I’m constantly gobsmacked by the intensity and commitment of dog rescuers that dedicate their time, money, and hearts to pulling dogs from animal shelters and addressing any behavioral issues they may have to ensure they can find a forever home.
Max, a young pit bull mix, was one of these dogs. A group of dog rescuers in California pulled him from a high kill shelter and paid for trainers to help him overcome his fear and reactivity.
Unfortunately his story doesn’t have a happy ending because of a weak link in the chain of dog rescuers that tried to save him.
That weak link was Storm Rescue in Lacey. They took Max to Joint Animal Services (JAS) in Thurston County to be euthanized just 10 days after he arrived at the rescue even though they had committed to his rescuers in California they would continue his training and find a home for him.
Storm Rescue founders David and Drew Repp also continued to tell Max’s rescuers in California he was alive weeks after they had him euthanized.
RESCUERS PULL MAX FROM HIGH KILL SHELTER
Max’s journey began when his owner left him at the North Central Shelter in Los Angeles. The shelter notes said he was “reactive,” probably because his owner left him in the backyard 24/7 with virtually no human contact.
Because Max needed additional training and socialization, the shelter listed him as “Rescue Only.” This meant he could only go to a rescue group and not a private home.
Soon after arriving at the shelter Max caught the attention of California dog rescuers who pull dogs with correctable behavior problems from shelters, find trainers to work with them, and place them in forever homes. One of them, Christine Evans, met Max at the shelter and saw that he was fearful and reactive, but due to her experience working with dogs she also believed that with the right training he could be rehabilitated and adopted.
MAX GOES TO TRAINING
After Max was pulled from the shelter he was taken to a trainer named Yasin Ali. He arrived on April 13th. Here he is during his first day of training.
Christine Evans and two other rescuers raised approximately $3000 to pay for Max’s training with Ali as well as his boarding with a woman named Nicole Proels who helped Ali with Max’s training. Nicole agreed to continue Max’s socialization/training until a rescue could be found to continue to work with Max and eventually find a permanent home for him.
After a couple of months a woman in California named Cynthia Munoz heard about Storm Rescue from people who had sent dogs to them in the past. Cynthia contacted Storm, which agreed to take him and find him a home.
TRANSPORTER SAYS MAX IS DANGEROUS, ANOTHER SAYS HE ISN’T
Last August, Max was taken to the Oasis boarding facility where a transporter named Terri Myers was supposed to pick him up and take him to Storm Rescue.
Max had done well with his training/socialization, and after his rescue from North Central Shelter he hadn’t bitten anyone, but he was still edgy and fearful around new people. When the facility owner came to get him out of the crate he barked aggressively at him and snapped at his gloves. Eventually the owner removed him from his crate with a catch pole, which I’m sure increased Max’s agitation.
While Terri was on her way to pick up Max she checked in with Oasis’ owner. When he told her about Max’s reactive behavior when he tried to get the dog out of his crate she decided not to take Max to Storm out of concern for her safety.
Upon hearing that the transport wouldn’t take Max, Christine drove to Oasis to see him for herself. Here is what she told me she saw:
“I drove out to Oasis to see Max. He was very shy confused and afraid. I walked into his 10 x 10 kennel and visited with him. He sat and ate off my hands cookies and greenie he felt at ease but didn’t feel comfortable with David at all. He sat and laid down…he felt safer. I called Yasin to share. Max was ok just doesn’t know the place so felt insecure felt like a shelter situation all over again for him. I spent about 1 1/2 hrs with Max in his kennel, Yasin and Nicole picked him up the next morning.”
Here is Christine with Max:
Max was jumping for Joy seeing Nicole again and he sat next to David the owner of Oasis through the kennel with zero reactive behaviour…another video was taken to document. Max drove back to Rialto Ca again.”
Here is a happy Max greeting Nicole:
After Max’s transport fell through, Christine Evans began looking into Storm Rescue. She didn’t like what she found. Someone with connections to law enforcement told her that Storm was being investigated for allegedly euthanizing some of the dogs they rescued.
In addition, in a September 4 text message David Repp told Christine that Storm was “at the point of bankruptcy” after a huge windstorm inflicted severe damage on the rescue’s facilities. This concerned her because she didn’t know if Storm had the resources available to take care of Max.
Based on what she heard about Storm Rescue, Christine tried to stop the transport from taking Max there. Unfortunately, a rift had already developed between her and Max’s other rescuers when she started to raise concerns about Storm, and they decided to send Max to Storm anyway.
Steve Miller and Monica Rolan agreed to transport Max to Storm. They picked him up on September 26th.
Steve and Monica reported they had no trouble with Max during their trip. Steve said Max was friendly to them both in the car and when they walked him on leash.
An email sent to Max’s rescuers in California in February by a volunteer after she learned that Max had been killed confirms what Steve and Monica reported about him. She had taken Max to a veterinarian, and her email attests to the progress he had made:
“I took Max to Loma Linda Animal Hospital for his health cert, a few days before the date of his first transport, which wound up canceled. We had a muzzle on him for safety purposes. He jumped into his kennel when we picked him up from Nicole’s house, his trainer/boarder.
When we arrived, he jumped out of his kennel with a little bit of smooth coaxing, then walked around the vet grounds with me, leashed. I was able to pet him and walk him, although he was scared the first few minutes, and shook and cowered from my touch. After 5 minutes of showing him we were the good guys, he was fine.
The vet techs came out to meet him, and he was scared of them and cowered away and pushed his muzzle into my legs “to hide” from them. He also would not walk inside the vet’s office. Once we reached the doors, he would jump away and shriek. So the vet did the exam outside.
We drove him back to Nicole’s and let him sit in the backseat, where he nestled his head on my passenger’s shoulder. When we arrived back at Nicole’s, Max’s demeanor went from scared to confident, happy, exuberant – he was so excited to see her. He pranced around her, licked her, held his tail high and proud, and it was wonderful to see what a confident boy he could be with love and patience and trust.”
STORM RESCUE SAYS MAX IS ALIVE WEEKS AFTER HE WAS EUTHANIZED
Max arrived at Storm Rescue on September 27, 2015. On October 6, Drew Repp from Storm filled out a form referring Max to Joint Animal Services for Thurston County “for assessment as a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog” due to “unprovoked human aggression” and behaving “in a menacing manner w/intention to attack.”
Max’s rescuers don’t know what happened with Max during the 10 days Max was at Storm Rescue as they received no information about him.
What we do know is Joint Animal Services came to Storm Rescue to take Max on October 7. Drew Repp signed an Authorization of Euthanization form for him which said Max “began acting aggressively to rescue staff.” Max was euthanized in his crate later that day.
For several weeks after Max was euthanized, David and Drew Repp claimed he was still alive. They also indicated he had several behavior problems that contradicted what both Christine Evans and Max’s transporter had reported about him.
Here are the dates that the Repps said Max was still alive after he had been euthanized on October 7:
- October 9 text to Christine Evans – “He hasn’t calmed down yet. He lunges at kennel walls and growls at volunteers constantly and has bitten during feeding.”
- October 12th text to Christine Evans – “Animal Control is investigating possible neglect charges. He isn’t doing any better.
- October 26th text to Christine Evans – “For now Max is in the safest place he can be.”
- October 26th text to Christine Evans – “Max’s status has not changed. He is still aggressive. Drew had surgery today to repair the damage to his hand and wrist. I will be posting publicly about Max in a week. He is with our trainer. And the trainer believes Max is just mentally broken.”
- October 26th text to Christine Evans – “We will keep Max safe.”
- October 27th text to Christine Evans – “Do you know why we haven’t posted publicly about Max? Because we are waiting to see if the trainer can turn him around.”
- October 27th text to Christine Evans – “You have been told numerous times that Max is offsite at the trainers. And that trainer is working with him.”
- November 1 text to Christine Evans – “Max is a very special dog. He needs lots of LOVE and attention.”
- November 1 message in Facebook conversation – “Max is fine.”
STORM RESCUE’S RESPONSES FALL SHORT
When I contacted Storm to get their side of the story they repeated the claims they made in the screenshots of their conversations with Christine Evans – Max was severely emaciated and in awful condition (he was sent against their wishes, he was extremely aggressive, etc.) but in pictures taken the day before and day of his arrival he looks a little underweight, but he certainly doesn’t look emaciated.
They also told me that while their policy is to provide “lifelong care for animals”, they will put down a dog that is “overtly human aggressive” and threatens “the lives and well-being of volunteers” and the public, or if the dog is “terminally ill.” Storm said they have one unadoptable dog that “will be here the for the rest of his life.”
Storm claimed that Max “bit his transporter in CA” but none of the people that transported him after he was pulled from the shelter said he had bitten them. And as I said earlier, the people who transported him from CA to WA reported no problems feeding and walking him on leash.
Storm claimed Max was sent to them against their wishes, but in a June 9 text message they confirmed they were expecting him and did not indicate they were forced to take him.
Storm claimed that Christine Evans never saw Max, but as you see in 2 of the videos posted above, she visited him both while he was at the North Central shelter and at Oasis after the transporter refused to take him to Washington.
In a text to Christine Evans, Storm claimed that Drew Repp had to have surgery after Max attacked him and bit his hand and wrist. They included a graphic picture of his mangled hand/wrist, but according to Google Images it was actually a picture from 2013 of a Japanese man’s hand after he fought off an Akita that attacked his daughter. I asked Storm to provide a medical report verifying that Mr. Repp had been bitten. They declined.
Storm checked boxes on Max’s referral form to Joint Animal Services saying he exhibited “unprovoked human aggression” and because he behaved “in a menacing manner w/intention to attack.” Nowhere on the form did they say Max bit anyone.
Furthermore, on its form authorizing Max’s euthanization, Storm checked a box saying Max had not bitten anyone in the last 10 days. This directly contradicts their statements to Christine Evans that Max had bitten a volunteer and mangled Drew Repp’s hand.
Storm declined to explain to me why they continued to tell people Max was alive after they had him euthanized, nor would they provide any documentation showing that a trainer/behavioralist had seen Max before they put him down.
And last Sunday, over 3 weeks after I initially contacted Storm to get their side of the story, Storm sent me this email message: “You mentioned pictures that you had seen of a a bite that was a result of Max. However, we did not release any photo’s of the bite. I am enclosing those photos for your comparison.”
Included with the email were 3 pictures showing what look like dog bites on someone’s hand and leg.
However, the date stamps on all the pictures were from last summer, 3-4 months before Max even arrived at Storm Rescue.
I asked Storm if they knew about the date stamps and could provide documentation showing that the bite injuries occurred when Max was at the shelter. They declined to answer.
Here are the pictures Storm sent to me on March 27th with and without date stamps:
KEY QUESTIONS REMAIN UNANSWERED
The people who pulled Max from the shelter and spent thousands of dollars to pay for a trainer to work with him expected Storm Rescue to continue his training and ultimately find him a permanent home.
But once Max arrived in Olympia on September 27, they heard nothing from Storm Rescue about him until October 9, 2 days after they had him put down at Joint Animal Services. On November 1 they even said “Max is a very special dog. He needs lots of LOVE and attention.”
Storm only admitted Max had been euthanized after Christine Evans learned about it from Joint Animal Services.
What I don’t understand is how they could determine Max was so dangerous he had to be put down after having him for only 10 days. Dogs need more time than that just to decompress and get used to new surroundings/people, especially a fearful dog like Max.
Pictures, videos, texts and testimonies prove that, at the very least, Max had no problem being around people he trusted. They also contradict many of the explanations Storm Rescue sent to me in response to my questions about Max. In my opinion, he wasn’t given the opportunity to trust anyone once he arrived at Storm Rescue.
It’s also unclear why Storm didn’t simply ask Christine to take Max back, which she would have done. Legitimate rescues would not put down a dog without consulting the rescuers who sent it or sending it back to them.
STORM’S ACTIONS INVITE SCRUTINY
I’d be more inclined to believe Max was so dangerous he had to be euthanized if Storm hadn’t pretended that he was alive weeks after he had been euthanized, made several false allegations against his rescuers, and sent pictures showing Drew Repp’s injuries that were taken before Max was even at Storm.
Instead, the evidence I’ve seen indicates that Storm Rescue spun a web of deception intended to convince whomever asked about Max that he was still alive. When given the opportunity to explain what happened or answer questions about what they did with him, they attacked the people who asked what happened to the dog they spent 5 months and thousands of dollars trying to save.
Of course dog rescues make mistakes, but legitimate ones don’t attempt to conceal them from the public. Trying to cover them up only compounds the mistake and creates a tremendous amount of public distrust.
Storm Rescue’s explanation of what happened to Max leaves several questions unanswered:
Why did Storm claim Max was still alive weeks after they had him euthanized?
Why did Storm say Max had bitten 3 people after he arrived in Washington but didn’t mention he bit anyone when they surrendered him to Joint Animal Services?
Why did they use a gruesome, 2-year-old picture from a Japanese newspaper about a dog attack to show the damage Max supposedly inflicted on Drew Repp’s hand?
Why did they send me pictures they claimed were of Drew Repp’s injured hand that apparently were taken before Max even arrived at Storm Rescue.
If Storm had problems with Max, why didn’t they contact any of the people that worked for 5 months to train and socialize him?
Why didn’t they simply send Max back to California instead of having him euthanized?
I advise shelters or rescues not to send any dogs to Storm Rescue until they answer these questions, give a thorough explanation about what happened to Max and provide evidence to back it up.
RIP Max. You deserved better.
Here are additional texts and videos about Max. The texts from Storm Rescue could be from any of these 4 names – Drew Repp, David Repp, Lisa Repp, and Athyna MA M – but as you will see they are all about Max.
THESE DOCUMENTS PROVE MAX WAS EUTHANIZED ON OCTOBER 7, 2015
MESSAGES ABOUT MAX BETWEEN STORM RESCUE AND HIS RESCUERS