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ACCT PHILLY executed Saint: Hold them criminally responsible

Philadelphians Tiffany Lavelle and Bryan Landis’ friendly dog “Saint” never stood a chance to leave ACCT PHILLY alive. His death stems directly from the shelter board’s decision to hire recidivist kill pound leaders Aurora Velazquez and Summer Dolder. As part…

Image | Erick Pleitez via Wikimedia

Philadelphians Tiffany Lavelle and Bryan Landis’ friendly dog “Saint” never stood a chance to leave ACCT PHILLY alive. His death stems directly from the shelter board’s decision to hire recidivist kill pound leaders Aurora Velazquez and Summer Dolder. As part of a leadership team, under the auspices of Animal Care and Control Centers of NYC (ACC), many animals suffered incomprehensible atrocities, an audit revealed they were victims of  “shoddy practices,” as reported by CBS local, and if ACC dog “Maverick” could testify about being dragged to his death, as exposed by the NY Post – an inhumane end.

Soon, a petition to oust Velazquez and Dolder was created. Two gut-wrenching events at ACCT PHILLY made that happen.

In July, an inspector found conditions at ACCT PHILLY so repugnant that the report ended with a recommendation to “refer for cruelty.” Perhaps stemming from potential conflicts of interest, many organizations that are supposed to stand up for animals and their owners instead protect kill pound leadership. Case and point? The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (which has a close relationship with ACCT PHILLY) inexplicably found that conditions at ACCT PHILLY did not meet the criteria for cruelty. They also refused to investigate the haunting death of Saint.

Saint was brought to ACT PHILLY by a police officer after his dad was pulled over for a traffic violation and had to go to the station, according to CBS PHILLY. Arriving at ACCT PHILLY to retrieve Saint, Landis was stunned to learn his dog had a broken jaw. A video snippet of Saint at ACCT PHILLY (posted by The Paw it 4ward foundation) shows a loving companion longing to cling to the safety in his dad’s call of angst – but being swept away by the depravity inflicted upon him and the scent of what was to come.

The film shows Velazquez telling Landis the safest place for Saint was at ACCT PHILLY. She also lied that ACCT PHILLY did not break Saint’s jaw. According to Lavelle, Velazquez first blamed police for the injury, then Saint, for biting the control pole. Lavelle posted that according to an ACT PHILLY document, “1/3 of Saint’s jaw was hanging by soft tissue.” A source told me that the worker – who Lavelle was told by police was acting aggressively toward Saint – still works at ACCT PHILLY.

Lavelle’s Facebook Page states that ACCT PHILLY wouldn’t release Saint unless Landis provided proof of vet care arrangements. After he left, Velazquez had Saint executed, according to Paw it 4ward, nobody had the decency to call Saint’s parents. The video also shows Dolder lying to Saint’s distraught mom that he had to be destroyed because he wouldn’t allow treatment, even though Lavelle’s document shows he was examined, and he had “nowhere to go,” even though “shelter protocol requires emergency veterinarian treatment,” according to Paw it 4ward. When through heaving soul tears Lavelle asked Dolder where Saint’s leash and collar are, Dolder appears to melt into the floor. Gone – just like Saint’s body.

Sadly, what happened to Saint is the rule, not the exception, where kill pound leaders reside. Why? As I noted earlier, it is rare for animal cruelty investigators – as well as police and DAs – to hold those they work with or care about criminally accountable.

How can such egregious behavior be stopped?

Locally:

  1. The Philadelphia DA must pursue a criminal investigation on ACCT PHILLY staff who participated in the potential abuse, cover-up, and execution of Saint.
  2. The City of Philadelphia must break the animal services contract they have with ACCT PHILLY and replace them with an outstanding PA rescue group.
  3. Fund a state-of-the-art animal shelter.
  4. The ACCT PHILLY board must be replaced with rescue leaders and shelter pet advocates.

Nationally:

We need a Sacred Trust Act. This bill would mandate persons who resign before a full cruelty/abuse investigation takes place or is convicted thereof shall not be permitted to work with vulnerable populations in another city or state. No. You do not get multiple chances to harm creatures who can’t fight back.

I won’t let myself think about Saint’s last moments at ACCT PHILLY. Nor will I entertain the life-long trauma they inflicted – by his execution – on Tiffany’s little boy. Philadelphia officials will soon reveal their humanity.

Will they choose to hire animal loving leaders, grounded in a no-kill modality, to make from, what is currently hell, a miracle? Or will they choose again people whose life’s work is killing “saints.”

Philadelphians, living in a city you proclaim to be of love: Always choose a miracle.

Dana Fuchs is an animal advocate and writer living in NY. She can be reached at animalwriter25@mail.com.

Send your thoughts to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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