Meet New York City Animal Care and Control’s Own Angel of Death

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.

WebberPt1

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.

MeLissa Webber Article Pt 2

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.

Yes. That.

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.

This entry was posted in New York City, No Kill, Shelter Stuff, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.d.mitchell Karen D. Mitchell

    SCARY!!!! :(

  • Damifino

    I am not anti-Christian, or anti-any other religion. That said, I find it disturbing when anyone bases everything they do on their religious beliefs. “My imaginary friend told me to kill that cute little tabby kitten and that goofy lab mix because he wanted them in his animal shelter in the sky” is just a little too far out there for me to hope that this person would be a positive influence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caroline.m.sindall Caroline Miller-Williams Sinda

    Big Brother fan?? Hmm, smacks more of masochistic tendencies, I’d say… :)) Joking apart, this eye-opener makes for worrying reading. One step forward, and at least four back, sigh..

  • db

    This is NOT who I would want making decisions about who lives and who dies – and I AM a Christian. Come on, NYC, you have a chance to make a good difference for the animals of your city. Do it right this time.
    Thanks, John, for keeping us posted. Since I’m not in the city, I count on your blog to stay informed.

  • Diane.NoKillDelaware

    The fact that this woman is allowed to work in a shelter is a nightmare. First of all, the idea that she has access to God’s wisdom is unbelievably arrogant. Or possibly insane. There are serial killers who think God is giving them “wisdom” about who should be murdered. Second, her idea of Christianity is a perversion. Can anyone imagine Jesus walking down the aisles of the shelter picking out which dogs and cats to kill? This woman should immediately be fired.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steftigger Stefani Olsen

    Another reason why Christians make me beat my head against a wall in frustration. Too many of them can lay their religion on top of anything, justify anything. All those “He” caps in a conversation about picking animals for euthanasia make me livid. If such a God exists — and I do not believe one does — he is no friend of mine, no friend of the animals, and I will be absolutely content to be cast down into the netherworld if only I can have five minutes with him first just to give him a piece of my mind, tell him what an asshole he is and how much I despise him.

    • db

      Please do not judge all Christians by this woman. She is not a true Christian or she wouldn’t be acting this way. In fact, she sounds more like she’s delusional or mentally disturbed. We do try to live our beliefs, but “Do not kill” is one of the commandments and I have to believe that God loves all the creatures He created (my belief) and would certainly not be giving this woman a list of who lives and who dies.

      • Kayla

        Ugh. db is right, a true Christian should not be saying this. She has no right to decide who lives or dies, only God does (and that would be through a natural death, not by her evil hands). He tells us to care for every living creature. Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

    • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

      This isn’t really about Christianity per se; it’s about the justifications people make to themselves to explain their behavior even when it’s so obviously directly at odds with what they claim to stand for.

  • Kathleen

    WOW – to think that she believes God gives her wisdom to kill and to decide which ones??? And yes, clearly she thinks because she is a Christian, SHE is superior to others who aren’t (and I think she may also think she’s superior to other Christians too since God gives her wisdom).

    John, you’re amazing that you find/keep all of these documents.

  • Rob

    I don’t see anything wrong there. I would be curious to hear her views on No Kill now vs three years ago and I imagine she has changed those for the better.

    • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

      You don’t see anything wrong with preferential treatment for Christian employees? Funny, Federal law does.

      • Rob

        It seems that we are more concerned with her being a Christian than turning the shelter No Kill? If the subject of animal welfare does not cause someone to eventually do some soul searching and explore some philosophy of the human experience I would consider that troubling. Your whole write up minus your own interjections looks like a good person on a common path to the No Kill philosophy but without her input or actions all we can do is guess. The only place I see in the article about preferential treatment is your question about it.

        • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

          She’s not on a common path to a No Kill philosophy. She rejects the tenets of No Kill, has done so in writing, and believes that God guides her to decide who lives and who dies. I could point you to other places where she very specifically refutes No Kill. Use the Google. You can’t get to No Kill by hiring people who don’t believe in it.

          I’m not at all concerned with her being a Christian. I’m concerned with her being a hypocrite, a killer, and a manager who expresses a clearly illegal preference. I’m fairly sure her employer is equally concerned – this opens up a huge can of worms for them if she is ever involved in an employee termination, especially a non-Christian employee. whom she has expressed workplace biases against.

  • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

    Well, I pay attention. The Washington Square blog is incorrect – not surprising, because it’s a complex issue and I probably follow it more closely than they do.

    The grant you’re probably referring to was specific to feral cats:
    http://johnsibley.com/2012/03/29/maddies-fund-pulls-nyc-cat-spayneuter-grant/

    Despite the spin from Hoffman this one year grant was widely expected to be renewed; the rumor is that Maddie’s ended it because the Mayor’s Alliance did not use the grant money as they had promised to.

    The grant that is supposed to move NYC towards No Kill is formally called the Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project, and I have written about it extensively. It is currently in its eighth year and provides cash benefits to rescues in NYC including NYCACC as well as funding things like the entire New Hope department. Having spoken to Maddie’s last week I am fairly sure the grant is still very much in force and is currently expected to be in place until 2015.

    For more on Maddie’s:
    http://johnsibley.com/?s=maddie%27s+fund

    • cat102

      Hi, thanks, John, for these links which I will check out but I was specifically referring to No Kill NYC and the Maddie’s Fund money ending. I guess you didn’t have time to read my piece which is fine but I write the Washington Square Park Blog and I interviewed Jane Hoffman. I reported what she told me when she talked specifically about Maddie’s Fund and NYC going No Kill. (I actually always thought it began with Giuliani but she credited Bloomberg Admin.) Clearly you believe the grant is in place but perhaps it’s been shifted somehow because this is what she said from my piece a few months back:

      The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals was created out of the Animal Law Committee, part of the New York City Bar Association. Hoffman, who was on the committee, became aware of Maddie’s Fund, “a big family foundation giving community grants, encouraging cities to be ‘no-kill.’” And then, “It was a confluence of events when Bloomberg came into office. We said to the Administration, we think we have an idea to improve animal welfare and we can get this multi-million dollar grant.”With Hoffman’s help and the Alliance, the city got the Maddie’s Fund grant. The grant was for $23.5 million over seven years and ended last year. As with many things related to animals in this big city, that has not been without controversy. The year by which NYC is supposed to be “no-kill” has continued to move further away.

      • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

        If that’s what Hoffman said, she lied. Maddie’s confirms that the grant remains in place, and without it the Mayor’s Alliance would disappear, since it provides the majority of their funding. I’m sure Maddie’s would be more than willing to confirm with you personally. The MA continues to administrate the grant in NYC.

        • cat102

          It’s curious for sure. Thanks. I was surprised but didn’t see any reason to think that it wasn’t true since the grant being in place would seem to be a more positive scenario (for Mayor’s Alliance – as you say). I’ll double check with her and with Maddie’s Fund. I want to be accurate and now wonder what the full story is. Can the money go directly to the city somehow and not through Mayor’s Alliance? Thanks.

          • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

            It’s not that curious. The truth and Jane Hoffman are but distant acquaintances.
            The bulk of the grant doesn’t have anything to do with ACC directly so it would never go to the city. The bulk of the grant goes to Alliance Participating Organizations who are paid $150ish for every animal they pull from ACC and adopt out. Some goes to ACC, they are paid for adoptions over a certain baseline, but at a far lower rate, and they make $100-200k a year from it if memory serves. I’ve written about his pretty extensively on the blog. Then there’s some direct funding of things like the ACC New Hope dept and services MA provides like Wheels of Hope (transportation).
            The MA was created exclusively for the purpose of securing this grant. Without it they would cease to exist. If rescues are getting paid, adoption events are going on, New Hope exists and transport is rolling… the grant is in place. When it terminates the effect on animal welfare in NYC will be immediate and dramatic.
            MA knows the gravy train won’t last forever so they’re seeking other sources of funding for when MF tires of their game playing and cuts them loose. Hasn’t happened yet. You’ll know when it does because shelter deaths will skyrocket.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506030029 Marissa De Los Rios

              I wouldn’t believe a word that comes out of the truth cover-up happy Mayor’s Alliance. They don’t care about the animals.

      • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

        If there’s one thing you can count on its the need to fact check anything Jane Hoffman says.

      • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

        Here’s the letter from MF President Richard Avanzino dated Dec 2011 where he confirms that support will continue. http://www.maddiesfund.org/Documents/Funded%20Projects/Maddies%20Fund%20NYC%20Grant.pdf

      • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

        Maddie’s refers to it as current and ongoing: http://www.maddiesfund.org/about_us/media/whats_new.html

  • Maureen

    So, since this was first posted, has MeLissa deleted her twitter account? Because the link now leads to a page that does not exist for an account called ‘notmebuther.’ Just asking, because if yes…then I would say this blog has caused a stir…which is a good thing.

    • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

      Yep, she yanked it – but I’ve updated the blog to have a link to an archival copy for your perusal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000225770212 Michael Laprise

    I hope they all go to hell and burn

  • http://twitter.com/vhayes1 Valerie Hayes

    I will now have that stupid “Arms of an Angel” commercial stuck in my head for the rest of the day and I blame you.

  • Soosie

    When Ed Boks was the GM of NYCACC he warehoused the animals to reduce his euthanasia numbers. Rescuers, volunteers then complained about his over crowding. Animals were getting sick, dying, getting into cage fights, going cage crazy. He warehoused animals that stood little chance of adoption just to make his numbers look good. He was fired because of the complaints of cruelty besides a discrimination lawsuit. I don’t have a problem with a nokill goal but you must be humane in the meantime. Don’t warehouse a big old brown pitbull if there is no chance at adoption because more big old brown pitbulls come in every day. The only issue I have with Melissa is that she probably shouldn’t talk about her religion as much because she works for government.

    • Maureen

      Well people could say that a black pit bull is even harder to get adopted than a big old brown pit bull but this week I found out about a family who looked for their lost black pit bull named Helena that they loved dearly…and they found her…only to have her killed by NYCACC before they could get her out of the shelter system’s demented grasp.

      My point? First, I think it is wrong to label any dog or cat as difficult to adopt. Mention a breed or color of fur and I will show you someone who loves and prefers that type or color of dog or cat. My best friend’s baby sister loves Rottweilers. I cannot explain why this tiny little blond has several of her own and will foster as needed for a rescue group. But she does.

      Second, I think there is a rational middle-ground between warehousing and hiding animals to make it seem the shelter system’s numbers are down and killing on average 20 dogs and 40 cats and kittens every day to make it seem like they are doing their job and are on top of things. Neither is even close to being the right answer because both are the wrong answers for the well-being of the animals. What is going on now is nowhere near being ‘humane’ either especially when dogs and cats are still getting sick and dying in their cages while dogs and cats with treatable conditions are being put down because actually treating them would be too much trouble.

      And it is sad that when people talk about a shelter going no-kill then immediately the extreme is brought up…a hoarding situation…and how that would be so much worse than not killing any of the animals in the shelter. So then the idea of killing dogs and cats can be thought of and described with the more palatable term of humane.

      I would not care if this woman belongs to the Insane Clown Posse if she would just do her job and put the care of the animals first. And to put the onus on God and Christianity to justify the killing of animals upsets me. Not only is it hypocrisy at its finest…it is also a cop-out, a way to disengage and to not take responsibility for one’s own horrible actions.

    • http://www.johnsibley.com/ John Sibley

      That’s Ed’s schtick and always has been: he talks a No Kill goal but can’t get there. Lots of people since his tenure have in various cities around the country. Perhaps it might be a good idea to have one of them take a crack at it.

      There is zero evidence that NYCACC is working towards a No Kill goal. Why are the accepting so much money if they have no intent of working in that direction?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeanne.odell.986 Jeanne Odell

      Why would you use a pit Bull as a example. That big old brown Pit bull could be a wonderful pet to someone. Also just because there would be a lot of one kind of pet doesn’t justify killing the pet it means work harder to market the pet and find home for them. Pit Bulls make great pets and statements like this is why there are so many being killed.

      • db

        Thank you for pointing that out. My thoughts were the same. These dogs have enough trouble already and are being killed by the thousands, just for looking a certain way.
        And why can’t we get past the “either/or” position on no-kill? If it’s no-kill, it’s hoarding or warehousing – that’s just not the truth.
        Soosie, I hope your pet never ends up at one of these hell holes and is killed for being one of those “chosen” pets.

  • ScottNY

    This woman is insane.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.smythe.1 Cynthia Smythe

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ. While we have a personal relationship with Him I’d be a little skeptical if another Christian continually said God told him/her exactly what animals to kill. For God to do this constantly would imply he denies His followers their free will, and He doesn’t do that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrice.dalton.3 Patrice Ann Dalton

    I assume that she is in an interim position while an open and fair hiring process for the new Director takes place. Do we know if the position is being recruited for right now? The new Director is a very important position that should be filled with a professional, well trained person who has the vision and networking skills to make this shelter a no kill or at least a low kill shelter. The killing of homeless dogs is barbaric and horrific. NYC should wake up and demand this position make real strides to stop the killing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610476084 Colleen Carrigan

    She sounds like Ingrid Newkirk, when she described killing the animals in the Washington D.C. shelter where she worked before PeTA. Why do these CRAZY nuts gravitate to shelter jobs? They are all a few towels short of a full load.

  • http://www.jrdeputyaccountant.com Jr Deputy Accountant

    Love you so much right now, John, great piece!

  • Jazzybear

    Sick and twisted. Angel of Death??? Seriously? Is there a petition to have this female removed? Where do I sign? My only message to her as a fellow Christian would be do not invoke the name of my God to excuse your mental failings if you truly think you were put there as the “Angel of Death”. My God would agree with saving each and every one of them at any cost. This female is NOT a true Christian.

  • goober grape

    It’s not her faith or her bias, but that she hears voices telling her to kill animals. That’s just batshit insane, and she is incapable of making life or death decisions.