More on the Philadelphia SPCA Raid – More Questions Anyway…

It would appear that the owner of the bassets recently seized in Philadelphia is speaking out.  And the PSPCA isn’t very happy about it.

Good news is we got a very sympathetic article in one of the two major papers today. A reporter has also called from the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as the AKC and the Chronicle of the Horse (Molly Sorgi? [Molly Sorge] 804-994-2349). My problem is that if I respond personally, the SPCA has made it clear that I must “cooperate or multiple citations will be issued and there would be no PA Kennel License”.So here is my response to the PSPCA website (, first article about the Murder Hollow Bassets. I cannot respond to anyone in the media or even the PSPCA, but I can let you know. Whatever you chose to do with my information, oh well.

Wow. Thank goodness for new media. If the PSPCA is trying to intimidate this woman against responding to their public accusations, the state needs to come down on them. If a police officer were to try this, they would likely be suspended or fired. They would certainly be open to a lawsuit. Unfortunately, PSPCA seems to believe they are above such standards. (Note to Ms. Willard: They are not. You can sue them.)

Interestingly, PSPCA argued that they tried to reach out to Ms. Willard before the raid to work things out. Well, that’s not quite what the owner had to say.

The websites indicated that the SPCA left requests to be contacted. The ‘Humane Law Officer’ (her term, not mine) left a card in my door with no information, no requests for a call, no warnings or no citations a few days before the raid. Absolutely none. She could have left a note to call, because I get lots of cards from grass cutters to painters. No mention of any 12 dog limit in the city.

I don’t consider that to be reaching out. If I owned a small kennel, I would presume it was someone looking to buy a dog. If I’m not selling, I wouldn’t call back.

I won’t pull out every single response, but it does get interesting. She confesses she did refuse entry at first – because they had no warrant. When they returned with a search warrant, she cooperated and granted access. (Sebastian argues, and I would agree, that the second she refused access, she should have lawyered up. Oh, and keep reading to find out more about this warrant and why it may not have been legal.) The owner also confirms that some of the seized dogs were owned by someone else and that she informed PSPCA of this fact, including by providing the contact information. You’d think that as an organization with no more room in their shelters that they would be happy to call the owner and get the dogs returned home. Nope, they merely said she may have a right to adopt them back from PSPCA. Yes, you must adopt your own pets back from an organization that seizes them.

Interestingly, the City seems to have previously approved her ownership of the dogs. She reports that she kept up to date with licenses for all of the animals, and the City repeatedly approved them. Also of note is the refusal of the DA to answer questions about the definition of terms that would determine whether the ordinance PSPCA claimed power under really applies to Ms. Willard (relating to different structures on a property). So at this point, there is a legitimate legal question that may need to be answered. Yet, some reports by other basset owners offering to care for the dogs report the seized dogs may have already been spayed/neutered, and PSPCA willingly admitted to me the have approved the adoption of these dogs via a third party. So we don’t know that Willard ever broke a law, but her property has been taken and possibly damaged beyond repair and sold to others. (PSPCA is reportedly charging folks $200/dog.)

What makes this case even more interesting is that Ms. Willard claims she has never received a complaint before. This is relevant not because it implies PSPCA may have decided to pick on her, but because it raises legal questions about the warrant issued. (These would have to be verified by Willard’s lawyer, but this is what Sebastian found when reading through Philadelphia’s ordinances.)

“The penalty for the first violation of any provision of this Section shall be a minimum fine of $100; the penalty for a second violation of any provision of this Section shall be a minimum fine of $200; the penalty for a third violation of any provision of this Section shall be a minimum fine of $300. The third violation of any provision of this Section will result in the commencement of proceedings as provided by law for the removal of said animal and delivery of same to an appropriate area of confinement approved by the Department of Health.”

That means the ordinance PSPCA was using to justify seizing the dogs does not allow for the dogs to be seized until the third complaint. Willard, if found guilty, should have been fined twice and informed about the law. That would make the entire warrant improper. Unfortunately, judges have complete immunity, but PSPCA does not. If it turns out that they did not follow the law, she could sue them as either an organization or every single individual involved in the process.

Like I said before, I called PSPCA to get their side of the story.  They made one claim that blogs were simply getting it wrong, but they did not challenge anything I asked.  In fact, they verified more than they argued.  Now that there are legitimate questions as to whether they overstepped their legal authority and stole private property, I find their broad claim that blogs were getting it wrong to be highly questionable.  While there are certainly some very impassioned bloggers who may be getting swept up and making a few assumptions, PSPCA is encouraging that by refusing to talk to folks.  They won’t account for the health and whereabouts of the dogs to either of the owners, vets in the area, and other basset enthusaists.  Yet, they confirm the worst parts of the story to the media.  At worst, PSPCA is breaking the law and punishing pet owners outside of their authority.  At the best, if they are proven right, they have an incompetent media strategy.

8 thoughts on “More on the Philadelphia SPCA Raid – More Questions Anyway…”

  1. If that ordinance is the one that they used against this lady, they are in big trouble. I smell lawsuit.

  2. I hope. She needs to find a lawyer who can file a federal 1983 suit. PSPCA cannot be allowed to get away with abusing citizens. I hate animal abusers as much as they do, but that passion doesn’t allow them to target lawful pet owners.

  3. Bitter, thanks for updating on this issue.

    If Ms Willard hasn’t already lawyered-up, she needs to, and (not being an attorney …. did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once) I would be proactive about things, going in front of a judge (the one who signed the warrant, perhaps) and rip the warrant to shreds, and get an injunction against these knuckleheads, AND get my dogs back.

    Sorry, got a little carried away ……..

  4. From the first post I read here on this, I wondered what could possibly be going on in the background to bring this about. Then I found a post at Never Yet Melted (SPCA Outrage in Philadelphia 7 — PSPCA: We’ll Show You) that stated “A middle-aged, retired school teacher residing at a home located on a 340-acre nature center, the largest privately-owned tract of land within the city limits of Philadelphia . . . .” A bell went off in my head. I figured either someone in the city government of Philadelphia or some developer wants Philadelphia to use “eminent domain” (is that the correct phrase?) to seize this property (or at least a large portion of it) for development. However, I’ve since read all the posts on this matter at Never Yet Melted and have come to the conclusion that PA’s citizenry has a serious problem with the PSPCA. What’s up with this seizure quota garbage? And where is Animal Planet’s “Animal Cops” to do an expose on the PSPCA? Maybe the AKC has some contacts on that show to get things started.

  5. Animal Planet is pro-SPCA, and IIRC, Animal Cops are SPCA. Animal Planet has no moral issues supporting animal lovers who go too far. Just do a search here for their support of piracy with Whale Wars.

  6. Bitter,

    Thanks. I forget I’m not living in a world where people actually care.

    (grumble, grumble, grr, snort, grumble, grr)

    I’m going to have to be *very* careful next fall when I fill out my charitable allotment forms. I give to my local animal shelter, which to my knowledge has never done anything like what the PSPCA has done, but I’ll be doubly careful regarding all the other animal-related groups I give money to as I don’t want to support anyone who aids/abets this kinda garbage (heavy sigh).

  7. If you want to help animals but want to be sure you’re not helping crazy people like those in this story (PSPCA), you can buy a couple bags of pet food, or cat litter, or something like that and drop it off at a shelter. I think in Texas they take real police out on raids/seizures because there is quite a large overlap in the gun owner/pet owner venn diagram.

  8. Interesting sure – but what does this have to do with firearm politics?

Comments are closed.