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Update: What becomes of the dogs

by C. Cooper
August 17, 2002

Angel Drayton, whose healthy, good-natured dogs were seized by police, has said her dogs are part of her family, grew up with her children, and are sadly missed. The Draytons used their dismantled chain link kennel sections to completely fence the large backyard, and prepared covered mangers around the dog houses, in anticipation of their return. Community work parties were then organized to help make the original structures sturdier and to secure the base of the fencing with concrete blocks and buried wire mesh. The yard is now a haven for the dogs.

Whatcom Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro is quoted in the June 8 article of the Bellingham Herald; "the dogs could be returned to Drayton if the owner complies with conditions set by the city." Evidence indicates Ms. Drayton was never non-compliant with city regulations, and her yard is unquestionably in compliance now. May Cistaro be true to her word and return the dogs to the family who raised them from puppies; the only home they've known.

Many citizens, including some humane volunteers, are uneasy about the welfare of the dogs, which have remained at the Shelter for two long months, after being traumatized when officers forcefully entered the home and property to seize and impound them.

Let's also keep in mind the instigating factor for seizing the dogs is based on a neighbor's hearsay, which proved to be false. The neighbor misinformed police when she stated no one had been home for three days to care for the dogs. She could not possibly know if anyone had been there because her house is on the opposite side from both the front and back doors to the Drayton home. She would have to walk all the way around to the other side of the house and watch the entrances nonstop for 3 entire days to be accurate.

Two of the dogs have been injured under shelter care, requiring veterinary sutures. They did not receive these kinds of injuries while in the care of Angel Drayton.

Three of the dogs were evaluated for adoption potential, but the fourth dog, "Dice" was (according to officials) unable to be evaluated due to displayed aggression. Angel describes Dice as her "big baby". He is the white dog taken from inside the house, seen on the front page of the Herald, tail between his legs, being loaded into the truck without a muzzle by a bare handed humane officer. If shelter staff were not able to evaluate Dice, we can only wonder if he has had any attention over the past two months. Since he is displaying personality changes, there is concern the frightful experience may cause mental damage, which is far more dangerous to dogs than dirty pens, because it can mean euthanasia and death to the animals.

Cistaro did also make a disturbing statement on page A5 of the above mentioned article; "Just because they are pit bulls doesn't mean a death sentence for them." This very prejudicial sounding statement implies that being pit bulls could mean a death sentence, even though they were obviously good natured dogs and their temperament had nothing whatsoever to do with the seizure. Angel's dogs, including Dice, should be returned to their rightful owner before suffering any further harm.

Some have said this case is not racially motivated. However, consider the fact that several neighbors have said there are dogs all over the neighborhood that bark all the time. Yet, the Draytons are the only ones who were being reported, and even cited, for "harboring a barking dog."

When Cistaro was asked to discuss the detention of the dogs on August 6, 2002 she said she would only speak with a Prosecutor present. Then on August 9th when a Task Force member tried to speak with the President of the Humane Society Board of Directors, she said "I cannot talk to anyone about the case because I may be called as a witness." When she was told it would not be necessary for her to discuss the case, but simply to listen to some concerns, she said "I am not allowed to hear anything regarding the case because I may be called as a witness." It seems suspiciously as though there may have been coaching from the prosecution, conflicting with what should be the focus: the humane interest of the dogs. She is not on the witness list, besides, there are no restrictions on witnesses hearing information, and she is not a jury member, so what is the real issue in this avoidance?

It is notable that shelter representatives would not discuss the current situation of the dogs, yet just three days later, on August 12, the Shelter gave a press release on KGMI, offering very limited information from the previous year, outwardly slanted for the purpose of a "media prosecution" of Angel Drayton. In paragraphs 5 and 6 of the press release the Draytons efforts are discredited, referred to as "minor upgrades," and "occasionally there would be small improvements." Let's balance this with the patrol report on 5/19/01 in which Officer Faure states: "many improvements have been made in the condition of her back yard area. She has improved the kennel and shelter area for all the dogs, andÖshe has installed a drainage system that allows the water collected during a rain storm to be drained away from the kennel area. Of course the shelter "press release" does not recount the many times officers were called to the Drayton home yet reported the complaints were invalid and the animals were in good condition. Questions remain regarding the continued detention of the dogs. Thus far, shelter representatives have not been forthcoming.

For any readers who may not care that Ms. Drayton's civil rights were violated simply because the dogs happen to be pit bulls, this article will assume the unpopular position of defending pit bulls. As explained in the book "Dog Law" by Mary Randolph, "Pit bulls are the current villains of the dog world. Before they took center stage, German shepherds and Dobermans were characterized in the same way...Pit bulls, in fact, were the epitome of the all-American dog in the early part of this century. Pete the Pup, in the old "Our Gang" movies, was a pit bull. Teddy Roosevelt had a pit bull in the White House. And on a World War 1 poster that used dogs to symbolize the various nations, America was a pit bull - stalwart, unafraid but not belligerent."

It would greatly simplify Drayton's life had she accepted the Prosecutor's offer to form a "deal" early on. But then she would have had to give up her dogs. She could have walked away from the criminal trial, had charges dropped, and saved a great deal of money. This has created serious financial difficulty for her. Though supporters were able to raise funds to assist with attorney fees, Angel had to add a large amount, causing her phone to be shut off without warning because she was unable to pay on time.

Angel is discouraged that her attorney went to great efforts to schedule a meeting to inspect her yard, but the Prosecution did not attend. The meeting was agreed upon a week in advance, but Prosecutors Jeff Lustick and Jeff Solomon decided not to go at the last minute, without advance notice or offering to reschedule. Even though the Prosecution rushed the process before Angel had an attorney (supposedly for the sake of the dogs), they now appear to be dragging their feet. What has become of the concern for the dogs? It seems to have to have been lost in the desperate efforts to vilify Angel Drayton.

Angel Drayton is not a criminal. The real crime would be if her canine companions must compete with abandoned and unwanted dogs for homes, when statistics show that hundreds will have to be put to death in the shelter facility each year. The Drayton dogs already have a home where they are wanted, with a family that is always willing to make extra efforts for their safekeeping. It is time to end their ordeal and allow them to return to their family, where they will receive many overdue hugs from the Drayton children.

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