit bulls, who are killed at alarmingly higher rates than all other breeds, and many of whom are sick or injured with treatable conditions. These loving, adoptable animals are listed on Central California Pets Alive.
Eileen says “for every animal I save or help, I know there are hundreds killed, and many of them could be saved if Stockton followed the law, used taxpayer funding effectively, and demonstrated a commitment to the policy goal of the State of California to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals by comprehensively implementing lifesaving programs.”
Almost two years after Gracie’s rescue, and many fruitless attempts to bring about reform, Stockton Animal Services still blocks access to public records—and continues to deny treatment to sick and injured animals. ALDF will not stand for the neglect of innocent animals, and we encourage citizens to report their concerns to local law enforcement. Remember to “adopt, not shop”—by adopting animals from shelters rather than purchasing them from breeders and pet stores. Hundreds of thousands of cats, dogs, and other animals are in shelters waiting for their forever-homes, before it’s too late. ALDF is strongly considering legal action to protect the animals at this facility.