By B.L. Ochman
Sure, bloggers have a more casual, more personal style than mainstream media. But are we sloppy? Are we lazy? How many bloggers will pick up the phone and do an interview? How many will read more than blog posts when researching a story?
As blogs gain visibility, and ordinary citizens gain a powerful voice, I am often pitched by people with an axe to grind about a company, product or service. Given that a real scoop could turn up in email, I check out many of them.
And, since I am a dog owner with more than passing interest in animal welfare, I carefully read the scathing complaint I got from an animal rescue group the other day. I called the sender, Laurie Blier, director of the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network, which has been banned from ACC.
I also interviewed the person Blier was complaining about: Charlene Pedrolie, recently appointed head of New York City’s Animal Care and Control I learned that the issues are complex and that there are heartfelt opinions on both sides.
The brilliant columnist Jimmy Breslin recently told New York magazine he is disinterested in blogs because “They don’t even go in barrooms. It’s opinions written from the kitchen table!” I wonder if that’s what’s happening online in the emotional issue of Laurie Blier’s campaign against Charlene Pedrolie.
Blier’s petition to get Pedrolie fired has more than 1,000 signatures. The petition, and posts from a number of blogs, are making their way through Google toward the top of any search on Pedrolie’s name – clearly part of a campaign to discredit her.
Many bloggers have reprinted parts of Blier’s lengthy emails about Pedrolie, and I have to wonder if they checked any of the facts.
Are the charges fair? Are they right? How many other bloggers spoke to Pedrolie? Not one that I can find!
This is not to say that mainstream media is teaming with integrity, or that traditional journalists are objective. As Ike Pigott said on Twitter, “when the bloggers figure out journalistic integrity, can they share their newly-acquired sensibilities with the journalists?” Call me pollyanna, but I think bloggers can set a new standard, and an example.
Among Blier’s charges:
“This massive kill shelter system with a yearly intake of more than 44,000 animals is now under the control of a woman who’s egregious errors in judgment have thrown the system into chaos.”
Blier says the ACC’s banning of her rescue group and seven others is baseless, claiming that “In two years we removed more than 1,000 animals from NYCACC as New Hope Partners and through our Care-A-Van adoption events with State Senator Erik Addams” She accuses Pedrolie of discriminating against the pit bulls and rottweilers her group saves.
Pedrolie says Blier’s facts are wrong, that two rescue groups were banned. One is now working closely with ACC, she reports, saying that Blier refused to make work with her or to many any changes.
Pedrolie says that instead of giving antibiotics to shelter animals prophylacticly, all animals entering the shelter are vaccinated against kennel cough and other diseases. (While kennel cough vaccine is acceptable even to homeopathic vets, many vets argue against vaccinating healthy dogs whose vaccines may actually be up to date or whose owners may have a medical reason not to vaccinate them.)
She says dogs are prescribed antibiotics immediately if they are ill; that illness is way down; that every dog gets a blanket and a toy every day; that over-crowding conditions have been improved; that dog walkers have been hired so that every dog is walked every day. Volunteers did not show up to walk the dogs consistently, Pedrolie says.
Extensive fund-raising is underway, Pedrolie says, and sizeable savings have been achieved simply by negotiating with vendors of medical and other supplies. “Sometimes,” she says, “you just have to ask. It’s good business.”
A very major change, instituted four months ago, is the requirement that people adopting dogs and cats fill out an application and give references. I know that when I adopted a dog from the Mayor’s Alliance a couple of years ago, all they cared about was that I give them the $80 fee.
Pedrolie is known for handling turnarounds of corporations in distress. In The New Pioneers: The Men and Women Who Are Transforming the Workplace and Marketplace, Pedrolie is profiled as a leader of the “new economy” which is “entrepreneurial, not corporate; it stresses adaptation rather than bureaucratic planning, “teamwork” and “empowerment” rather than rigid command-and-control structures.” Her goal is to utilize the brains and talent of employees so that the people doing the work can define how the work should be done.
Pedrolie, who claims she took “a huge pay cut to take the ACC position,” says she spent $100K of her own money to rescue chained dogs in South Carolina when she worked there. In 2005, Pedrolie used her own money to run ads bringing attention to puppy mills and horse slaughter in Missouri and Ohio.
Clearly there still are issues and no lack of problems at ACC. And definitely, animals are suffering and dying in this wealthy city. But the answer lies in better funding, better laws, education and availability of truly affordable spaying and neutering, ending the no pets rules in apartments, making affordable veterinary care available to low-income pet owners, and publicity, lots of it about the shelter animals. Can one person accomplish all that in a short time?
“I try so hard,” Pedrolie said, “I really do. I feel immense and overwhelming responsibility to the animals.”
The ACC shelters house up to 300 animals on any given day, and Pedrolie says killing (aka euthanasia) is down significantly since she took the helm.
She says ACC works with dozens of rescue groups, some of which take dogs with fractures and other serious injuries so they can get them expensive veterinary care the ACC can’t afford.
Pedrolie invited me to come to see the improvements that have been made in the shelters, and to look at photos on the website.
I hope, for the sake of the animals, that politics doesn’t supercede helping the animals, who, as the ads say, didn’t do anything wrong.