Letter to the Editor: The Odds and Ends of Haven Humane Society


What has happened to Haven Humane Society? For over a decade, I had the opportunity to be a part of the organization when it was dedicated to animal welfare combined with sound, succe$$ful business practices.  It is odd that things have changed so dramatically in two years.  Seems like the end of an era.


On June 15, 2009, a dog was euthanized in error by Haven.  I was directly involved in a Dangerous Dog Hearing regarding this dog.  As a certified professional dog trainer, I was asked to talk to the dog’s owner about any options available to save the dog.  On June 15th, I appeared before the City of Redding panel, along with representatives of Haven.  The owner was adamant about trying to save her dog, so my final recommendation was to assist the owner in contacting UC Davis for a complete canine behavior evaluation.  The City of Redding panel had agreed to this suggestion.

While we were at the hearing, the dog was euthanized by Haven.  I attempted to discuss this situation with Haven’s Board of Directors and CEO in hopes of preventing this from happening again but it was not open for discussion.  The dog’s owner was devastated.


On October 15, 2009, I discovered Quin, a German Shorthair Pointer, had been at Haven since October 10th.  As a member of two pointer rescue groups, I check Petfinder (http://www.petfinder.com/index.htm) every day for GSP’s.  Petfinder is the largest and most popular website for shelters and rescues to showcase available animals.  I was disappointed to learn Haven no longer takes advantage of the vast exposure that Petfinder offers to animal welfare groups and the public.

Haven had changed to another website called Petango – (http://www.petango.com.)  Who knew?  A simple email to rescue groups Haven regularly does business with would be helpful when making a significant procedure change.  I publicized Quin’s case to other Pointer Rescue groups in California and the mission to find a foster or permanent home for Quin was launched.

On Oct. 16th, I went to Haven and did a visual inspection of Quin.  He was very friendly. I did not observe any obvious medical/physical/lameness problems.  He was calm and appeared to be comfortable and not overly stressed.  According to Haven’s temperament evaluation, Quin was suitable for any home – no restrictions.

From October 17th thru 29th, I called Haven every workday to check on Quin and assure Haven we were working on placing him in a foster/permanent home.  On October 27th, Haven was advised we had a possible foster home.

On October 29th, Robin Farley of Nor Cal GSP Rescue called Haven at 4:15pm to tell them we had a foster home and she was told Quin “had been adopted.”

On October 31st, I called Haven to verify that the adoption was successful and Quin had not been returned to the shelter. I was told he had not been returned.  I hung up the phone and seconds later the adoptions supervisor from Haven called to tell me the dog had been euthanized but “we didn’t want to tell anybody.”  I was stunned by the call.  With rescue groups working to find a foster home for Quin, why not a phone call to let us know before the dog was killed?

When asked for an explanation, Dr. Ray John responded via email:

“Quinn, a 7 year old dog, was brought to Haven on October 10, 2009.  He had small tumors on his hindquarters and on his paws………  “No one showed any interest in adopting Quinn while in the shelter.  He then developed Kennel Cough.  Because of his age and condition, he was euthanized on October 29, 2009.  He had spent 19 days in the kennel.”

No one was interested???  Three separate rescue groups worked diligently every day for two weeks to find a safe place for Quin!  I personally called the shelter every day to check on him and give Haven a progress report on our efforts.  Of course it can be argued that Quin languished at the shelter for five days before any of us knew he was there.  Most rescue volunteers have obligations that prevent them from visiting the local shelters every day. Hence, the importance of Petfinder.com.

Since when is kennel cough a reason to euthanize a dog?   If kennel cough is considered a death sentence, then I shudder to think how many dogs don’t get out alive.

I did not observe any tumors on Quin and there was no mention of tumors in any conversations I had with the staff.  Did Haven’s veterinarian examine Quin?  My email request to Haven’s Adoption Dept. for any medical evaluation/explanation of the tumors was never answered.  And yes, it was received at Haven.

The part of this tragic story that continues to gnaw at me is the fact that Haven Humane Society lied to us.  Is this what passes for animal welfare and professionalism at Haven nowadays?


In November of this year, the RS featured a story about a dog being euthanized for heartworms.  This was done after a client had expressed interest in adopting the animal.

Heartworm disease is endemic in our area.  If a person wants to adopt an animal, and the adoption has been approved, one would think the next step would be a heartworm test.  Then the adopter should be given the results AND the option of treating the animal or canceling the adoption.  Euthanizing dogs with a certain parasite load without consulting with the potential new home is nothing short of cruel.

To treat or not to treat an animal, for any disease, is a decision between a client and the client’s  veterinarian. If Haven makes an animal available and a client wants to adopt that animal knowing the diagnosis and prognosis, it seems unconscionable for Haven to arbitrarily euthanize the animal.

For the well being of the dogs in their custody and consideration for the public, I hope Haven will re-evaluate their euthanasia policies and procedures.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Coach Bob says:

    Good article. Haven has serious problems. You expose some of them. When Dr. Ray John was on Carl Bott's radio show Carl never asked one single 'tough' question to him. Too scared, I guess. Afraid of losing a future guest. I commented on this to Carol (via email) and he danced around the subject.

    Thanks for bringing up serious issues. This place is turning into a killing mill and it digusts me. I'll keep reading.

    Coach Bob

  2. Avatar Pat j. says:

    I received a letter from Dr. Ray John before Christmas telling me that Haven had changed its policy on dogs with Heartworm, if an adoptor was willing to have the dog treated. I was happy to hear this as I have a dog that will soon be 14, which I got from Haven 11 years ago and had treated. She has had a wonderful life and brought me much happiness…Best $400. I ever spent !!!

  3. Avatar Tanya says:

    I applaud you on having the will and courage to write this letter to the editor. I too was an employee of Haven and witnessed several accounts of this. I truly believe that this shelter needs a full over hall. I worked with several employees at the clinic and the shelter that claimed to be "animal lovers", but by their actions were not, i.e.; not medically treating animals when the funds allowed it, euthanizing animals when rescue groups or foster parents were interested and staff being down-right too rough on the critters. I for one went through a lot of heartache and turmoil working there and have been toying with the option of telling my side. You Chere, have given me hope that if enough people stand up and speak up, something will be done about this organization. The animals are lucky to have your voice.
    Thank you!

  4. Avatar pmarshall says:

    I am so sorry to hear about animals being euthanized when it was, apparently, not necessary. I am sure Haven is overwhelmed with animals. We adopted our cat eleven years ago, and he is very special. What really troubles me is the numbers of animals that people have no disregard for and do not have them neutered and/or are very cruel to, or just leave them when they move. I still send contributions to Haven — and, hopefully, they do the right thing.

  5. Avatar Laura Sanchez says:

    Thank you for sharing! I live on the other part of of the US (in DC) and came across this article via googling another article. And boy am I glad I did! I volunteer in many animal affiliated groups and this article makes me sick. To think this happens everywhere across our country breakes my heart. If any resolution ideas or actions arise from this, please let us know so I can take my part and involve my side on this and help in any way I can!

  6. Avatar Karen C says:

    Have you ever been to Haven when a dump truck backs up to the rear of the building and a shovel loader drops dozens of furry bodies into that truck? It is one of the most awful sites I have seen and the memory will never leave me.

    I will never understand why people have dogs and cats and do not consider them a member of their family. They love, they feel, they cry, they smile, and they have emotion and all they want is for you to love, feed and care for them…they give you so much more back!

  7. Avatar nor cal gal says:

    I am also an ex- employee of what used to be Haven Humane society. There is nothing Humane about them. I have one question WHAT IS RAY JOHN DOING IN THAT POSITION? There is so much more going on there than the public knows about. It all started when the past president of the board of directors stepped in after setting up Norm. Wouldn't we all like to know what really happened? All employees had to sign a paper saying we would not talk about anything happening at Haven. If we did we would get fired. What kind of B.S is that? Its not only the animals they discard if they become ill it's also the employees. It seems as if you did not agree with the new CEO about something you got the ax. Well alot of the people who are no longer there knew more about running haven than Dr. John ( What kind of Dr. is he?) He doesn't want to listen to anyone who might be able to help him. I'm not bashing the good Dr. I just can't understand him. It's his way or out the door you go. And there are a few people in that front office of his that should have been gone a long time ago. But nnnoooooo they remain. I guess thats what happens when your a brown nose. even if you know whats going on is not right.

  8. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    My own experiences with haven have soured me on it. Six years ago they turned us down as adopters since we rented (we had a letter of permission from the landlords). Maybe they felt we weren't rich enough. We got a dog from the County and he is laying at my feet as I type this.

    My daughter was involved with a charity that sought to donate gift baskets for people adopting the dogs, but Haven acted like total snobs. The County shelter was very happy to ge tthe attention and have received the gifts every year that my daughter was involved.

    Finally a client of mine whose own daughter died in a car accident used to donate several thousand annually to Haven in her memory. After a couple of years apparently Haven felt this became an obligation and called her several times about the money and when was the check coming. Because of this terrible attitude, she found a different charity to send the money to.

    Haven needs to completely close shop and let others care for the animals.

  9. Avatar Troy Hawkins says:

    Talking is one thing. Doing is another. Please write your local, county and state law makers, Animal advocates about this issue. As well as groups like Pet-Abuse.com, DDAL.org and the American Human Association if you are truly concerned.

    I just sent 12 emails to people who can and should look into this issue. I urge you to do the same!

    • Avatar Chere McMillan says:

      Hi Troy – Thank you so much for your comments. I truly appreciate any and all efforts that you do to help correct some of the issues that affect Haven.
      Many Haven supporters have contacted various organizations/agencies (local and national) seeking help. Unfortunately, while these groups offer sympathy, there is nothing they can do to "police" the facility.
      I have suggested to the Haven Board of Directors that asking for guidance for the shelter management side of the business would benefit the entire operation. There are several well known and well respected organizations that offer assistance.
      Having Dr. Ray John take on the daunting task of fund raising full time and having a knowledgeable, experienced shelter director would be one possible solution. As for the additional salary, Haven has three "fund raising" positons now – possibly a duplication of efforts? Prior to the previous CEO/BOD President, Haven ran like the "well oiled machine" with a Director, Secretary/Bookeeper, Fundraiser and Animal Regulation Manager and an absolutely amazing staff.
      Haven receives donations and a significant amount of money from the City of Redding. Many of us would like reassurance that the money is spent in a prudent manner.
      Thank you, thank you for your support. – Chere

  10. Avatar Dolores says:

    Chere, thank you so much for FINALLY bring this to the attention of folks. This has been going on for way too long. As a dog rescue advocate, you speak for all of us! Join us folks to making people aware. Blessings, Chere. Keep up the good work.

  11. Avatar Teresa says:

    I realize that Chere is talking about internal policies and perhaps mistakes that are made (killing the wrong dog, etc.) but I believe the reason they have so many animals to kill is because of the huge cost of adopting.

    I totally understand that there are expenses involved in running the shelter. What I don't understand is why they charge so much that many people cannot adopt from them. Just because I do not have $250 or $300 to adopt an animal doesn't mean that I would not love and take good care of one.

    IF they really wanted to get animals adopted they would bring that cost down. More animals adopted out means less animals to kill.

    • Avatar Mari says:

      I have experience adopting a cat in August and a dog this past month and while the adoption experience for both (too long to detail here) was mind-boggling, the cost to adopt was quite reasonable ($100 for the dog & less for the cat) compared to purchasing from a breeder or one of the rescue groups in the area.

  12. Avatar Michelle says:

    I know most of the complaints are about the actual shelter, but we had an awful experience late last year with Haven's spay/neuter clinic, as well. We adopted a kitten from Haven's shelter and they took him to the spay clinic to have him neutered (they won't let them leave the facility without the surgery, we were told). They told us to pick him up on the following Wednesday. I drove 30-minutes from my home to the clinic to get him on that specific pick-up date, only to be told that they didn't fix him after all because he ended up having an upper-respiratory infection. They never called me about it. They said I could take him home, gave me some antibiotics and sent us off. Two weeks later the poor guy was still sick, so they had to order us another round of antibiotics.

    When he finally got better, we scheduled the neuter appointment for a Tuesday in early November. They told me to bring him in at 7:30 a.m., which was great because I had to be at work by 8. Got to the clinic at 7:30, only to find the gates were locked. A few other people and myself sat in our cars waiting for someone to let us in. After 20 minutes, I was getting VERY irritated (and was going to be late for work), so I called the clinic on my phone. Got someone who worked there (she was RUDE) and she said the clinic wasn't opening until 8:30 that particular day because someone who worked there was getting some stupid award at Win-River! So everyone was at this award ceremony (who the hell schedules these things in the morning??!) while myself and four others waited outside the locked gates. They said on the phone they called everyone who had an appointment and left a message about the change, but I never got a message. After they finally opened the gates, we had to wait another 20 minutes for them to open the doors of the clinic. One person left in disgust, he was so angry. I would have left too, but I live so far away and I couldn't take my cat to work with me (for which I had to call and tell them I was going to be almost an hour late — ugh).

    Then, after all that, the two people in line in front of me were told that their appointments weren't even scheduled for that day! Someone had told them to be there that day, but the appointment was really for the following Tuesday. They were more than pissed by that point, and I don't blame them! At least my cat's surgery was really scheduled for that day. But it was a huge pain in the butt to get to that point. I will NEVER use Haven's spay/neuter clinic again. And I will likely never adopt from there again, either.

    • Avatar Tanya says:

      I used to work there years ago. Prior to this new staff, the clinic was doing great. We all loved the animals and tried to make life better for them. We cared about the clientele. I am so sorry that the clinic has turned for the worse. I understand Anderson Vet Clinic has great doctors and staff there. Good luck to you in future ventures.

    • Avatar Ginny says:

      All Cats on Lake Blvd. does a great job with their clinic and quite reasonable. They even take small dogs.

  13. Avatar Chere McMillan says:

    Thank you to everyone for your candid comments, suggestions and support. I have learned much from many of the comments. Interesting! – Chere

  14. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Yes, there has to be something wrong there. Don't like hearing it. There has to be some way to improve the situation. Animals are "people", too.

  15. Avatar bonbon says:

    I am horrified by these stories! God help the animals. Our charge from the beginning of time was to take care of the animals. How can Haven Humane Society receive the support they need to ensure they are Humane and give animals a proactive chance of placement?

  16. Avatar Chere McMillan says:

    Based on the comments made here and to me in person, there seems to be many different issues that could be addressed. The purpose for presenting my information was in hopes that the CEO and Board of Directors would understand they are losing donations for reasons other than the economy. The treatment that the public and the animals receive directly affects their bottom line. I appreciate each and every comment made to me; they come from people who care. As a previous Haven associate said, the best disinfectant is light. And yes, there are many good things that Haven still does: Camp Love A Pet, Dog Training, etc. Chere