Letter: Brother Wolf is broken

Graphic by Lori Deaton

There’s a major disconnect between volunteers and management at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. I worked with Ferguson, one of the dogs euthanized recently, for almost two years. He was described as “aggressive.” With dogs, yes, but not with people. I took him to area parks, and he was friendly with all he met. He was a 2-1/2-year-old, high-energy dog who loved to run and play, go on hikes with me, ride in the car, swim in the river.

A volunteer who was known to take dogs out without asking staff took him on an Outward Hounds hike on Aug. 12. He didn’t know Ferguson and took him without a muzzle (which he wore because of reactivity with other dogs). This volunteer and another man tried to force a muzzle on Ferguson while all the dogs were barking around them; he bit the guy on the leg, as any dog might under those circumstances. He was put on “bite hold” and cooped up in his run for 10 days. During that time, the “quality of life” committee (headed by Executive Director Leah Craig Fieser and Director of Operations Jesse Winters) assessed him, consulting with an outside behaviorist.

Ferguson wasn’t on the quality-of-life list until his last week — not a good time to judge the behavior of an energetic young dog that can’t get out and exercise. I wrote a letter to Leah about the Ferguson I knew; she responded with an impersonal letter saying he’d be euthanized the next day.

Leah’s mission is to bring in “adoptable” dogs. She says there aren’t enough resources for rehabilitating long-stay dogs. Yet she gets a six-figure salary and recently remodeled the administrative offices. She has a “her way or the highway” mentality: If you speak out, you’re gone.

Two other volunteers and I did, and we’re gone. I’m hoping that Ferguson’s and Rhubarb’s deaths won’t be in vain. There’s a dedicated, talented group of experienced volunteers who want to do the work with the long-stay dogs. Why not let them do that and restore uncompromised compassion?

— Sandra Krakowiak
Asheville

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Leah Craig Fieser, executive director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response: “Animal rescue is extremely emotional work. Part of our work, as with most nonprofits, is making really hard decisions that not everyone is going to agree with. We understand that most people only have a snapshot of the whole picture and are susceptible to false information. We continue to move forward in a way that is best for the animals in our community as a whole and for the longevity of our organization, whose work has a big impact on the lives of animals in Western North Carolina. I encourage readers to check out our blog titled The Hardest Decision on our website, www.bwar.org, and to be part of the solution through adoption, fostering, volunteering or donating to causes they care about. We’re grateful to our many supporters who make Brother Wolf’s critical work possible.”

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3 thoughts on “Letter: Brother Wolf is broken

  1. K Smith

    How can the community come together to have Leah, her six figure salary and “my way or highway” attitude replaced? I have already moved my donations to other animal care organizations.

  2. dyfed

    Knowing that Brother Wolf is patiently and compassionately dealing with irresponsible volunteers who can’t follow the rules and manage to essentially kill dogs and cause injuries to people makes me think they’re more worth a donation, not less.

    That dog being euthanized is nobody’s fault but the volunteer’s, but let’s not lie: it wasn’t a safe animal. Given that it was aggressive towards dogs *and* people—even this letter by a partisan for the dog makes this totally clear—I think it’s obvious the correct decisions are being made.

  3. Anonymous

    Both Ferguson and Rhubarb both had severe stress issues in the shelter. Rhubarb self-harmed by jumping nonstop and pacing continuously until her feet wore raw and still continued. Ferguson spun in circles snapped at his tail constantly. While I disagree that the animals are dangerous, I do agree that neither had any quality of life. Both had been in Brother Wolf’s care for over a year. After the first 2 weeks in a shelter, the psychological state of any dog begins to decline. They were going insane by the end of their lives. They weren’t easily adoptable animals and there wasn’t much interest in them throughout their stay. Rhubarb did spend time in a home, but it didn’t work out after she attacked a neighbors dog who got loose. While it wasn’t her fault the dog got loose, she isn’t innocent in the fight between them that occurred. Once she was returned, there was very little interest in her. Neither of them got much attention during their last months because of their records. These have to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to adopt an animal out. The right adopters for either of them never came along. They were stressed and suffering. It is inhumane to keep an animal in a shelter for an extended period of time, despite whether several humans love them or not. It is selfish to keep an animal around that does not have much attention from adopters and that is clearly suffering from the psychological damage that comes with some long stay animals. Two weeks is when their health first starts to decline. Imagine what a year would do. While it was heart breaking to see these dogs be euthanized, it was the right decision. These two dogs had no quality of life and were declining everyday. Volunteers get to see the best of their animal friends. They come in and take the dogs out to do all the fun things they love and as a result get to see an animal at their best each time. Animal rescue workers see everything. We spend so much time with the animals and see their goods and bads. We see the real reason behind these decisions, not just this perfect image of the animals that the volunteers get to see. It is not easy working in animal rescue, but it is even harder when someone talks about these animals without knowing all the facts and spread rumors as a result. Brother Wolf took a hit when this all happened and as a result the animals are the ones being hurt, not the people who run the organization.

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