On April 2, in yet another retaliatory action by city of San Bernardino staff against the rescue community, Debi Shuker, operations manager for the shelter, called police to have Maria Sanchez, a long-time volunteer videographer removed from shelter premises because she insisted a sick dog be given medical treatment. Sanchez, who has thousands of subscribers and followers, posts videos to YouTube and Facebook to network dogs in hopes of finding forever homes.
Today Andrea Neyes, an animal welfare advocate, found herself detained and searched by first two and then three San Bernardino police officers. What heinous crime did she commit to warrant the dispatch of three police officers in a crime-ridden city facing bankruptcy? She stands accused of giving treats to the dogs housed in the city’s animal shelter.
To be more specific, Neyes was forced to state on videotape, “I will follow Debi Shuker’s rules” and sign a citation, agreeing to appear in November for violation of San Bernardino Municipal Code section 9.12.010, Interfering with City Business. Shuker is the shelter’s operations manager.
For several years now, thanks to the networking ability provided by social media, animal welfare advocates from around the world have been launching a frontal attack on the draconian policies and practices of the municipal animal control community. Activists attend board of supervisors and city council meetings, send emails, share photos and animal descriptions on Facebook, create YouTube videos and more to get their message out about the atrocities that plague both big-city and rural animal shelters around the United States and abroad.
But behind the scenes is where the real war is being fought. Quietly, private investigators, attorneys, veterinarians, journalists and activists are gathering evidence, building dossiers and preparing for the mother of all battles. And in San Bernardino County that battle is about to begin.