Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Cedarshake Shakedown

After I completed my first article on the Cedarshake Dachshund raid a day ago I sat back and contemplated the situation. I thought about money and I thought about compassion.  I thought about empathy.  I thought about my fellow man.  I believe we have lost our way as a people and a Nation. We don't have compassion for each other anymore.   We don't have empathy when something goes wrong.  Everything in our world is in sound bites. We think in preconceived ideas, biases, images that have been spoon fed to us. No one seems to have critical thinking skills anymore. Too many still think "rescue = God" and "dog breeder = Satan" and they make these pronouncements without bothering to find out any information on the target of their rage.  They seem to forget that there is good, bad, and shades of grey in any subset of society.

I don’t know the parties involved in this case so I can only make opinions based upon what I have read.  Make no mistake about that one, I read between the lines, suspect everything and look for proof.  What I know is that the 
Aguiars' of Cedarshake have bred Dachshunds for a number of years. How long, I’m not sure. The media certainly has provided no information on that and thanks to a massive media campaign destroying their lives, they have taken their website off the internet which might have given their side. The media doesn't care about the back story.  They don't care about the lives of the people they cover.  They just care how exploitative they can make this situation for advertising revenue. Now the (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) MSPCA has stated that they investigated the Aguiars' three times between 2011 and 2013 and found no violations of the law of any kind. Now that says something to me. Something powerful. If there was anything to find, anything at all, they would have found it. They didn't.

In the many articles on this story, a number of people have come forward to testify at what a wonderful breeder Shirl 
Aguiar was over the years and talked her beautiful dogs and happy puppies. But it's not all roses and sunshine. Two people came forward to state that they did witness things that weren't quite up to snuff recently. Are these two women trustworthy? I don’t know but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

The APHIS division of the USDA has stated that a good kennel can become a bad kennel in less than three weeks if "something" has happened. Maybe something has happened to the family. It's flu season. Maybe the 
Aguiar family has been ill. Maybe they've had a financial set back. Maybe a family situation has occurred with a relative which has taken all of their time recently. Who knows. The point is, whatever may or may not have been wrong with the Aguiar situation, it seems to have been of a recent and short term duration. 

Do we hang someone for that? Do we destroy their life for that? Do we traumatize their children for that? Do we make them unemployable for the rest of their lives for that?  Why weren't they given a warning, a notice of what was wrong, and time to clean up or fix anything that needed it?

Now MSPCA has stated that the temperaments of the dogs "seem to be friendly and sociable," health wise there is almost nothing wrong with them. MSPCA says they were "dirty."  And that old stand by of "feces and urine" though pictures of the dogs show clean and healthy looking animals.  Well you know what? It’s January! I’d be willing to bet that at least 70% of all animals who go outside are dirty at the moment. Cows in winter fields are dirty. Horses in winter pastures are dirty. Sheep grazing in winter fields are dirty. Goats are dirty. And yes, dogs who go outside, get dirty. It happens. It especially happens in winter and spring. It's natural. It's normal.

Was it the weather? Was it a family illness? Who knows! More importantly, who cares. The point is, whatever may or may not have happened, the end result is a families life has been degraded, dragged through the mud and ultimately destroyed over something as minor as a some dirt.  They will be financially devastated.  The 
Aguiar children will never forget witnessing a raid of their home. More than likely, they will never get over it. The MSPCA caused that. Was it worth it? I think not.

But what of the MSPCA? What's their story?  Turns out, all isn't sunshine and roses in their world either. For the MSPCA is a multi-millionaire.  
Think about that.  How many dog breeders are multi-millionaires?  Any?  I doubt it.  Most dog breeders make minimum wage at best.  Many of them are forced to hold jobs outside the home to pay for having dogs since there is so little money to be made in breeding.  Yet in the Retail Rescue field it is common to run across multi-millionaires.  Of course their animals are in excellent condition, they are multi-millionaires.

Here's a break down of the MSPCA Corporation based upon their 2013 tax returns:

They have 557 employees.
They have 1,500 volunteers.
They have 450 foster homes (who take care of the animals for them). 
They own a 55 acre farm.
They own an animal hospital.
They operate four animal sales outlets.

In 2013, they sold 6,992 animals. 

CEO Carter Luke received a salary of $346,800 and $147,337 in "other" compensation. 

VP of Human Resources Kathleen Collins received a salary of $203,650 and $109,415 in "other" compensation.
VP of Development Alice Bruce received a salary of $180,405 and other compensation of $20,446.
VP of Finance Amy Miller-Fredericks received a salary of $168,102 and other compensation of $31,185.

Even their VP of Strategic Planning makes more than the average American.  Joseph Silva pulled in a salary of $69,645 and other compensation of $49,066.

As for the staff of their animal hospital, the highest paid is Neurologist Allen Sisson who makes $386,383 with other compensation of $101,190.

These salaries are per year.

MSPCA also paid $943,254 in direct mail services to solicit you for more cash.  MSPCA earned $1,654,734 in interest on investment income.  And I could go on and on but I think you get my point.  

At the end of 2013, MSPCA pulled in $111,011,153 in assets.  Minus their liabilities (payroll, benefits, direct mail costs, etc), they have at least $96,233,423 sitting in the bank left over and doing nothing but earning interest. 

At the end of the day you have one small family with three children that went up against the power and might of the MSPCA who has more money in their stock portfolio than the Aguiars' will probably ever see in their entire lifetimes.

Was this a fair fight?  If the Aguiar's dogs were "dirty" couldn't the MSPCA have used some of their $96 Million they have just laying around in investment accounts to clean the dogs up and leave them where they were?  Or how about offering the services of some of those 1,500 volunteers?  Wouldn't that have been the compassionate thing to do?  

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