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San Bernardino police remove animal advocate from shelter property

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.

San Bernardino City Council
Sharon Gilbert

Sue, a pittie mix, is at the center of the current controversy. Last Saturday when Sanchez was at the shelter videotaping the dogs, she happened across Sue, who was sick. She brought Sue’s condition to the attention of shelter staff and was assured she would be treated.

Volunteers have raised funds to pay for medication for the sick animals at the shelter as city staff routinely euthanize dogs with kennel cough rather than treating it in part due to lack of funds to pay for the medication. The city filed bankruptcy last year.

When Sanchez returned to the shelter on Wednesday, she discovered that Sue was in worse shape. When she inquired, she found that Sue had not been treated, despite the donations of medication.

Sue was removed from her kennel and Sanchez was holding her, trying to soothe her. Shuker asked her to relinquish Sue but Sanchez demanded to know what Shuker was going to do with Sue. Shuker is known for retaliatory executions of animals when rescuers make an issue about treatment. Shuker responded by calling the police to have Sanchez removed from the premises.

Videotape was running throughout the confrontation and the video can be found here.

This is just the latest is confrontations with and retaliation against the rescue community by Shuker and her staff. In Sept. 2013, Andrea Neyses was confronted and searched by three armed police officers for giving treats to the dogs she was photographing. She was told criminal charges would be filed but after many months was notified that no charges would be brought. The story can be found here.

Sanchez, herself, was on the receiving end of visits to her Riverside County home by a detective from the San Bernardino City Police Department. He would not tell her what the investigation involved or if she was a suspect.

On Jan. 21 of this year, Sanchez, Neyses, this reporter and several other rescuers attended the San Bernardino City Council meeting to ask the council during public comment section to address the issues at the shelter. Councilmembers were inattentive. Enough left the dais (and the council chambers) that then-Mayor Pat Morris had to interrupt to request that one return to the dais so that there would be a quorum seated. None of the councilmembers made a public response to the situation.

This was the second meeting Sanchez and others attended to plead for the welfare of the animals at one of the nation’s worst animal shelters. It fell on deaf ears. Fortunately, for Sue, the rescue community has made such a stink over what happened to her yesterday, she is now at the vet’s office being treated.

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