When former Executive Director Julie Bank arrived from California to run New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC), she brought an employee with her named MeLissa Webber who had been her Operations Director at the North County Humane Society in Oceanside, CA – a relatively small open admission animal control shelter with an intake of around 5000 animals per year.
Now Julie’s resignation is in and Operations Director Douglas Boles has been fired. After serving in various capacities in NYCACC including Interim Manhattan Shelter Manager and Assistant Director of Shelter Operations, Webber has stepped into a role as Interim Operations Director, a post she may very well keep given her previous experience in a similar role, albeit for a much smaller operation.
In 2009 MeLissa wrote a two part article for a blog called “Not One Sparrow”, in which she expressed some controversial opinions for someone in a position in power in a city that is claiming to try to be No Kill by 2015 and has an outside organization providing them with a lot of money for that effort. When New York activists found those entries, they were quickly removed from the blog, and even by request from the Internet Wayback Machine once MeLissa realized how damaging some of the things she had written would be to her career. Unfortunately, she missed a copy.
I am proud to present to you the documents that show that MeLissa Webber should never be in power in a shelter with No Kill aspirations, and shows a psyche that is in fact troubling to have in a shelter at all: the belief that she is an Angel of Death, an instrument that God works through to determine who lives and who dies.
So far, so good – one person’s journey of personal discovery that led to her service in animal shelters, though I wish she wouldn’t refer to animals as “it”. Then there’s part 2, and here’s where things get pretty disturbing.
Let me pull out a few quotes from this article, entitled “So God Has Me Here”, for us to examine.
We are an open admissions shelter which means that, at times, we do have to euthanize.
One of the myths promoted by PETA is that “open admission shelters can’t be No Kill”, when in fact there are more than 50 No Kill communities in the US led by open admission shelters. Has MeLissa been drinking the PETA Kool-Aid?
Sometimes I find myself asking why exactly God has me in my current position. Is it to bring a heart of prayer and faith to the environment where I work, and to encourage other Christians I work with? (But what about when I have to let a Christian go?)
This is a VERY troubling attitude for a manager, and it begs the question of whether MeLissa gives preferential treatment to Christians working under her – a public document like this could be very damaging in a discrimination lawsuit brought by an employee. There does not seem to be thought given to encouraging non-Christians, and firing them is implied to be a non-issue.
So how do I get the world to realize how much we’re contributing to pet overpopulation by not spaying and neutering our animals?
We could start with the non-existence of overpopulation. A study by HSUS/Maddie’s recently confirmed that we do not have an overpopulation problem, we have a marketing problem on the part of shelters – but a fervent and mistaken belief that killing is necessary and inevitable sure could lead to a lot of unnecessary death and a reluctance to adopt effective promotional tactics.
When it comes to the No Kill movement specifically, what I’ve seen with my own eyes is that it can be cruel to keep animals alive in a shelter for too long. And if you don’t control your shelter’s population, it makes a poor situation for all the animals, and the people too. You can’t properly care for anybody.
And here we have it: the Big Lie. New York City is getting a lot of money from Maddie’s Fund on the condition that they work towards No Kill, but the shelter’s new Operations Manager doesn’t believe in it. Perhaps she should visit some of the successful No Kill communities on that list and see how they keep animals moving through their shelters – and alive. Why would a shelter with a stated goal of going No Kill hire someone for such a key position who has publicly written that she does not believe in it?
Ironically, it’s my Christian coworker and I who make the selections for euthanasia right now. I pray for God’s wisdom in the process. He knows the animals and He knows our resources. He knows which of them it’s cruel to keep in a kennel one more day, and who can live happily in the shelter for a year. He knows the people who are out there thinking about a new pet, and He knows the perfect pet for them. He is the perfect matchmaker, and He is on the throne.
This is by far the most disturbing section of the document. Why is it that it is “ironic” that Christians choose the euthanasia list? Because of their obvious moral superiority? MeLissa professes her belief that she is an instrument of God, working through Him to decide who lives and who dies. This is incredibly disturbing – the belief that one is literally an Angel of Death. Of all the justifications people make to themselves to kill animals, those who do it in God’s name are the ones I find the most disturbing, not to mention cult-like. Replace “animal” with “person” and you have a statement that could have come from some of the more horrific cult leaders of our time.
Hoping to see a positive evolution in MeLissa’s attitude, I surfed on over to her twitter feed. [NOTE: As of this morning 9/29 this account has been deleted. As I would not want MeLissa to hide her light under a bushel, I have made an archival copy available here.] She frequently tweets about veganism, and the rights of farm animals and wild animals while simultaneously performing in an leadership capacity in one of the most notoriously abusive shelters in the country. The cognitive dissonance is simply staggering. (She is also a Big Brother fan – and if that’s not cruelty, I don’t know what is.) She has promoted undercover investigations of slaughterhouses while helping to run one for domestic animals.
So I’m expecting big things from MeLissa in her new role. I’m expecting, since she’s so outspokenly against animal abuse, that she’ll work to end the widespread abuse of animals at NYCACC – especially through getting them sick and then allowing them to die in their kennels. And I’ll pray for her, that her attitude changes and she may eventually become a leader for ALL of the operations staff, not just the Christian ones.
Douglas Boles was inexperienced and incompetent. I won’t mourn his departure. But replacing him with the Angel of Death is a dramatic step backwards for the welfare of animals in the New York City shelter system.