Holmes says smear campaign against animal shelter 'utterly false'

Holmes says smear campaign against animal shelter 'utterly false'

This collage of photos of "Minnie" the pit bull were spread online with a false story about how officers from the Pawtucket Animal Shelter warned that they would kill her.
Al Alix says he didn't mean to help spread it

PAWTUCKET - A fast-spreading online smear campaign accusing workers from the Pawtucket Animal Shelter of threatening to kill a pit bull named Minnie is "completely and utterly false," says Animal Control Officer John Holmes.

Holmes was irate last week when he learned of the campaign, which is being spearheaded by a prominent animal rescue group out of Boston.

A Jan. 15 Facebook post about Minnie on the Lilly the Hero Pit Bull Facebook page had garnered 1,321 "shares," 2,045 "likes," and 288 comments as of Monday, but the outpouring of concern from animal lovers is entirely unwarranted, said Holmes.

The post on the "Lilly" page, which itself has 287,000 likes, asks people to help Minnie by finding puppies who can nurse from her.

"Earlier in the week in Rhode Island this girl (Minnie) followed a woman from Pawtucket all the way home," read a Jan. 15 post on the Lilly the Hero Pit Bull page. "When animal control was called, they told her they'd kill her because of the pit bull ban. Now she's in a safe place and being fostered through Almost Home Rescue..."

Holmes said he has no idea how the story about Minnie got started, and said no dog matching her description has come to the shelter. There was a female pit bull with a litter of puppies, but that dog and her puppies are still at the shelter and "are doing very well," he said.

As for the idea that the city's animal control workers would kill a pit bull because of its breed?

"That's absolutely ridiculous," said Holmes. "It's irresponsible and erroneous."

The standard procedure for pit bulls that are taken in at the shelter are that they are spayed and neutered, said Holmes. The only time any dog is put down, whether it's a "pit bull or a Chihuahua," is if a veterinarian deems that it's "so far injured that it can't be saved," he said. Pit bulls are adopted out just like any other dog, he said, but do not go to Pawtucket residents because of the pit bull ban in the city.

Holmes was further upset to learn that Al Alix, the man suing Pawtucket over its ban on pit bulls, had promoted the false post about Minnie, asking his Facebook friends to "please help if you can."

Alix initially told The Breeze he didn't remember sharing a post about Minnie. When he did recall it, he said he didn't realize what he was sharing and immediately felt badly for any part he played in the campaign. Despite the issues he's had with Holmes and his advocacy for the pit bull ban, said Alix, he respects the animal control officer and "I know he doesn't operate that way."

A representative for the Lilly the Hero Pit Bull Facebook page, Lindsay Dancy, said she was the one who posted about Minnie back on Jan. 15 and then multiple more times.

As Dancy tells it, "a pit bull advocate/friend" of hers shared a post about Minnie that was written by the person Minnie followed home. Dancy said she used the words from the item posted by Pawtucket resident Sheila Bobola.

"Happy to make a correction if this is not true," said Dancy in an email. "Or maybe she assumed they would put her to sleep since there is a pit bull ban. We are happy to clarify what actually happened but most of the dogs we help are being shared on Facebook and (we) hope that the stories are legitimate."

Dancy said she made sure Minnie was in the hands of a rescue before she posted anything, and she pointed out that representatives for the rescue, Almost Home Rescue of Rhode Island, said in a Jan. 13 post that they had the same concerns about Pawtucket's ban on pit bulls.

Representatives for Almost Home Rescue did not return calls for comment.

The post from Almost Home Rescue that was referenced by Dancy states that people in Pawtucket, when they find a stray pit bull, "don't want to turn the dog in to animal control for fear of euthanasia."

Bobola, through a Facebook message, told The Breeze that she shared the story about Minnie because she heard about the tactics used at the animal shelter from "different people" who know about the breed being illegal in the city.

Told of the statements by Holmes, Bobola said she was glad to hear that animal control officers don't just kill pit bulls that come to the shelter.

"People are under the impression that they would be automatically killed," she said. "Sounds like there needs to be education about this for people, including for myself."

Bobola added that she planned to post the corrected information on her Facebook page.

But Holmes told The Breeze that once a campaign like this gets going, it's impossible to reverse.

"Human nature, people are going to believe that foolishness," he said.

He's no stranger to being demonized on social media, especially by those who dislike him for his support of the city's pit bull ban, said Holmes, but this latest campaign takes the "hate" to another level.

"Desperate people say and do desperate things," he said. "If these people could see the money we spend on these pit bulls, on the one that had to have its leg amputated, they'd think differently, but they have no idea."

Comments

I am writing in reponse to this article. I am the Director for Almost Home Rescue and felt it necessary to clear a few things up that were mentioned in the article above. I did, in fact, speak to a reporter yesterday afternoon to give the correct account of what transpired with Minnie. I explained that I feel the story got skewed because the woman who found Minnie did not want to surrender her to the shelter for fear she would never make it out. The pictures that you see above derived from our Facebook page. We did in fact look for puppies for Minnie to nurse, suggested by our vet, who was concerned because she was engorged with milk and it would be beneficial to her if she could nurse. We have been in touch with John Holmes from the first day that Minnie came into our care. While we don't agree with the current ban in the City Of Pawtucket, we have already stated and posted on our Facebook page, that John Holmes was nothing short of professional throughout this entire ordeal. Additonally, John has allowed us to keep Minnie in foster care rather than her being confined to a shelter run. Minnie is doing well, has gained weight and will be spayed as soon as possible which our vet said will be approximately 2 months. While we are definitely not in support of breed bans, we don't wish to slander anyone nor perpetuate untruths. Carla Ciccone- Director of Almost Home