Is the Truth in Here Somewhere?

The following was posted by BFAS as a comment on Sad News from Dogtown.

Thank you for voicing your concern so that I can address it. Please know
that we have a comprehensive fencing protocol. Our caregivers meet
regularly with Dogtown management to point out any maintenance needs and to
draw attention to any concerns about a given dog’s fencing requirements. Our
Team Leaders in Dogtown check all maintenance requests that are turned in
and insure their proper completion.

Many of the dogs that we manage require special considerations. Our primary
concern is the animal’s safety and welfare as well as their emotional
health. In conjunction with the physical requirements like fencing, our
caregivers work diligently to meet the emotional needs of each individual
dog.

Caregivers do express concerns as the needs change for different dogs. If a
dog needs a different type of fencing than it currently has, the decision is
made to either move the dog to a run that already has the appropriate
fencing or to add the appropriate fencing to the dog’s current run. We have
runs that have normal fencing between runs, we have runs that have double
fencing between runs and we have runs that have cement board visual barriers
between runs. All of these types of fence lines meet specific needs for the
dogs.

In most circumstances it has not been necessary to have double fencing on
fence lines that are not shared with other dogs. Obviously in this case we
were tragically mistaken and work has already begun to prevent this from
happening in the future.

Sincerely,
Patty Hegwood
Director Animal Care

The exact same text appeared on a mailing list with the author given as:

Aileen L. Walden
Sr. Manager Member Experience
Best Friends Animal Society
aileenw@bestfriends.org
(435)644-2001 ext 4817

While this was obviously a staff prepared reply, the difficulty here is in both finding and revealing the truth. Reading through this text carefully, it is not at all consistent with my experiences at BFAS. Nor have I ever heard, ether then or now, any caregiver freely and directly express what BFAS has stated above. Instead, I’ve heard a rather different story from Michelle Besmehn and Ed Fritz of BFAS when requests were made. And more recently, rather upset comments coming from others at BFAS after this all happened.

In addition, among the comments on that BFAS blog is one that strikes a memory from years ago. From both the name and wording I’m pretty sure who she is.

Vicki Mcdog

I worked at BFAS and I know how hard it is to get a request for fencing or whatever for the dog’s completed. We worked soooooooooooooo hard to get barrier fencing in dog run’s where dogs were redirecting on each other out of barrier frustration. So, I for one beleive Holly Smith’s blog reply.

Note that in some cases like Vicki notes, we’re not speaking of a large expense. Sometimes a Plexiglas or board strip is enough to prevent an incident. And then another familiar name appeared in a comment.

Marti

Like Vicki, I used to work as a caregiver at Best Friends. (Hi, Vic!) Many of us tried so hard to get double fencing put on all the lodges. But management said that there was no money to do so. Again and again, we saw dogs with chewed off ears, tails, legs–all wounds done thru fences. (Example: Nicole got her lip totally damaged because a dog in the next run pulled on Nicole’s lip and tore it to pieces.) We begged, we cried for double fencing, but the answer was always the same, “No money.” If Beans and Tug and Denzel HAD been in double-fenced runs, none of this would have happened. None of it.

So, where are we? It is reasonable to assume that no current employee of BFAS who wishes to keep their job would publicly contradict them. While there are many others who have direct knowledge of the truth here, no amount of any such statements would be real proof, and this remains a he-said/she-said argument.

Enough that, in the past, it has been very difficult to convince people. Looking back at emails with even a single former BFAS supporter, I must have sent over a dozen page-long emails. What finally happened is that my comments sensitized her to more carefully read postings and news from BFAS over several weeks. She caught and challenged them on major items that either conflicted or just didn’t make sense. So after hours of effort, one single person turned around.

Lacking $43 million dollars in donations and staff writers, I know that we can accomplish little in the way of real changes there. However, each time BFAS puts their foot in their mouth, a few more turn around and perhaps help their local shelters instead. Of course, there are a few hardcore cases that come up occasionally, like the recent one on BFAS and Oreo’s Law.

But where are we at and where can we go on this? As most people naturally want to believe in “good” things and as really hard proof will be rare, what do people want to hear in order to decide that it’s a truthful story? Here I an taking my own experiences at BFAS, together with, whenever possible, multiple direct reports from people who have witnessed incidents and situations at BFAS. I am trying to include as many details as possible, many that are carefully omitted by BFAS. If anyone has a better idea on this, I’d really like to hear it.

Finally, for context, we have a situation quite unlike that with PETA. Instead, BFAS does have many good people and does some good things. Considering their size and resources, we are asking them for honesty, integrity and reasonable responsibility. For better treatment not only for the animals, but especially for the many good people. Over the years so very many people have relocated to the Kanab area to follow a dream, only to be cast out for caring too much, for being too responsible, and sometimes just for asking too many questions. In all this, both animals and people have suffered.

For more discussion: Best Friends Responds to Fencing Issue

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About exfriender

An animal lover and one of many "exfrienders" who previously supported Best Friends Animal Society.
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9 Responses to Is the Truth in Here Somewhere?

  1. HonestyHelps says:

    I can only imagine all the dogs that could be helped with this money, all the dogs that have to die because of lack of space, dogs who don’t need special fencing that costs tons of money. I find it disgraceful to allow those dogs to die, dogs who could find a home given enough time, dogs who don’t live to kill other dogs, dogs whose fates were sealed at birth to dying in a shelter and never see this much given to them. Is it me or do you see the same? I can understand a sanctuary for senior dogs or dogs with medical problems that no one wants to take on, but not a sanctuary for dogs that were bred, trained, and live to kill. The truth lies in this incident, that some cannot be rehabbed and those put other lives in danger. So not only did Beans have to die, but two other dogs die everyday so that these two killer dogs can live.

  2. exfriender says:

    With the large number of dogs there some special fencing and barriers would naturally be needed. Previous similar incidents have involved other breeds. If you were to price it out, double fencing and barriers are not very expensive, especially as only needed in certain areas. Barely a dent on the $43 million they took in last year (check the BFAS 990). Add this to the lack of any scientific training and the problem is one that BFAS themselves created. I do agree much of the publicity and attention given to the Vick Pits could have been better spent in helping other dogs.

    As to those pits being “…bred, trained, and live to kill.”, many others would flame you for that. I have worked with many pit bulls and love working with the breed. While not all former fighting dogs can be rehabilitated, many can to some degree and those at BFAS simply were not given the chance. They spent far more time on publicity then care.

    Overall, with some real honesty and responsibility on their part, BFAS could do so very much more for the dogs, and that is the reason for this blog.

  3. Jasmine says:

    How are they able to take in this money with all these problems that seem to be growing in number, and the numbers of unhappy people? Where is the money coming from? People all over seem so discouraged by Best Friends.

    I had heard that they downsized the number of dogs at the sanctuary by the hundreds. Where did these dogs go?

    They seem to be doing everything they can to hoard money, but for what reason? Are there more high earners now that are taking higher salaries?

    I used to donate to Best Friends. I’m really disgusted at the direction that this place has taken.

    • exfriender says:

      As to one part of the how, look at how much AIG and Lehman Bros did without people knowing. With happy articles, omissions and disinformation, most of the BFAS supporters either didn’t know or did not want to believe. And so, the money continued to come in. I spoke elsewhere of the “20%-con game”, where they do hire enough good people and do enough good things that many either do not question them or are afraid of hurting the good.

      On downsizing the number of dogs, the previous blog with this name had reported on that (another exfriender). It appears that, several years ago, BFAS decided to downplay the Sanctuary and apply more efforts elsewhere. Some say this was to better help all the animals, and others speculate it was to give them much wider exposure and increase their revenue and control over other groups. During this period many empty dog runs were reported by visitors, at the same time that BFAS was claiming to be completely full. An internal struggle on this and other issues may have partly resulted in Michael Mountain leaving BFAS, noting that in some of his speeches he prompted people to bring them dogs needing help, at the same time as others at BFAS claimed to have no room. However, in the end, their Sanctuary brings in many visitors and donations and had to be maintained and must support its public image.

      As to where the money goes, one can only examine their 990 tax forms. Some items are clear expenses, for things that are easily visible. Many others are not so clear. While listed salaries are reasonable, there is no way to verify some of the other listings. Consider both their RentaDog program
      https://exfriender.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/rentadog-the-scheme-unravels/
      and that directed donations (e.g. Guardian Angels) go directly into their General Fund and the animals there see none of it.

  4. Jasmine says:

    Thank you exfriender for your comments.

    I am very slow to coming to these realizations about Best Friends. I have the feeling that Best Friends started out with good intentions, and that I wasn’t fooled from the beginning. but something went bad and now it is really unbearable for me to think of what is going on there.

    I stopped contributing when I first heard some of these things. I wanted to wait and see and think about things. I did notice one thing. Where in the past, Best Friends always sent lots of marketing and fund raising materials, there was a big slowdown.

    Do you think that enough people have been discouraged by the growing problems that they are feeling the pinch fiscally?

    I am convinced that losing donations is the only thing that will change this mess, because the powers that be at Best Friends just seem to be so arrogant and actually lie to cover up their failing. In all this, the animals got pushed to the side.

    Someone forwarded to me a report by a volunteer of crowded dog runs of large dogs with very little weather protection that attack each other, with untreated injuries and so forth. Have you heard of this? Can’t authorities do anything if there is actually cruelty at Best Friends? It doesn’t sound like the county is too happy with Best Friends from some of the comments that others have left here.

    When do you think these internal struggles started? Were there management type people hired that decided to take over and do these things? There was that Berry man who was fired, or did he leave? Did Michael Mountain leave by choice. I had the feeling he was shunted out. But as I remember Mountain had left before he Berry came on.

    I never thought Best Friends could go in this way. There’s such a combativeness, even with their donors who ask questions.

    • exfriender says:

      Jasmine, because there is some good at BFAS (and a lot of pretty show and stories), many others have been slow to realize what is hidden. As in other shelters only a few people may be involved, I years ago started peeling back layers, going higher up, but finding it worse the higher I went. I met and spoke with others in the area. There are those in Kanab who knew them from their beginnings there. Hearing my stories of today, they said nothing has changed from the past, other than more people and much more money and power (and more power). At this point they are the largest employer in the county, so must be treated carefully.

      As to a financial pinch, there were several major incidents in the past few years where many of their donors left them. However, in each case BFAS just invented new publicity campaigns and ended up with more money than they had lost. The only good results were that some shelters elsewhere received more donations. So, that is unlikely to work by itself.

      On your noting arrogance and lying, they are now relying on donation analysis and statistics. Nothing wrong with that by itself, but they now care less about topics and people (and animals) where little money is involved.

      However, on that report of crowded runs, untreated injuries and weather protection, I have neither heard nor seen that. I know of certain issues regarding medical treatment and procedures, but nothing like what you seemed to describe. I doubt it really was as she related, or many caregivers would have forced some action. Remember, there are some good people working there with the animals.

      As to internal struggles, there have been some, but none of the parties involved was interested in changing their direction. At one point, Berry had hired several people who were interested in honesty and improvements, but Berry got rid of them long ago.

      So, is BFAS a place that started good and turned bad? Many have thought so and I’ve wondered. But, from all that I’ve found, it was always this way. Just that earlier on they had less money and power, and had to actually do more as they didn’t have the size and publicity machine to hide it. If one goes far enough back, you will find a different type of organization, but one that was managed by exactly the same principles as today.

  5. Jasmine says:

    I will not forget one of the first signs to me that something really bad was happening at Best Friends.

    On their website, they gave some story about a group of puppies brought to Best Friends from miles away by teenagers in a pickup truck. I knew it was a miracle that the teenagers didn’t just abandon these dogs in the desert.

    But Best Friends reported that the dogs were badly banged up in the truck and one was injured, which they kept, or so they claimed. But they sent the other puppies homne with these kids with some kind of instructions on how to find them homes. It just seemed crazy. Of course those teenagers couldn’t find them homes. I hope those puppies weren’t abandoned in the desert as they drove away from Best Friends.

    There was a photo of the puppies, and I thought, what are you thinking Best Friends? You just turned your backs on these needy animals. Some other people in the comments section also raised some questions, and I realized things were not what they seemed. I felt I had been told that my donations would help pay for and care for needy animals like this, and it wasn’t happening.

    I think that really started to open my eyes that Best Friends was becoming more concerned about the money and less concerned about their reason to be there which was to help animals.

  6. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!?

  7. dwf says:

    Exfriender,

    I recently ‘stumbled’ onto your site by following the latest act of negligence that has occurred at BF. Your site as well as Yesbiscuit are instrumental in getting the word out on what actually is happening at BF.

    BF for so long has been ‘given a free pass’ simply because they have been able to contain negative events locally. You know as well as I do, that when employees get ‘let go’ or leave BF most of the time they leave Kanab. They take their experiences and knowledge of happenings that occur at BF with them. Granted, not everyone who leaves BF has had a bad experience. But, they see a side of this organization that at best, is not what BF wants to have as public knowledge.

    BF has gotten so far away from their original mission I don’t even think Greg Castle knows what it is anymore? BF is all about the $$$$$ now and I think that is painfully obvious to some. It is a well known fact that BF made over 45 million dollars in 2009. Yet, they have little to show for it? BF is STILL using the original dog runs (The Lodges) that were built over 25 years ago! What is BF doing with all of the money they are taking in?

    I like you and so many others, believe that the whole truth needs to be told. Not just bits and pieces, but the good, bad, and the ugly! The bad and ugly parts are what most of the time BF conveniently omits. The more people who get the opportunity through this site and others to hear the whole story, the more informed public we will have. Hopefully, making BF more accountable for their actions.

    Keep up the great work you are doing!

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