By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend.
On a Sunday morning in February 2008, the owner of a two-month old Belgian Malinois mix decided the puppy needed to be put down.
In an e-mail from the owner, "Judy J.," that became part of the subsequent Houston Police Department's Office of Inspector General report, Albert's last hours were described thusly:
"We fell asleep together on the couch, but I eventually put him in his bed with Roy, who was waiting on him. This morning, the pneumonia has totally taken over his body. When I went to get him up this morning, he was laying on his side in a puddle of clear secretions, hardly able to breathe and not walking at all. The final sign to me that he's had enough. And yes, his eyes are telling me that it is time. We've got him bundled up in a basket and I'll get him into BARC as soon as they open....Right now, his breathing is extremely congested, but he responds every time we sit next to him and pet him. Roy keeps trying to climb in the basket with him to take care of him as he has been doing over the weeks."
"This foster mother arrived at the shelter shortly after the gates were opened to the fostering public. [BARC opens to the public at noon on Sundays]. Per her own admission, she had been waiting at the gate since 11 a.m. Other foster mother [sic] attests to having seen this woman with the dying puppy in the basket before noon. She was standing in front of the immunization clinic, right under the cameras....When the foster mother got to see the veterinary technician, she was carrying a moribund puppy in a basket. She asked to see the veterinarian on duty."
The vet on duty was David Paul Rundell, who was working without a state-mandated controlled substance registration, meaning he was not permitted by the state of Texas to euthanize animals. But we'll get to that later. Right now, we've got a dying puppy on our hands.
Costas's complaint continues: "The foster [mother] insisted in speaking with the veterinarian, who visibly showed his displeasure for the interruption...Dr. Rundell left the room, the tech allowed the foster mother to say goodbye to her puppy, and then he did as he was told. He took the puppy to the loading dock area and placed him on the chain link cage adjacent to the euthanasia room, expecting that such euthanasia would be done expediently. No other cages were available at that time, since the kennel attendant was hosing down the stackable cages. In the middle of the afternoon, this puppy was witnessed by BARC employees having seizures while he laid on a cold cement floor. As per Dr. Rundell, euthanasia was performed by him after closing to the public (4 p.m. on Sundays)."
When Rundell caught wind of Costas's complaint, he knew where it was coming from. It was retribution, as far as he was concerned, and he wasn't going to hang. For one thing, as he would point out in his sworn affidavit, the puppy was not that sick. So it didn't need immediate euthanization, which is why it shouldn't bother anyone that Rundell enjoyed one of his customary cigar breaks while the thing waited around for the needle.
And if it came down to it, Rundell was going to cash in his chips. And he made it loud and clear, in his memo to his supervisor, Chief of Veterinary Staff Eunice Ohashiegbula-Iwunze.
"This complaint is another specious attack on me by Costas," Rundell wrote in the memo. "Costas has made numerous complaints against me, all of which have been dismissed...That this complaint was filed after I gave the Bureau Chief evidence of falsifying medical records, altering city records, and violating city ordinances and shelter policies cannot be a coincidence. If any action is taken against me, I will be forced to seek 'whistle-blower' protection."
There, he said it. The dreaded W-word. Rundell knew it would raise hackles; the city in 2000 lost a whistle-blowing lawsuit filed by a vet tech who said he was fired after he objected to dismal conditions in the animal shelter. The $875,000 payment was bad enough, but the real public relations nightmare occurred eight years later when eight dogs baked to death in the back of an animal control truck while the truck's driver enjoyed a leisurely lunch. The malfunctioning air-conditioning unit responsible for the dogs' excruciating deaths was one of the things the whistle-blower had complained about for years.
That all made the poor folks at BARC really worried for a good week or two, as elected officials stomped their feet and demanded changes. Vague allegations of animal abuse and neglect are one thing — they're easy to ignore, and, frankly, have been raised by animal welfare advocates since BARC's inception. But if you're an elected official in Houston, the image of dogs furiously clawing their cages as the temperature rises and rises — that's really something you can get behind. It's like saying you're against child abuse and terrorist attacks. And at the end of the day, you can go home after saying everything and doing nothing.
BARC stole my puppy, I called numerous times and left several messages to which none of my calls were returned, the Owner/Manager told me I had to pay $500.00 -which I did not--my puppy was stolen off my property and BARC left a note stating that the dog was taken from its home address, and then I found out re-sold my puppy to some one earlier today.
Has this happened to anyone else before?
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city