The Foundation was made aware, along with millions of other concerned Americans, of these malnourished dogs on October 7, 2015. We reached out to the shelter (SEAACA, the SouthEast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, CA) that was handling the investigation into animal cruelty and neglect.
We discovered that there were not just these four dogs pictured, but actually nine dogs in total - a female (the mother) and four puppies, an adult male pit bull, two German Shepherds and one chihuahua. All came from the owner in Pico Rivera, CA.
After three weeks of care, all of the dogs had recovered well and were seemingly in good physical health.
Therefore, we were shocked to discover on Monday October 26th, the day that we were slated to pick up the male dog for rehabilitation and placement, that he had been found dead in his cage earlier that morning.
Below is our letter to the shelter's Board of Commissioners expressing our concerns regarding the handling of these dogs and particularly the male pit (Charlie Brown) who died so unexpectedly.
Letter To SEAACA Board Of Commissioners
SEAACA Board of Commissioners
Mayor Pro Tem Pedro Aceituno, City of Bell Gardens
Mayor Luis Marquez, City of Downey
Mayor Pro Tem Art Barajas, City of Montebello
Mayor Leonard Shryock, City of Norwalk
Councilmember Peggy Lemons, City of Paramount
Mayor Gustavo Camacho, City of Pico Rivera
Councilmember Juanita Trujillo, City of Santa Fe Springs
Mayor Luis Aguinaga, City of South El Monte
October 27, 2015
Dear Board of Commissioners:
We are a rescue partner to SEAACA and became aware of the existence of an extremely malnourished mom and pups that came from Pico Rivera on 10/7/15. These emaciated mom and pups whose photo went viral and has been seen over a million times. They came from a resident of Pico Rivera, along with an adult male pit bull, two German Shepherds and a Chihuahua.
Below is a timeline of what has occurred since our initial contact with Sally Hazzard, your Executive Director:
- 10/7: Made aware of situation through social media
- 10/7: Contacted Sally Hazzard to find out what the dogs' status was. She let us know that there was a mom and four puppies as well as two German Shepherds (GSD), one Chihuahua and one male pit bull. We offered to take mom and pups but she felt confident that her vet could nurse them back to health and wanted a place where they could be monitored 24/7 and with a vet who could testify and be subpoenaed.
- 10/7: Sally asked that we assist rescues waiting to take dogs by covering medical costs, JDHF declined but offered to take those dogs. According to Sally, those that were not emaciated had rescues queued up to take them and they did not need our help
- 10/9: Sally checking with District Attorney that we can take photos and visit
- 10/12: Sally out on medical leave, received update from SEAACA staff that "Staff is currently working with multiple Adoption Partners and Fosters to place the two German Shepherds, Male Pit and the Chihuahua. All potential 'homes' will be checked and potential partners/fosters will be assessed."
- 10/15: SEAACA seeking rescue partners, all dogs except the mom and pups moved to general population
- 10/19: Chihuahua adopted over the weekend
- 10/19: JDHF followed up to see if we were able to take photos, no response given
- 10/20: JDHF notified by SEAACA of possible release of mom and pups to foster home that week
- 10/21: JDHF staff and volunteer visited all dogs still at SEAACA. At that time, mom was healthy, pups have mange, male depressed but healthy, GSDs depressed but healthy. SEAACA staff confirmed the health of all of the dogs and said that none were sick
- 10/22: JDHF advised that we would take male pit, asked that he be neutered and told that it would not be possible
- 10/26: Emailed SEAACA advising that we would take male pit and GSDs on 10/27, told that male pit was found dead in kennel morning of 10/26
- 10/26: SEAACA held press conference, offered to transport GSDs to us on 10/27 and if the mom and pups not adopted by Friday 10/30, that SEAACA would also release them to JDHF
- 10/26: JDHF asked that the necropsy be done by an outside vet (Antech in Irvine), SEAACA unwilling to comply
The majority of these communications were done via email aside from the initial conversations with Sally Hazzard.
We have a few concerns:
- How did a 2-3 year old dog that was healthy on Thursday die on Sunday/Monday without showing any signs of violence?
- Why would Sally refuse to have an outside agency perform the necropsy on the male pit bull that died under SEAACA's care? Surely the investigating officer would want to be sure that he did not die from some previously unseen injury inflicted by his former owner.
- Why does Sally insist that she has fosters for dogs that disappear and then puts dogs into the general population that are a part of an ongoing investigation for which charges have yet to be filed?
We are worried that Sally Hazzard, as the SEAACA Executive Director, is not acting in the best interests of either her constituents who obviously want this owner properly prosecuted, nor is she acting in the best interests of the animals who rely on her for a safe exit from a care center and into a home. The primary function of any animal shelter is to protect the public and the animals. Unfortunately, she is doing neither.
To be clear, we are not questioning the DVM at SEAACA or the staff, but rather the decision making quality of your Executive Director whose choices seem more interested in obfuscating than serving the animals of people of the 14 cities for which SEAACA contracts.
Jason Debus Heigl Foundation
Nancy and Katherine Heigl