La Plus Ca Change At BARC

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People who aren't fans of dogs accidentally strangling themselves with their leashes aren't going to like this story: On Wednesday, a dog at the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care died after, as previously mentioned, it got caught up in its leash while a staff member cleaned its cage.

Elena Marks of the Mayor's Office, which now oversees BARC, confirmed for Hair Balls today thart "it had been taken out of its cage and secured with a rope or leash while the cage was being cleaned. Apparently, it got the rope or leash wrapped around its neck. The staff person cleaning the kennel performed CPR and vet staff came and attempted to revive the dog, to no avail."

Now, here's what really gets us: This painful, disgusting death occurred on Wednesday. We e-mailed Marks -- who, along with Frank Michel, head of communications for the Mayor's Office, is the main media contact for BARC -- to try to confirm this on Thursday. We didn't hear a peep. This morning, we e-mailed again, at which point Marks told us that she was still gathering information. Then, a few hours later, we were told the scant few facts printed above.

After about nine months of dealing with horrible public relations while BARC was still under Health and Human Services, we were hoping for improvements in that area. But the only thing we can infer is that Elena Marks -- the new public voice of BARC -- not only had no freaking clue that a dog died a horrible and completely avoidable death on Wednesday, but two days later was unable to explain how it happened. Well, if you can't explain how it happened, who's to say it won't happen again? Or, for that matter, does this happen a lot, and we just happened to hear about it this time?

Two days after the incident, shouldn't the public be able to know what the process is for cleaning cages? Shouldn't we know how far away this dog was from the employee who was cleaning the cage? Was the dog completely out of everyone's sight? And if so, for how long? How long does it take for a dog to strangle itself -- two minutes? Five? Ten? Where was this dog that it was out of sight long enough to kill itself?

Shouldn't the public be able to know when the employee's supervisors were notified? Shouldn't we know if this employee was disciplined or fired or maybe given extra training? For that matter, shouldn't we know what this person's job title was? Was this one of the newly branded "animal technicians" that BARC Interim Director Gerry Fusco assured the public would know shit from Shinola?

And this employee knew how to administer CPR? On a dog? So wait -- this employee doesn't have enough sense to safely tether a dog to a post, but he or she has been certified in life-saving skills? Weird.

Hey -- shit happens. Dogs accidentally get strangled. We understand. But, since BARC's still a public agency, don't you think the public has a right to know just how in the world this happened?

Update: Elena Marks has come through with an explanation.

The person cleaning the kennel was an Animal Care Technician. He removed the dog from the kennel and then secured the leashed dog on a door handle within a few feet of his position which is standard procedure in this particular ward. The ACT proceeded to begin removing the bedding in the cage while the animal was secure. It is noted that this dog, while highly aggressive, was not a barker.

Within a very short period of time, estimated to be no more than 1 minute in elapsed time, the ACT turned to observe the animal's condition. The animal had obviously circled in place, wrapping the leash around its neck without vocal signs of distress. The Animal Care Technician, upon observing the Chihuahua as listless and laying on the ground, immediately tried to resuscitate the animal. While not a required training at BARC, the ACT had previously received CPR training at another shelter here in Houston.

The animal was non-responsive and in conjunction with a BARC veterinarian, the ACT carried the animal into the surgical room for emergency treatment. All possible efforts were attempted to revive the animal. However, the animal was already deceased at this time and revival was not possible.

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