This week, I’m going back to a familiar topic: our Humane Investigations work. With apologies, I’m going to rant a little.
First, the background. As avid readers of this blog know, The SPCA for Monterey County investigates animal cruelty reports and complaints. We do this by choice because the animals need us and because this work aligns with our nonprofit mission. We do not receive government funding or tax dollars for this work, and it is not required by law. This vital, compassionate, and often heartbreaking work is made entirely possibly by donations.
The SPCA is the only organization or agency in Monterey County which employs officers specifically trained for this work. Last year, we responded to nearly 1,000 calls. Cases that have merit — those with evidence of a crime and a person known to have committed it — are related to California Penal Code 597, the section in our penal code that covers crimes against animals. We encounter far more people who unintentionally harm animals than those who do so maliciously and intentionally. Cases involving unintentional neglect can often be resolved by our officers through education.
Another challenging aspect of this work involves educating the community about what we are and, equally important, what we aren’t. A common misconception is that we are the same as local law enforcement — the police and sheriffs. In one way yes; in most ways, no.
New people bring a fresh pair of eyes, another perspective on programs or services, opportunities others may not have seen or, some things less important. This falls into the latter category.
Most days, I take my shelter dog on a short walk to enjoy some of the SPCA’s magnificent, 200 acres. Our buildings sit on a somewhat flat five-acre bowl and the surrounding land is oak-studded, sloped and rugged, with meandering unpaved access trails. Truly, an amazing gift.
My walk takes me past our oldest structure — a wooden, two-story building which houses programs for kids and an office for our Humane Investigations team.
The SPCA for Monterey County has received multiple reports of people soliciting door to door asking for donations to the “humane society.” These fundraisers are not being performed on behalf of the SPCA, and they appear to be fraudulent.
These particular reports we received were from Prescott Avenue in Monterey and Surf Avenue in Pacific Grove, and they all took place this week. The solicitors told residents they were fundraising for the “local humane society” and asked for donations to end puppy mills. One solicitor was wearing a fake badge. Two residents reported the solicitors as demanding and aggressive.
Last Thursday, SPCA staff attended a hearing for the man charged with lighting on fire and torturing his family’s beloved dog. We prepared media statements for any possible outcome and heard the one we had hoped for but didn’t expect. Devonte Sirwet pled no contest to three felony charges and two strikes. As part of his plea agreement, he’ll be sentenced next month to six years and eight months in state prison.
Is this justice for Kato, the dog brutally tortured? I don’t know — it depends on who’s asked. For the people who cared for and loved Kato, I imagine this gave them some sense of closure. They didn’t address media following the hearing and who could blame them.
It took nearly two years, but the final piece of being a tried and true SPCA employee was thrust into my arms this summer when a co-worker brought a surrendered puppy to meet me after I let it slip that my family was looking to adopt.
I did tell co-workers we were interested in a dog. This powder puff looked and felt more like a guinea pig with piranha teeth! The mostly white with black patches, 8-week old Shih Tzu mix barely moved the scale at 4.1 pounds. When curled up asleep, she looked like an ice cream sundae without the cherry on top.