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Boston Animal Control Produces Two Documents in Response to PBLN FOIA

foia

Says It Would Cost $23,855 to Produce Bite Data

Is This Any Way to Run Animal Control?

As we previously reported, PBLN sent a FOIA request to Boston Animal Control (BAC) which can be read in it's entirety here. The Director of Boston Animal Control, Mark Giannangelo, in his response to the FOIA request, required $308.00 to identify the materials responsive to the request, and objected to producing the name of the victims of dog bites due to privacy concerns.

Bite Data Had Been Requested One Year Earlier,
That Request Remains Unanswered

The interesting thing about the response of BAC, was that a similar request had been made a year before, as can be seen here, and at that time BAC demanded $476.80 to identify what amounted to the same data. As of the date of this article, the previous request by Donna Bishop has still not been fulfilled. You have to wonder how this bite data, which has allegedly already been sent to Ron Consalvo (as attested to in his radio interviews) needs any identification, and costs over $700.00 to identify.

Boston Animal Control Response

In order to get these documents before hearings on Boston's attempt to circumvent Massachusetts state law, PBLN paid the $308.00 dollars requested, and waited with baited breath to obtain the data that would justify pit bull regulation in Boston. If you read the FOIA request, you'll know that it is quite comprehensive, consisting of six pages and 45 itemized categories of documents. What was received from BAC? Two excel documents:  one entitled "Bites By Breed" and the other entitled "Pit Bull Stats."  Included in the email was the following statement from Mark Giannangelo:

"As for how we determined the breed of the dog for licensing, we always used the breed of the dog that the owner stated it was."

And that was it. No data upon which the statistics were based, no protocol for the determination of breed, no dangerous dog files, no citations for having a pit bull, no court files, nothing. We'll get to PBLN's response shortly. What did the two documents we did get reveal?

Analysis of Boston Bite Data—Pit Bull bites up after BSL
(Surprise!)

We consulted Brent Toellner, who has been trying to get Boston bite data for years. He looked at the two documents we received and had this comment:

Not a lot garnered on this, but interesting that in spite of the their breed specific law (or potentially because of it), pit bull bites have increased since the law was put in place in 2004. Shelter intake has as well (although I struggle to believe a shelter in a city the size of Boston would only impound 1000 dogs). Also interesting that pit bulls account for less than 25% of the total dog bites, but 40% of shelter intake. Usually those numbers are closer together.

So Boston pit bull regulation did not even result in a lower number of pit bull bites. And they want an exemption from Massachusetts law?

PBLN Demands Better BAC Response

After receiving just two documents to the six page request, PBLN demanded a better response. The two documents did not even touch on files, data, policies, citations, court documents, or any other aspect of the FOIA. BAC decided to kick the FOIA request to the legal department. Finally, we thought we would get some data and information on how BAC enforced BSL.

Boston Legal Responds—We Need $23,855
(But they really don't have much of anything)

And so we received from Boston Legal a full response, which can be read in its entirety here. Did we get any further documentation? Any further insight? Any data? No. What we got was a response that, with all due respect to Boston Legal, strains the bounds of believability. The first problem is that Boston Legal now wants to raise objections months after the initial response. The FOIA rules don't allow it. They are stuck with the one objection they made within the 10-day period: the names of victims of dog bites will be redacted. So all the legalese regarding "exemptions" is totally unsupported by the law.

I'm not going to go through all the requests, and demonstrate their absurdity. I will, however, point out the major problems with Boston Legal's response. 

No Copy of the Data Sent to Rob Consalvo

We asked for whatever documents animal control provided to City Councilor Rob Consalvo, which he has trumpeted possession of on the radio. What was their response? That they remember retrieving some data for Rob, but they didn't keep a copy of it? They do note the same procedure was used to respond to PBLN's request.

Pit Bull Identification—Nothing Produced

We asked for every conceivable document connected with identification of pit bulls—protocols, policies, training, DNA testing, books, manuals, scientific evidence that visual identification is probative of dog behavior. The response indicated there were no documents that could be located. Then, in response to Request 12 (requests court orders involving pit bull identification), they state that BAC is not responsible for pit bull identification—it is up to a dog's owner or a qualified veterinarian. One has to ask how this is possible, when Boston law tasks animal control by law with this job. And what happened to the original response from BAC that they relied on the owner? There was no mention of a qualified veterinarian in Mr. Giannangelo's response. So which answer is it?

Dog Bite Statistics—The Missing Database

In response to Request #14 regarding dog bite statistics, BAC takes the incredible position that they only have computer records from 2012 when they started using a computer database that keeps dog bite statistics. Otherwise, prior to 2012, all the data is kept in three five-drawer file cabinets which would take 12 weeks at $35 hours a week to redact at the cost of $23,855. And even if they go into the file cabinets, the data only goes back to 2008. Record retention prior to 2008 is not required.

So how were the documents provided to us created? There is information prior to 2012 and even 2008. Don't they keep yearly summaries? Hasn't Rob Consalvo said he has yearly summaries? Did they not have any computers prior to 2012? No database before 2012? How can you run a major city's animal control under this scenario? None of it makes any sense.

No Data on Dogs Registered or Euthanized

When asked the total number of dogs registered in Boston, they referred to the "file drawer" excuse. Same with the number of pit bull type dogs registered. If you are going to have BSL, how can you not have available these statistics? They gave the same response to the number of dogs euthanized and shelter intake.

No change in Animal Control Policies since Massachusetts enacted ban on BSL

The most amazing thing is that there exists no document from BAC analyzing Massachusetts' new law and how it would change policy from Boston's BSL enforcement before the state law took effect. How does the rank and file animal control officer know what is different? You can't run an organization without direction. 

Conclusion

Boston Animal Control is out of control. Their response to PBLN's FOIA request is remarkable for what they don't have and can't produce. With the hearing on Boston BSL scheduled for June 4, 2013, there is really nothing legally that can be done that would produce results before that time. However, I would be happy to go to the hearing and discuss the lack of any documentation kept by BAC, and the fact that what they did produce, does not support BSL for Boston in terms of increased public safety.


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