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.
For our fiscal year which just ended June 30, the SPCA’s Humane Investigations team responded to 981 reports related to animal cruelty or abuse. I have mixed feelings seeing that number, and imagine you might as well. Is that number heartwrenching or comforting?
Here’s my take. On one level, seeing 981 truly sickens me. We live in a county famous for being pet friendly and we live in a time where people care far more about their pets than they ever have. Decades ago, dogs lived in the yard, maybe with access to a garage if they were lucky. Today, many dogs share homes with their people, even beds in some cases, and have their own social media followers! Despite all this, we receive, on average, nearly 20 reports of animal cruelty, abuse or mistreatment every week.
I don’t know exactly why, but it wasn’t until I was well into my 40s that I began thinking about how my Dad introduced me to animals, which would eventually lead to my career choice.
Baseball was our main connection, the obvious one. We played catch all the time and went to more Giants games at Candlestick Park than I can remember. He coached my first few little league teams, then backed off as I got older, but was every bit as interested and never the obnoxious “Little League Dad.” In college, when it became clear I wasn’t going to be the Giants’ next third basemen, this seemed harder for Dad than me in some ways.
For years after this until my Dad died much too young at 60, I was a young adult “retired” from baseball trying to figure out our common ground.
The ASPCA, a group based in New York City, is popping up in local shopping centers and misleading residents. Last summer, they set-up tables outside of Safeway and Starbucks. This past week, they hit the Crossroads in Carmel. You’ll see them with orange logoed T-shirts, table coverings and marketing materials.
These efforts are an attempt to gain support of local residents…to add names to mailing lists and email distributions. This massive East Coast nonprofit fully understands we live in an area that is crazy about animals and has pockets of incredible wealth.
The ASPCA spent $40 million in fundraising expenses in 2016 (likely even more this past year) and raised nearly $200,000,000. That’s no typo. I have the right number of zeroes. I’m certain some of those funds came from Monterey County residents and also certain at least some of those residents fully believed their donations to the ASPCA trickled down to the SPCA for Monterey County and benefitted animals locally.