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Herbie the Cat
Look Into His Scared But Beautiful Green Eyes
2-1/2 Hours From Going to a New Home

Herbie Is Now A Statistic
Brevard Animal Services Kill Rate for Cats 60%
Herbie the Cat
2-1/2 Hours from Being Saved
Put Down Without Being Given a Second Chance

Time Ran Out For Herbie
And For So Many More Dogs & Cats
Who Could Have Been Saved

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{12-22-13}Herbie the Cat is front page news. Google Search has Herbie on the first page {Google Search Results}. As Does Bing {Bing Search Results}
Wonderful News!!! In Three Weeks Time 127 Cats Have Been ADOPTED at the SPCA Melbourne Sq. Adoption Center-This Shows the System Works When Properly Managed
This is in part due to the Herbie. The pressure from people all over has had its affect on Animal Services management. Lives are being saved from one life lost

Link: Herbie's E-Mail Time Line Documentation & Time Line of Events

A few days after Herbie was killed I learned I was only 2 1/2 hours from saving him. I was at the animal shelter at noon when they opened and he was killed at 9:44AM
See Herbie's Time Line for documentation of events leading to Herbie's tragic death
Before I begin the story of Herbie the cat and my experience let me say this is not something I wish I were doing. What should have been a story of welcoming a new member into my family has turned into a first hand experience of having to deal with the uncaring attitudes demonstrated by many of the employees who work for the Brevard Animal Services {BASE}. It is a recurring theme that has happened time and again due to the many failures by BASE. There is a clear lack of leadership and good management of the department, an adequate system of communication which includes the need of procuring an adequate computer software program to maintain proper documentation of animals and activities, and employees who do not perform their duties as good caretakers of the animals in their charge. There are too many of BASE staff lacking the proper attitude and skills necessary to be the caring custodial personnel of animals they are brought into an environment that is stressful even for the strongest animal. And although it may have been the apathetic attitude of lower staff people who took the life of this one innocent animal, it ultimately reverberates to top management who allows this type behavior to continue. This is not an isolated incident. I had been told many times in my conversations with rescue groups and from individuals of the horror stories just like mine. It is no wonder BASE is failing to live up to its pledge of becoming a NO KILL facility, with recent euthanization rates standing at 43.7% for the physical year 2013 {59.5% euthanization rate for cats} . To have experienced this attitude first hand is an experience I wish had never occurred. If it had not occurred, if the system had worked as it should have and could have, Herbie the cat would be in my home this very moment, alive and thriving in a loving environment. My hope is that by telling the story of Herbie it will prompt the public to rebuke this cavalier attitude by management and staff. Management needs to be less concerned about saving dollars and more focused on the proper care of the animals. BASE personnel need to be mindful everyday they enter the facilities of their duties to give the best care to all then animals. They have the power of life and death and when they fail in their duties tragedies like that of Herbie's faith occur.
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Herbie the Cat
October 20, 2013

The story began late Saturday afternoon, November 16th, 2013 around 4:30 when I was forwarded an e-mail by an acquaintance from Tracy, Rescue Coordinator at BASE. The e-mail stated there was an urgent need to find a home for Herbie the cat. Below is the notice as I received it:
"Herbie is a cat who has no hope left. His owner was living in bad conditions, with no electricity or running water and had to give up his only friend, Herbie. Herbie is around 2 years old and has no idea what has happened. All he know is that he is in a strange place in a cage. He is unresponsive and just lays in his kennel all day without moving. This beautiful boy is just so sad. Can anyone give him back a reason for living?

If you have options for Herbie, please let me know immediately."

Mr. White
Although I was a bit leery of taking on the responsibility and cost of taking on another cat to go with my other three felines, I had been entertaining the thought for several weeks. One reason for thinking about adopting another cat was from my involvement in the rescue movement, a concerted action by local rescue groups in getting BASE to live up to its promised goal of becoming a NO KILL shelter. It is a matter of saving lives and because BASE management refuses to listen to good ideas and from experienced people, healthy and adoptable animals are needlessly dying and we are getting no closer to changing that equation.

A second reason for adopting another feline friend was my only male cat Mr. White, who is about six years old, very playful and energetic. He has been lacking the companionship he had gotten so used to from my deceased male cat Jack {who died this past summer}. They were pals and Jack was the big brother Mr. White look to. I have two female cats who tolerate Mr. White's playful antics but keep generally their distance. Although I give all my cats a lot of personal attention, Mr. White needed some thing more to help pacify his energetic mood. Another male cat, younger and with lots of energy seemed to be the solution.

What finalized my decision to adopt was my visit the previous week to the South Brevard Animal Services facility. I didn't really want to make a visit because I am very much a 'softy' when it comes to seeing any animals in distress and I knew seeing these animals locked up would be emotional. And it was. The many separated cages of mostly mixed pit bull dogs and the many, many caged cats was almost traumatizing. For someone like myself who has invested so much in insuring the animals I live with are taken care of and literally spoiled, to see so many innocent animals locked up with most of them likely never to see freedom again, it is heart breaking. If you don't have a pet and possess a love for the wonderful kindred spirits they are, there may be thoughts of overly emotional reactions by those of us who openingly show our feelings for these animals. But for those like myself it is a very understandable and natural reaction. There are many stories of the biggest, most macho type guys becoming emotional over the loss of an animal friend. I didn't get overly emotional while touring the facility but I was 'moved'. And from what I saw at SACC I pretty much made up my mind to adopt a homeless cat and save at least one of the animals.

Herbie's Room

The next move came when I e-mailed the person who had forwarded Tracey's notice asking how much it would cost to adopt Herbie. That was at 4:52 PM. After some thought to how urgent the e-mail sounded I decided to call the number listed at the bottom of the e-mail thinking it was the friend who had forwarded the original e-mail {when in fact it was Tracey's cell number}. When the phone was answered I asked for the friend by name and was told I had the wrong number. After I hung up I realized I had called Tracey and immediately redialed the number. No one answered but I left a message stating I was very interested in adopting Herbie and asked that she {Tracey} return my call and provide more information. I have yet to hear back from her.

Later that night, at 7:05 I received an e-mail from the friend telling me it would cost $70.00 to adopt Herbie. The price included his shots, neutering and micro chip. Being retired and on a fixed income, and having spent a lot of my extra money on my websites, I had to figure that cost into my budget. And although budgeting would be tight I had pretty much decided I wanted to adopt Herbie. And the more I looked at his photo and saw those sad green eyes the more I wanted to bring him home and show him there was someone who cared.

After thinking about it on Sunday {not knowing SACC was open on Sunday} my mind was made up. I had decided for sure Herbie was going to become a member of the family. I could barely wait for Monday to arrive so I could see him in person and take him out of that cage, and relieve the depression I knew he was experiencing. If you will look at his photo you will see how beautiful his orange coat is. And if you look past the sadness in his eyes you see a determined young man, full of life. I had decided it was my job to change those eyes from sad to glad. Just one more day and he will be free and in a loving home.

Monday, the Big Day Had Arrived

I went about my usual routine early Monday morning, feeding my three felines and working on my websites and dream work {I am a webmaster and experienced dream analyst} . Before I showered I arranged the spare bed room so Herbie would have a place to reside during his 'integration' into the 'throng' of established hierarchy, or what passed as such a thing. I took some spare boxes and arranged them so he could have a place to 'hide' and did the same with the chest of drawers, covering outside the bottom so no one could see underneath. There was a large window just above the chest and I placed a cushion and a box on top of the chest so he could see out the window {it looked out into the front yard and into the street}. There was a ceiling fan that kept a constant breeze in the room and I figured that would keep him comfortable during the muggy Florida days we were still experiencing in mid November. I would let him stay in this room while I was away and then let him roam the rest of the house when I was home. Everything was ready for his arrival.

I knew there would be needed adjustments by my other cats {Mr. White; Sweets, my small 13 year old female; and Little Mamma, the feisty 8 year old who gave birth to a nation of kittens before I took her in and had her fixed}. But all three had experienced this routine before, Mamma having brought with her two of her 'boys' when I first rescued them back in 2007, Mr. White being the johnny come lately. They joined Jack, the fat black male {who passed away last summer} and of course Sweets, my oldest 'child' and the female feline my ex-wife made me take in as a kitten in 2000 {I was petless until then}. I had a number of cats during the mid 2000s and since, and all had adjusted to each other fairly well despite the occasional 'childish' argument one would have with another. Often the conflicts were over where to sleep {now all three sleep on my bed most of the night}. Mr. White was the last to be taken in, in 2009 just before I moved from rural Rutherford County in Tennessee into my son's home just outside the city. While at that residence I lost one of Mamma's boys to traffic, my beautiful long hair Ms Missy died of cancer, and the inherited {from my ex-wife who died of leukemia} angry, man hating grey cat who lived to be 20 years old, also to cancer. When I moved to Palm Bay in October 2012 I brought the four surviving clan members with me. Jack, the fat boy with a kind soul and the mediator of the group died of heart failure during the summer. He was the only one who had anything to do with Mr. White and his death left a big void. One I had hoped Herbie would help fill for both me and Mr. White.

His room was ready, there was excitement in the air {even the cats sensed something} so I set off to bring a new member into the family. I left the house about 9:30 and went to the gym for my usual thrice a week workout, all the while with Herbie on my mind. Afterwards I followed my usual routine of going to Indiatlantic Boardwalk and drinking a cup of coffee. I always g feeling I am in a special place when I get near the ocean. And I have always had a thing for big expanses of water, something I equate to being symbolic of the deep unconscious {being a long time student of Jungian psychology}. As usual I stayed about 30 minutes before heading to SACC. I was on schedule and headed to my final destination.

Another Horror Story

From the Files of BASE
Click on Image
Animal Lovers Need Not Apply-What Do You Do When Animal Control Personnel Are The Abusers?
The first time many animals experience neglect and abuse it at the very shelter that is supposed to protect them from it. Our shelters are in crisis. Why? Killing is an act of violence. And not only do people in shelters work at a very place that commits this violence, they have, in fact, been hired to do exactly that. Can we really be surprised when they dont clean thoroughly, dont feed the animals, handle them too roughly, neglect and abuse them, or simply ignore their cries for help? How does shoddy cleaning or rough handling or skipping meals compare with putting an animal to death? Because shelter workers understand that they have the power to kill each and every one of these animals, and will in fact kill most of them, every interaction they have with those animals is influenced by the reality that their lives do not matter, that their lives are cheap and expendable, and that they are destined for the garbage heap. Where there is no right to life; there is no regard for welfare....Read More

Doomsday Afternoon
I arrived at SACC about 11:50 and sat in my truck for a few moments, contemplating meeting Herbie and waiting for the facility to open at noon. The parking lot was more than half full with several people already waiting at the door to go in. Three people had pet carriers WITH ANIMALS inside. That caused a negative sensations, knowing they were most likely bringing these animals in for surrender, with the likelihood of that being a death sentence. I was here to save an animal and these people were bringing animals in to give up. Perhaps the first indication of the black day that it would turn out to be.

As they opened the doors I found myself close to the front of the line which was good since it put me closer to getting Herbie out of jail. There were three women behind the counter in no big hurry, two on computers and the third helping with an incoming dog. I signed in and while waiting to have my named called I talked to a volunteer at the facility and asked her if she knew were Herbie was located. I had known that the volunteers were the 'good guys' at these facilities since they are the ones who really cared for and about the animals. She took me to the big room where they kept several cats in a large cage where they had room to jump and things to climb {mostly small cats}. We looked in the single cages but no Herbie.

Then we went to the next room and quickly realized he was not there either. The next room had a large orange cat and I thought to myself this has to be Herbie. But it wasn't. Nor were the other cats in the room. We moved to the fourth room and still no Herbie. I was beginning to get concerned, the thought having crossed my mind that something bad could have happen to Herbie, knowing the reputation of BASE facilities.But the volunteer reassured me saying he could be out in the trailer where they kept some of the larger cats. She then went to the computer to look for his file but because I had forgotten to bring his ID number and only had his name me she was unable to do so. So I waited to be called by staff personnel.

During the wait the small dog they were taking in 'pooped' on the floor behind the counter and one of the women working there step in it. At first I thought she was going to let loose but she regained her composure and asked a fourth young lady who had come to the reception area to help clean it up. During this event they called the name of an elderly lady who had a carrier with a cat in it. They asked her what she needed and she said she had an elderly cat she thought needed to be put down and if they would do that for her. The answer was yes. But then the lady asked if the cat could be looked first to determine whether for sure it needed to be put down. You could tell she was stressed and the cat meant a lot to her. What was said next by the staff woman {I believe her name was Mary} was what I considered very insensitive considering the stressful deposition of the elderly woman. "No mam". We don't examine cats. We only put them down". The elderly lady then asked if she could be with the cat when they put it down and again the staff employee responded with a empathetic 'NO'. Once again the elderly lady asked if someone could determine if the cat indeed needed to be put down, this time providing the cat's age {16 or 17 yrs} and describing the problems the cat was having {what sounded to be a sever case of arthritis}. The response was 'a cat that age that age and with those conditions needed to be put down to end the suffering. No staff member ever examined or even looked at the animal. The elderly lady seemed confused, not knowing what to do. She was told to bring the cat to the other end of the counter and they could arrange for her to surrender the cat to be put down.

The whole time this was happening I was thinking to myself perhaps the horror stories I had heard about BASE personnel were true. These particular staff members were insensitive and uncaring to both people and animals. I didn't see any outward documentation that this staff person was qualified to give medical advice about an animal. And the way she talked to the elderly lady was very unprofessional. Especially considering the woman was obviously stressed. She definitely needs a course in sensitivity training. All this made me even more concerned about Herbie, him not being in any of the cages and from what i had witnessed in the first 15 minutes I had been at the facility.

I was next in line. The young staff lady who had stayed with her computer this whole time called my name and asked what I needed. I told her I was there to adopt Herbie. I said his name, not knowing his ID number that Tracey had included in the e-mail announcing he was in need of adoption, and in anticipation of her asking me for an ID number {which she never did}. She scanned the computer for several minutes and then turned to the other staff person who had helped the elderly lady {Mary?} and they both went to another computer on the other side of the counter. In less than three minutes the second staff member {Mary?} turned to me and said, "he has already been put down"! ...........I was dumbfounded. Then I was angry. I pounded the counter and as I asked why was he put down, it had only been a couple of days since Tracy had sent the e-mail. Her reply was, "he was aggressive". AGGRESSIVE!!! The cat Tracey had said was 'is unresponsive and just lays in his kennel all day without moving?! How can he be aggressive?

I was beside myself having trouble holding it in. I was totally and completely angry at what had been told to me. I composed myself long enough to ask how was it that there was a notice sent just a few days ago and he was put down anyway? She looked at the computer and said, "Tracey sent that notice out on the 13th." I yelled the 13th! I notified Tracey on the 16th I was interested in adopting Herbie and by the 18th he was dead. She replied with something about this is policy, we put down aggressive animals. There was that word again, AGGRESSIVE!!! I could hit someone. My emotions got the best of me and I yelled in a very loud voice, "you will be sorry for this" as I moved toward the door, half dumbfounded and still very angry. I heard her say as I moved around the counter, "No I won't." Then I must have said something else, I don't remember what, and she reply 'good day sir' as I walked out the door.

I am a feel I am fairly good at keeping my head in dire situations such as these but from what I had just experienced I was in shock. Although the anger was boiling inside me, in my head I realized Herbie was gone. I was emotional. They had killed Herbie, the cat with the sad green eyes who had done nothing wrong to them or anyone one else. An innocent animal betrayed by people who were supposed to care, people who were supposed to be trusted. Herbie was put down for being, a cat. If I had not been so angry I would have broken down, no doubt about it. I went to get in my truck but instead paced the parking lot, first with the anger boiling up and then the sorrow overcoming me. I wanted to cry and yell at the same time. I finally left knowing there was nothing I could do. Without Herbie, without the new friend I had planned for Mr. White. It was an excruciating ride home.

That is the story of Herbie the cat. A beautiful orange feline with the sad green eyes who I never got to meet. A cat who was to become a member of my immediate family, the young boy who will never get to be spoiled and loved and cared for like I had planned for him. He deserved better, all the animals at this and other shelters deserve better.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. This has happened too many times at BASE facilities due to many reasons. Unprofessional staff who refuse or are incapable of using computers to properly document the animals that come into the shelters. Staff members with an uncaring attitude toward the animals they are trusted to guard and protect, feed and clean up after, be parents to and friends with. And management who are 'documented' aware of these problems and yet refuse to acknowledge them or do anything about them. In the short six weeks I have been involved in the issues with Brevard Animal Services I have seen documented evidence of many abuses and actions like what happened to me. I could never have imagined I would be one of those who had to face the reality of the negligent care and management at BASE facilities. In this moment of reflection my mind is keenly fixed on finding ways to end this senseless killing of animals. But in my deepest reflections my heart is with Herbie the cat, the little boy I was going to adopt. I will always and forever miss the joy I never get from knowing him. The best I can hope for is he is in a better place, and some way, some how Hebie knows how much he will be missed.

Jerry Gifford
Palm Bay, Florida

Herbie the Cat

Nov. 2013