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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Speak Loudly for the Silent Ones...

Thursday marked a two year anniversary.  The term anniversary makes you want to, roses, a nice dinner.  But this isn't an anniversary you would celebrate in a romantic way, although it brought many of us together.  It is an anniversary that makes you wonder why, makes you ask yourself what happened and why was it allowed to happen?

Two years ago, an unlicensed rescue in Eldora Iowa was raided.  Over 15 animals were found dead with over 45 others starving, neglected, and in need of medical care.  For those that died, their bodies were left where they died, or they were tossed into a dumpster. No respect, no remorse, not an ounce of compassion.

Here is a link to the news story .

The anniversary of the rescue was marked by a Memorial Vigil to celebrate the lives that were saved, and to remember the animals that suffered and lost their lives at the hands of a woman who has fled the state without going to court for the crime that she committed, and may be comitting again in her new town of Tremont Pennsylvania.

I once considered Michele Kintzer a hoarder.  But as I learn about the case, I no longer consider her a hoarder.  I now consider her a heartless animal abuser.  Hoarding is a mental illness that usually has the animal's best interests in mind,  and the person involved usually has good intentions, until the disease overwhelms the hoarder's ability to care for the animals.  This woman just let the animals go without food, without food, and with no effort to rehome or relocate them to another rescue during her "illness".  She sat there as animals died in her backyard and in her house.  There were no good intentions in this story.

HEART ( Hardin Eldora Animal Rescue Team) stepped in and with the assistance of volunteers and other rescues, they saved the dogs and cats that were still alive.  Despite two veterinarians writing letters that the animals were neglected and in need of medical care, the county prosecutor never pressed charges.  The charges pending on Michele Kintzer are due to a individual citizen's concern.  She found an attorney willing to press charges, and did it all at her own expense.  This case is just too big to ignore.

The link above tells the story the best, I don't need to reiterate what is done so well there. Stop here and watch, listen, and share it. I will wait for you...just be sure to come back and finish reading...

Welcome back. 
This blog is about the Second Annual Memorial Vigil.

HEART organized an open vigil to be held outside the Hardin County Courthouse in Eldora.  My staff and I attended.  I expected to see the photos I had previously seen in newscasts and on the internet.  I expected that there would be an air of sadness for the lives lost.  And I expected that there would be celebration for those animals to whom we helped find loving families.

But there were things that I did not expect.  There were moments for which I was unprepared.  These were the moments that make me glad that I attended.  These are the moments that motivate animal rescuers.

Three of the dogs that were rescued from Waggin' Tails attended the vigil.  They were fat and happy, and you would never know that these dogs were half starved at the time of their rescue.  They donned bandanas that said, "I survived".   I was not expecting to see them, and was not expecting to feel the way I did when I did see them.  I have placed hundreds of animals into new homes.  Some of them came to me as pampered pooches, and some were in very bad health when they came to me.  Some of them I see on occasion for vaccines and health care, and I am thrilled when I do see them.  But this was different.  You forget that animals can rebound from adversity quite well.  I am certain that they do not forget the past.  I have seen too many incidents to believe that they forget.  But I do believe that they forgive.  And these dogs have forgiven.  These dogs have forgiven the people that we, as humans, cannot forgive.  They are not burdened with depression, or rage.  I remember hearing a story of a man throwing his dog off a bridge into a river.  The dog swam to shore and greeted the same man with a kiss.  Forgiveness.  Forgiveness that some may not deserve, but nonetheless, it is forgiveness.  These abused dogs have accepted their new families and their new lives and are so grateful to have them.  I respect animals for having this ability.  It is a gift we humans often lack.  Never let it be said that we cannot learn by example from other species.

That being said, one of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King, "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."  The people who investigated this place initially said the conditions were okay.  The prosecutor who would not prosecute the offender, his silence made these conditions okay.  But photos and videos show that the conditions were not okay.  And while the dogs have recovered, we, the people, the rescuers, have not.  We are angry, we are sad, and yes we are happy when we see the survivors.  HEART acted when others were silent.  And with this vigil, HEART Rescue Team is still screaming out of the silence.

Meet Zeus.  Zeus is a lab mix. He was featured on a poster with a photo of him at the time of his rescue. To see the before photo and the healthy dog standing right in front of you, and knowing it is the same dog is a wonderful feeling.  Who could ask for more than that.  Such gratification.  Look at the ribs and all the other bones that are showing in the photo on the sign.  And look to the right at that alert, pampered, healthy pooch standing next to it.  It is the same dog, but with a new leash on life, no pun intended.

Moose arrived with his new guardian, Tony.  Moose is a handsome chocolate labrador retriever.  Moose was full of energy and just happy to be around people.  He is at a good weight, and has a beautiful shine to his coat. 

Then something amazing happened.  Zeus and Moose saw each other, and before even coming nose to nose, their tails wagged in recognition of their reunion.  It was not a meeting between two dogs that had never met. It was a meeting of past friends with shared past experiences.  In this case, they shared the same nightmare.  There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they remembered each other.  We were all in awe as tails wagged and kisses were exchanged.

King's arrival could not compare to this reunion... or could it?  King was the skinniest dog retrieved from the rescue, and his new rescuers were fearful that he would not survive the first night.  He did survive.  He spent the first several nights at a volunteer's house.  The volunteer was Melissa, and she pampered and nursed King to get him to eat, drink and sleep to aid in his recovery from this nightmare.  Upon his arrival, King trotted over to the croud of people at the vigil.  Melissa saw him, and cried out, "King's here"!  She bent down to hug him and just started BALLING!  I proceeded to gently kick her in the booty for making me cry, and others soon followed.  By followed, I mean that they cried too, they didn't kick her in the booty.  I would love to insert a photo that I took of that moment here, but I was so caught up in the moment as King wiped her tears with his kisses, that I neglected to snap a photograph! There goes my Pulitzer Prize for catching a moment in time on film, or should I say on memory card? 

A friend has allowed me to post this photo of  "the moment"...

UPDATE: After reading this blog, a friend sent me a photo of the exact moment I discussed... and here it is...booty kick and all!

As we drove to the vigil, I told my staff that I didn't intend to stay very long.  We closed the veterinary clinic so my entire staff and I could attend the vigil.  We planned to show our support and get back to work.  We stayed longer because we were surprised at the commeradery we felt.  We were overjoyed by the success stories we heard and saw.  We were thrilled when people honked their horns in support of our efforts.  Two gentleman stopped and spoke with us about why we were there that day.  Before we knew it, they were holding signs and memorializing the more than 15 animals who we could not save. 

It is odd how awful times can bring us together and create beautiful moments.   The animals that died at Waggin' Tails Nightmare died in a way that no animal or person should ever have to endure.  They died an awful death, but they are not forgotten.  HEART Rescue is making sure of that.  I like to think that moments like the ones I described above give proof that those animals that died, did not die in vain.

Visit HEART Rescue's website to see the animals they currently have for adoption, or send them a note of thanks for their efforts at

Here is a slide show about the case...  Click to view it.

Thank you Amy for being my friend, for being so courageous, and for speaking so loudly for the silent ones.


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ameow2002 said...

Aww geez... Making me cry AGAIN!! Thanks for being such an outstanding example of what we in rescue are all about. You write in such a way that even those who may not 'get it' i am sure do after reading! Dare i of the best ones yet!!!!

Thedogbarker said...

Thank you Lisa! King and our reunion was amazing. I love those dogs so much and i cant ever imagine them having to go through what they have been through. Survivors is what they are. thank you for choosing to share them with your blog world. the more people who are aware of this tragedy and lack of compliance from Hardin County the better in my opinion.

J.T. Kennel said...

After reading this article and watching the film clip I am in utter shock.  WHY aren't shelters and  rescues held accountable for their actions? Why aren't  the state license inspectors doing their job?  If Michelle Kintzer was not state licensed, why wasn't a inspector out there checking and seeing why she didn't have a license????  Does this make any sense???? Why did she run a Shelter for 2 yrs. and not one inspector came forward to check it out?  Not one other shelter reported her for not having a license?  It sounded like other rescues and shelters knew it was happening and yet they did not have the state inspectors on her door?  WHY?   THIS is beyond belief??   And you are worried about the USDA licensed inspectors not doing their jobs inspecting USDA licensed kennels?  I totally do not understand how the state did not step in and help those poor dogs.  Turn your eyes towards the USDA licensed kennels, lets get those...but lets close our eyes to the shelters that are not licensed or licensed  and right under our noses.  Unbelieveable to me, I will never in my life understand how any group of Iowans are so hell bend on pushing laws to inspect already inspected facilities while right under their noses this is going on. WHere is the  justice in this?  Where is the bill to protect our Companion animals from Shelters and Rescues that get away with this. Why do they feel they need to be exempt from any law that they want Iowa to pass.  Why are you rejoicing in a Bill that will not stop what I just watched and read about in this blog??????? J.T. Kennel

Anonymous said...

What a good post by jt. There are alot of Iowans wondering the same thing. Everyone that handles cats or dogs should be under the same strict rules of the USDA. It seems the private rescues can get away with having dogs crammed into little crates and left outside in the rain with no shelter and that's ok with them?? I don't get it.

ameow2002 said...

Re JT kennel. The state has no authority to prosecute unlicensed anything. She was turned in to Hardin Co multiple times for being unlicensed and the County chose not to prosecute. They were in fact taking stray dogs to this person knowing full well that she wasn't licensed. No one except law enforcement and then the Co attorney could do anything legally to stop her. Believe me i tried!