This photo of Chip was taken as a “live” photo with an iPhone on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023 at 5:39 p.m. according to the embedded information on the live photo (meaning it can also be viewed as a video). The photo was taken with this information on the request of the Sun to prove the date and time and location of Chip with a staff member of the SPCA Serving Allegany County.
By the Wellsville Sun Investigative Team
The adoption of a dog the SPCA Serving Allegany County saved from being put to sleep from an out-of-state agency has turned into a story animal lovers across the country have been watching to see the end result.
The name of the dog is Chip, a large Anatolian Shepherd.
For the public, the question has been, why can’t a dog be adopted by individuals who want to adopt him and why can’t he just be set free into the wild?
For the SPCA Serving Allegany County, the agency that saved the dog from euthanasia at another shelter, they are calling this one of the worst situations they have dealt with from the public, up to and including people giving fake names, showing fake badges and making criminal threats.
The Wellsville Sun Investigative Team (SIT) has talked to parties on both sides. After a week of reviewing audio, video and written material, the Sun has agreed to run this story naming the board members and employees we spoke to as “SPCA officials” for this story. Some of the material we reviewed included direct messages on email and social media threatening the board members and employees.
A volunteer at the shelter told the Sun they are not going to volunteer until this issue has been resolved and the social media storm is weathered.
At the end of our report is a response from the SPCA Serving Allegany County to the situation and threats they have received.
The AKC website says an Anatolian Shepherd Dog can weigh as much as 150 pounds and around 27 to 29 inches. They are “profusely muscled and nimble” and “more than a match for predators and harsh terrain.” Those we talked to who have cared for Chip say he is more strong and athletic than any other shepherd dog they have ever cared for.
Which led to Chip’s initial escape from the SPCA Serving Allegany County in Amity.
“We saved him from a kill shelter days before his impending death. He was scheduled to be (put down) when we agreed to take him,” an SPCA official said. “At that point he was an extremely socially challenged animal and very introverted. We are on a list of facilities that do not kill animals, so we get calls from other shelters who try to save a dog or animal before they are euthanized. At the SPCA, we do not kill animals, our staff will meet and take which animals we can.”
Chip came in and was so strong, he jumped up and through a fence and escaped. “We never expected that and have made changes so that can’t happen again,” SPCA officials said.
After getting out, SPCA employees told the Sun that Chip was returning for food he knew was outside and leaving, going back to a location in Belmont where food was available. When the family went on vacation and there was no food, Chip was gone as of August of 2021. For 18 months to 2 years, a family was trying as well to capture the dog unbeknownst to the SPCA. The dog was on video on trail cams and food was left out. But they say someone else captured Chip and took him to a veterinarian in Cuba. The SPCA said the vet saved Chip’s life and then recommended he go to another vet hospital for 24 hour care because Chip was in need of intensive care — much like someone goes from a local hospital to the Erie County Medical Center or Strong Memorial to a specialized patient unit.
The SPCA transported Chip to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals. Chip had life-threatening maggot infestation and raging infection but the good news was, Chip was still within five to 10 pounds of his normal weight. Chip lost all of his fur on the top of his head and neck. The hospital in Cornell kept Chip until he was able to be released to daily care from the medical staff with the SPCA.
“Medically, the dog was out of the woods, but the dog was back to being under socialized and traumatized from his capture and running wild for two years, without human interaction,” SPCA officials said “As a result, Chip could not be adopted, until they were done working with him on being socialized and trusting of humans again and gains confidence … and this just takes time and patience and he is progressing.”
However, people who wanted Chip started to apply to adopt him.
“People filed for adoption. You have to submit an application, it’s reviewed and you are interviewed,” SPCA officials said. “In this case, Chip could not be adopted because he was not ready medically and mentally and he needed more time for rehabilitative work with the staff and to decompress from his ordeal. We also test out each animal before adoption, this helps in making a good match for our adopters.”
An SPCA official close to Chip said, “He had a raging infection and could not go anywhere until it was cleared up. We did not contact anyone for adoption because he was not medically available.”
Another SPCA board member said, “The policies for adoption are on the SPCA website, but in this case, a lot of people did not check that. We need to make this something more visible for the future.”
Photos of Chip then surfaced. SPCA officials said, “One photo was of the dog in a transport crate. That is not how the dog lives. Another photo we saw posted was not even Chip. It was a stock photo from Google. Chip is not in a cage, there are not cages in our new facility.”
As for Chip today, SPCA officials said, “Medically, the infection is gone and it is no longer a threat. And in-house medical staff is also checking on Chip.””
Some want to see Chip released in the wild. The SPCA said they can not do that. But they want to find Chip the perfect home where he can do what he loves: protect herds of animals during the night hours.
“Not only will Chip be leaving the SPCA Serving Allegany County, it will be a matter of where he will able to go,” SPCA officials said. “He is not a five- to 10-acre dog, he is a 150 acre dog. He doesn’t do much during the day, but lounge, at night, he is active and running around, he is a livestock guardian dog, he likes to watch over the herds.
“He has the ability to protect livestock and live a happy life,” the SPCA official continued. “He won’t be a dog who comes in the house and lays on your lap. For the most part, he does not seek out humans, he is docile, shy and subdued and he really does not care for strangers. He does have some good moments with people he trusts and feels comfortable and secure with. But what we have observed, he wants to rest and sleep all day and he becomes active and alive during the night.
Because of what has happened, the SPCA is keeping the adoption quiet.
“He is going to live somewhere quiet without fear of being stolen and live a good life,” SPCA officials said.
Here is a statement on what the SPCA has gone through and why the case was handled:
SPCA Serving Allegany County statement
“Normally, the SPCA Serving Allegany County does not comment on social media about the ruminations of the general public for a few reasons. Typically, most folks realize that anyone can say anything they want on social media but, that does not make it true and therefore, we do not need to comment. This situation, sadly, is unique. Also, sometimes making a comment adds fuel to the illogical fire.
The SPCA Serving Allegany County has weathered this storm many times as people get increasingly emotional they can tend to be less and less logical. Often, after a bit of time, people move on to other matters they want to address, from the safety of their keyboards and we continue to do what is best for the animals, as we always do. However, lately there has been a targeted, slanderous, and extremely dramatic rash of lies surrounding one of our dogs, Chip, which has forced us to take this unprecedented step. We say forced as these are the some of the things our agency, staff and volunteers have been forced to endure:
1) Physical threats of violence – we appreciate you leaving your name and telephone number with us to make the next steps much easier.
2) Slanderous comments about staff and volunteers – our folks are simply awesome and if you knew them you would agree.
3) Numerous lies about staff, policies, Chip and even our state-of-the-art facility – you know, the facility people from near and far have visited to see how it should be done.
4) An overt and targeted campaign by a tiny fraction of the public to get what they want, i.e., Chip, no matter what the cost and whether that is good for the animal or not – if you really cared for him, would you lie about and attack the people caring for him? Would you hide his location for so long? If he had not been captured by someone else, would you ever have told anyone where he was? Do you think it was right to trespass on strangers’ property for your sole benefit?
5) Multiple adoption applications for a dog that is not up for adoption. Some of the more spirited of the mob have applied many times for the same dog – if you apply for an animal that is not up for adoption that many times before the SPCA even has a chance to respond to you, do you really think you will be the successful applicant?
6) People using fake names and badges to attempt to acquire Chip – helpful hint, when lying about who you are it is best not to break character and use your real names to each other.
7) A campaign of harassment of our 100% volunteer Board of Directors and pressure on donors to the SPCA to turn their backs on the SPCA – not a single one of us did and we thank our donors for their continued support – nothing you can say or do will ever make our donors or Board of Directors turn tail and run.
8) A crowd sourcing campaign to raise funds for a dog that was not cared for, kept, or maintained by another non-profit (not the SPCA) and not involved in Chips care – we do not know how that agency will explain what was done with the money.
That said, we can tell you the following. In 2021 Chip did escape our custody after we saved him from a kill shelter days before his impending death. At that point he was an extremely socially challenged animal. For a brief time afterward, he stayed near our shelter, and we made every effort to capture him. Sadly, we were unable to capture him, and he was lost to us.
However, he was not lost to a small group of fanatics that have caused all of this trouble. For about 18 months or so after we thought he was gone a small group of individuals had regular contact with him. They never notified the SPCA in any manner during this time, for reasons we cannot comprehend but we leave it to your imagination.
Finally, he was found and taken to the Cuba Vet. He was in bad shape. He was infested with maggots and had other health conditions. He was treated at Cuba Vet (thanks again Dr. Mount!) and sent to Cornell (thank you Cornell Veterinary Hospital!) for additional treatment.
Once he was no longer required to stay at Cornell, Cornell wanted him to get back to the shelter to continue his recovery and we happily agreed. The staff and volunteers were so happy he returned safely. At this stage we notified the public that he was not out of the woods yet and asked for patience, we did not get it.
Instead, we were attacked almost immediately online by people who felt they were entitled to on-the-hour updates on his condition and even ownership of him. Unfortunately for those folks, we do not do that with any animal, let alone Chip and Chip is the SPCA Serving Allegany County’s property, not theirs. An analogy is that if you lose your wallet and someone else finds it, they do not get to keep it – same with Chip. Putting aside the legalities of the situation, we also have many animals to care for and an entire region to service. We are a true 501(c)3 organization that receives zero taxpayer dollars. We are a private agency and not subject to whims or demands from anyone, within reason.
As an update, we can tell everyone Chip is alive and well. After he left Cornell he did have significant medical issues that we have and are taking care of. Most recently, this once largely wild dog put his head on a staff member’s leg. It sounds like an insignificant thing but, it is a huge step for him. He continues to work with staff, and we are optimistic for him.
We can also tell everyone this will be the last update on him. We will not comment on him or this situation ever again. Our plan at the beginning was to do a series of posts on him while he recuperated, trained and we found his forever home. This keyboard mob has ruined that.
To those of you who lied about his condition, his whereabouts, lied about the SPCA, its staff and volunteers – shame on you. You have caused more harm than you can ever imagine and do not care about Chip, you simply care about owning him no matter who you hurt in the process.
Your selfishness has caused a great deal of pain for the hard-working folks who give all they can day in and day out to care for animals in a county who has nothing else. There is no municipal agency doing what we do in Allegany County, none. For those rational people who get swept into this mess, we hope in the future you understand that no matter what anyone says or does on social media we will not stray from our mission to protect and care for animals under our safety net. For over a century the SPCA has been there when we are needed, that will not stop.
We also hope you will realize that people can, and do, say anything on social media. This is more prevalent when animals are involved and every agency like ours has been through this over and over again.
They say when you are under attack you find out who your friends are. We certainly have! Thank you to – the HSUS, other shelters, local veterinarians, local attorneys who have contacted us offering help, local law enforcement, local politicians, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America, local and statewide media – for offering support to our donors, volunteers, and staff. We cannot thank you enough for your continued support.
In the future, we will try to do a better job reminding the public about our policies, which are on our website. Although we are under no obligation to do so, we will try to let the general public know things like, for example, if you are not a successful applicant for an animal we do not call you. It is simply a resource and time management issue, not because we want to keep you in the dark.
We do ask one thing, however, in the future, please do not rush to judgment. If we ask for patience, please be respectful of that. We ask you to understand that what we do is difficult, and we would appreciate it if it was not made any more so by a misguided and misinformed mob.”
— The Board of Directors of the SPCA Serving Allegany County