Monthly Archives: November 2012

Beating and killing your own dog isn’t considered cruelty in Ashe County

Even though the names of the private citizens involved in this story are a matter of public record, I’m leaving them out. If you must know them, send a public records request to the Ashe County Manager. I will name the dog, however: she was a pit bull named Bullet.

In North Carolina, it is a Class H felony to “maliciously torture, mutilate, maim, cruelly beat, disfigure, poison, or kill, or cause or procure to be tortured, mutilated, maimed, cruelly beaten, disfigured, poisoned, or killed, any animal.”

So, if someone reports that they heard their neighbor beat his dog, heard the dog crying and yelping as if in great pain and then heard gunshots that ended the crying and yelping, do you think local law enforcement should perhaps at least investigate whether felony animal cruelty occurred?

If you said  yes, I hope you don’t live in Ashe County, NC, because you would be very disappointed. No one seems to have told the folks in charge there that cruelly beating and killing a dog is a felony in the state of North Carolina. They all still seem to think that if a dog is your property, you can do whatever you want with her.

Sometime in September*, an Ashe County resident called the sheriff’s communications center to report that her neighbor had horribly beaten and killed his dog after the dog had killed her Yorkie. According to an email from a sheriff’s captain to County Manager Pat Mitchell, “neighbors and their children could hear dog crying and yelping and heard the beating” before the man shot and killed the dog.

Took it home and beat it really bad. Neighbors and their children could hear dog crying and yelping and heard the beating.

The comm center referred the call to Animal Control, where it was handled by ACO Dana Shatley. According to an email from Animal Control Director Joe Testerman to Dr. Mitchell, the ACO  “explained that Mr. ___ did have a legal right to destroy his own property,” and that had the man not killed his dog, he would have been told to keep the dog on his property and issued a citation.

Well, I guess that settles it, then.

"It seems reasonable to me since the owner killed his own animal"

One may presume the rules are different if the animal one beats and kills belongs to someone else. That would probably be theft.

According to one email, a sheriff’s employee reported the incident to social services because the man’s 3-year-old son was present during the killing, and to “Narcs” because the man is “a meth user” and a convicted felon.

None of the emails mention any concern over why a convicted felon has a firearm. I guess if he’s only using it to dispose of his own property they’re all good with that up in Ashe County.

*I don’t know the exact date of the incident because the only records County Manager Pat Mitchell sent me as a result of my public records request were emails written more than a month after the incident.  Information I obtained elsewhere puts the date around Sept 23. Even though the emails reference calls to the county comm center, which are recorded and logged, I received no records from the sheriff’s department at all. Sheriff James Williams told me he had sent all dispatch records regarding this incident to Dr. Mitchell, and Dr. Mitchell told me she sent me everything she received. I can’t say if these records are being deliberately withheld from me or if this is just bureaucratic incompetence at work, but it appears the only way I would get these records is by filing a legal complaint against Ashe County.

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Filed under Abuse, Ashe County, cruelty

Surry animal advocates hope abused, abandoned dogs are safe in the pound

A Surry County animal control officer  took custody last week of  two severely injured pit bulls*, found tethered with heavy logging chains behind a vacant business in Mt. Airy. The two reportedly are receiving care at the Surry County pound. One of the dogs had a lip hanging off of his muzzle and the other had a broken leg. According to a local rescuer, there was blood splattered over the surrounding area.

The news report doesn’t say what treatment the dogs have received at the Surry County Pound or what their current condition is.

One Surry animal advocate asked me: “I wonder if these two boys will be the first pits to leave that shelter alive?” According to records obtained from Surry County as a result of a public records request, 17 “pit bulls” left the shelter alive between Jan. 1 and Oct 23, 2012: three were “released to owner” and 14 were “returned to owner.” (I have no idea what the difference is.) Of the 14 dogs released to rescue and 111 dogs adopted from the Surry pound during that time period, none were identified as “pit bulls.” (Not that animal control officers or shelter workers are actually are any good at identifying actual pit bulls when they see them, because they typically are not.)

The Surry County pound had a kill rate of almost 91% in 2011. Between Jan 1 and Oct. 23, 2012, the overall kill rate was just under 89%.

*I’m only calling them pit bulls because the news report does. One looks reasonably pit bull-esque, but the other looks more like an American bulldog, Rhodesian ridgeback or boxer mix.

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Ashe County fires animal control officer, still isn’t a great place for animals

An Ashe County animal control officer has been fired after not responding to a call that would have “justified emergency response from animal control,” and then later lying about the incident to county officials. While it may appear that Ashe officials have taken care of the problem by firing one ACO, it could be argued that the incident sheds light on  a generally regressive attitude toward animals and their humane treatment by Ashe County employees.

The incident occurred on Sept. 27, when Animal Control Director Joe Testerman and his two AC officers were trying to capture a dog in response to calls from neighborhood residents. Testerman said the dog behaved aggressively toward the officers, so even though he had a catchpole, he decided to “capture the dog by shooting it,” according to a report he made later to County Manager Pat Mitchell.  The dog was shot but escaped alive, and according to Testerman it “was later found dead on Beaver Drive not far from where it was shot.” Testerman’s only concern about the incident appears to have been that the dog “was shot by a rifle at close range were a side arm would have been a better choice.”

Email from Joe Testerman to Pat Mitchell 10/09/2012

It turns out that the dog was “found” in the basement of a Beaver Drive residence, and “later” was the next morning. The dog had shown up there sometime before 7 pm the night before, alive and bleeding from his gunshot wound. The resident had called the sheriff’s communications center, and a dispatcher called ACO Jim Walters. Following is a transcript from the recorded call:

Dispatcher: Did you go out and shoot a dog this morning?
Walters: Uh, Dana shot it and we lost it.
Dispatcher: Well the lady says it’s back in her yard again. She didn’t know what to do with it.
Walters: Well …
Dispatcher: It’s, it’s not dead.
Walters: Okay, it’s not bothering anything, is it?
Dispatcher: Ah, uh, she didn’t say it was.
Walters: All right. Well, it probably wouldn’t be considered as an emergency. We’ll just try to get up there in the morning and pop it again.
Dispatcher: Okay.
Walters: I don’t want to shoot it with all these people home, you know.
Dispatcher: Yeah, yeah.
Walters: And, but I’ll call … I’m gonna be off tomorrow, but I’ll call Dana and tell him to go up there in the morning first thing and see if it’s there and pop him again and get it.

Setting aside Walters’ lack of concern about the animal’s suffering (he’s been fired, after all), what about the response by the dispatcher? A wounded dog is bleeding and, we can assume, suffering in someone’s basement and the dispatcher’s only response when an AC officer proposed leaving the dog there overnight was “Okay.”

Even if you don’t consider the animal’s suffering, what about the resident who has called the sheriff’s dispatcher about this wounded dog in her basement? Regardless of how deeply she may or may not have been affected by the suffering, she most likely called dispatch because she did not want a wounded and bleeding dog in her basement.

And in fact, shortly after the resident called, a neighbor called dispatch about the dog, stressing the fact to the dispatcher that the dog was bleeding and appeared to have been shot:

Dispatch: I talked to the animal control officer and he said that if it, hang on, he said that if the animal wasn’t causing any problems that they would just come out tomorrow and they would take care of it.
Caller: [unintelligible] is they’ve got it shut up in their basement and they said it looked like it might have been shot cause it’s bleeding.
Dispatcher: It’s what, I’m sorry, what did you say?
Caller: My neighbor called, it was another neighbor come down, because they knew that I knew one of the animal control officers and been in contact with him, and they said they’ve got it shut up in their basement as I said, but they said it’s kind of bleeding, looked like it might have been shot.
Dispatch: Yeah, it has been shot. They shot it, but they couldn’t find it.
Caller: Oh, OK.
Dispatcher: But they said they’d come put tomorrow and take care of it.
Caller: Oh, OK, thank you.

At some point, wouldn’t someone with a humane, compassionate outlook think: it’s not fair to anyone involved–the dog or the people–to leave this situation until tomorrow?

This incident may have never been heard about again, but the residents involved were so unhappy about the way the situation was handled that they complained about it to other people, and at some point the complaint reached Pat Mitchell, who investigated.

Despite the investigation,  there’s still one question left unasked and unanswered: how did the dog die? Joe Testerman said in his report that the only injury they saw was the single gunshot wound, so presumably the dog bled to death in that basement.

UPDATE: There is actually another wrinkle to this story that I had forgotten. There was a reference to this incident in emails I received following a different public records request. A sheriff’s department employee told Pat Mitchell that she heard of the incident from her grandson, who told her about an AC officer “shooting a dog in front of a group of kids and then the dog getting in his friend’s basement and the father having to kill it.” (Which partially answers the question of how the dog  died.) The sheriff’s employee said “Frankly, I disregarded this as I was sure no animal control officer would do that with 5 kids there.”

Email from Ashe County Sheriff's employee to County Manager

The emails, reports and audio files linked to in this post were obtained via a public records request.

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Filed under Ashe County

Seriously you guys, cupcakes are really important!

The Humane Society of the United States and its puppet groups NC Voters for Animal Welfare and Susie’s Law really, really want you to take cupcakes to your local pound for the holidays. Their “NC Shelter Project” is promoting a “12 Acts of Kindness” program for the month of December. The first item on the list sent out by HSUS NC director Kim Alboum is “Bring a gift of snacks to shelter staff cookies, cupcakes, chocolate, pizza, coffee, etc.” Because killing animals is so much more pleasant when there’s an array of goodies laid out on top of the gas chamber!

Other suggestions include:

  • Run an errand for a shelter staff member.
  • Write a positive letter to the editor about the shelter.
  • Highlight a shelter staff member on your Facebook page and ask your friends to share it.
  • Purchase a holiday card for the shelter and have all the members of your rescue sign it with a personal message to staff.

Be sure to take a photo of your cupcakes and post it to the NC Shelter project Facebook page!

 

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Filed under cupcakes, HSUS, North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare

Truth and lies, or a tale of two shelters …

A lot of people (well, maybe not the ones who regularly read blogs like this) think of animal shelters as safe places for strays and pets people can no longer keep. After all, it’s called a SHELTER, right? Folks believe that if they need to rehome a pet, the staff at the shelter will do everything they can because nobody WANTS to kill animals, right?

Unfortunately, the reality at most kill pounds is that owner surrenders are the first to go. In NC, there is no law requiring that the shelter hold, evaluate or attempt to find homes for these pets, and the easiest and cheapest way to deal with them is to kill them immediately. (Well, OK, there sort of is a law, but it’s got big holes in it and no actual enforcement, so it may as well not exist.) So in pounds where the director is dedicated to doing what’s easiest and cheapest, that’s what happens.

A few pounds acknowledge the truth to surrendering owners, telling them their pet will most likely be killed. Some lie and let people surrendering pets believe pound staff will find the animal a new home, when staffers know perfectly well the animal will be marched straight to the kill table. Which is preferable?

Consider what happened to Danielle at the Wake County pound (2011 kill rate: 49.82%). Danielle’s family had to move into a small apartment and she believed her 2-year-old dog, Tucker, would be happier in a home with a yard. So she took him to the Wake pound thinking they would be able to find a better home for him. “I thought, as did everyone else I asked prior to making this choice, that the shelter was a selfless option for rehoming our beloved dog. Based on the website, they made the adoption section to look like a positive way to do things.  I thought that was the step in finding a better home for your loved animal,” Danielle said.

“The Shelter greeted us with smiles, and appeared on the outside to be a great choice,” Danielle said. “They then killed my dog in less than an hour of him being there.”

Danielle called twice in the hour after she dropped Tucker off to see if staff had deemed him eligible for adoption.

 I called immediately after I got home from dropping him off to see how he was doing and if he was okay because I was worried.  They told me he was “great and his picture would be posted on line within a half hour, if not feel free to call back.” I waited 30 minutes, no picture, so I called again trying to get through. When I got through to a staff member at the office, I asked how he was again. She said he was still processing, then told me to hold on. She got back on the phone and said, “he actually is about to be euthanized, not adopted.” I was in complete shock and said “Can I please reclaim him?!” She said yes, and I told her I was on my way.  By the time I ran my son out to the car and my husband was walking to the car with my baby, she called me and said “don’t bother coming, he’s gone.” I cried and pleaded with her that I just brought him there and it was impossible. The staff doted on how sweet he was and acted like they were a warm, loving, rehoming facility. An image that was completely false behind closed doors, I now know.

Danielle went back to the Wake pound to pick up Tucker’s body and asked staff why they couldn’t let him live. “The director stated they didn’t have to call me per their policy. I asked her why a simple phone call couldn’t be made or a note in the computer that I was calling, and I expressed I didn’t want him euthanized from the beginning when I brought him in.  The director said it happened too fast to stop it.  My point exactly, they killed him in less than an hour.  I cried to the director this morning and pleaded with her to make a change where they inform the owner before euthanizing.  I pray that it happens.”*

It happened too fast to stop it.  As if the killing at her pound were completely out of the director’s control. As if she were just the powerless servant of the big killing monster in the back, who gobbles up all the fresh owner-surrendered pets before anyone can stop him.

Cut to Alamance county: Pam Lee (yes, that Pam Lee), was looking for her lost cat Sassy** at Burlington Animal Services (2011 kill rate: 70.9%) when she saw an elderly man sitting in the lobby filling out paperwork:

I smiled at him and asked him how he was doing, to which he replied, “Not very well, I’m afraid.” I asked him what was wrong and he told me that due to their health and age, he and his wife were having to surrender their two beloved cats to the shelter. They had run an ad in the paper, but got no response, so they didn’t know anything else to do. He was under the impression that the shelter would put them up for adoption and help find them homes. I told him this would not happen and to not surrender the cats; I would take them with me.

At that point, the lady working in the front came into the waiting room and let him know that they were full to capacity and his pets would probably be euthanized as soon as he surrendered them. He was horrified and I saw tears come to his eyes. She then told us that if we wanted to make a “deal” for the cats to go to the parking lot and discuss it and they would just tear up the paperwork he was filling out. He handed her the incomplete papers and went to the parking lot with me. He had one of the cats with him: a beautiful fat 7-1/2-year-old lilac point Siamese named Lily.

Pam took Lily home and picked up the couple’s other cat, a 4-year-old male named Charlie, a couple of days later.

“The shelter was accommodating on this transaction, although they made it pretty clear that they would make no effort to find these cats homes,” Pam said.

Burlington Animal Services is a high-kill pound, but at least they don’t lie to to surrendering owners:

Sign at Burlington Animal Services

This sign in Burlington Animal Services lobby tells the truth about what will happen to most owner-surrendered pets.

(They do, however, lie to potential adopters who want to save pets scheduled for death.)

Of course, this whole discussion would be moot if the Wake County and Burlington pounds were to join the growing ranks of shelters across the country who have stopped killing healthy and treatable pets. Instead of being greeted by cheerful lies or devastating truths, Danielle would have spoken to a staff member about programs designed to help her keep Tucker if possible, or she would have been asked if Tucker could stay with her family while the shelter helped find him a new home. Or if no other solution could be found, they could have told Danielle a truth everyone could be happy with: “We don’t kill healthy pets like Tucker.”

*Danielle said the Wake pound director left her a voice mail saying that they are going to adjust their policies regarding owner surrenders.

**Pam went to BAS three times a week looking for her lost Sassy, who finally turned up back at home on Nov. 18, after being gone for three weeks.

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Filed under Alamance County, Burlington Animal Services, Wake County

Stepping up to help pets at Montgomery County pound

After WRAL aired a piece last week on the astoundingly high kill rate at the Montgomery County pound, the reaction of many people was “how can I help?” I got several emails from people, including Jared Milrad, who wants to help the Montgomery County Humane Society (which does NOT run the county pound) build an adoption center adjacent to the pound. I sent him some contact info for the MCHS, and now he’s launched a Causes.com page to help raise money.*

According to his page, the MCHS needs another $7,000 to build a modern adoption center on county land. Such a center would be a great step toward reducing the killing at the  Montgomery County pound, which seems to be a rather depressing  place for prospective adopters to visit and doesn’t even have regular adoption hours. A clean, welcoming environment where families can meet the pets (and which one hopes will be open some evenings and weekends when working people can get there) may inspire many local folks to adopt, donate, volunteer and otherwise become active in caring for their community’s homeless pets.

*Contact information for the MCHS in on their Petfinder page, if you have questions or would like to do due diligence.

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Super Freaking Awesome Job Opening: Dare County Animal Control/Outer Banks SPCA

The Dare County Animal Control/Outer Banks SPCA have an opening for a “Director of Animal Care and Control.” There’s already one notable difference between that job posting and the one advertised by Sampson County last Sunday: see the word “care” in the job title?

See what other differences you can spot between the Dare job posting below and the one by Sampson County:

Director of Animal Care and Control
Dare County Animal Control/Outer Banks SPCA

The Dare County Animal Control/Outer Banks SPCA located in Manteo, NC is looking for a results focused and dynamic individual who possesses strong management skills, high energy and accountability to oversee the daily operation of its shelter. The position is responsible for the direction of staff and volunteers, including fundraising, community relations, adoptions and animal control. The ideal candidate will have a proven record of strong leadership, demonstrate excellent communication skills and represent the organization in a professional manner. The successful candidate will have strong HR, PR and teambuilding skills and will work with community members, donors and other animal welfare organizations to effectively communicate the organization’s Mission and Vision. Dedication to building a no kill organization and compassionate animal care a must. Full job posting and job description can be viewed at http://www.obxspca.org. Qualified individuals should submit a cover letter and resume via email to applicantobspca@gmail.com or by mail to Outer Banks SPCA, PO Box 2477 Manteo, NC 27954.

Contact Information: Outer Banks SPCA Dare County Animal Control 1031 Driftwood Drive Manteo, North Carolina 27954 (252) 475-5620 spca@darenc.com http://www.obxspca.org/

See one, near the end of the first paragraph? “Dedication to building a no kill organization and compassionate animal care a must.” 

But there is also something missing from this ad that’s very prominent in the Sampson ad (which is believed by some to have been written to closely match the skills and experience of incumbent interim director Lori Baxter): the Dare county ad is missing the requirement that the applicant know how to kill animals.

This just made my day.

(Thanks to Lindsay for alerting me to this job posting.)

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Filed under Dare County, NC county/municipal pounds, No Kill

Job Opening: Sampson County Animal Control Director

The following ad appeared in the Sampson Independent on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012:

Sampson County, NC, Animal Shelter Director

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT
ANIMAL SHELTER DIRECTOR
Applications are now being accepted for the position of Animal Shelter Director. Responsible for the management of the county’s animal shelter operations, including, but not limited to ensuring shelter meets state regulatory standards with regard to humane housing and euthanasia; supervising animal control department staff; preparing and maintaining departmental budget and accurate records and reports; developing and overseeing volunteer, adoption and other public education programs. Applicants must have knowledge of the principles and practices of managing an animal facility with preference given to candidates with knowledge of veterinary best practices and those holding valid, current euthanasia certificate. Must be able to deal tactfully with the general public, cooperate effectively with other agencies, including law enforcement, and effectively manage staff and volunteers. Applicant should have high school diploma supplemented by 1 to 2 years experience involving contact with animals, or any equivalent combination of education and experience providing knowledge of laws and ordinances related to humane animal control, collection and care. Managerial and budgetary administration experience is desired. Possession of a valid NC driver’s license is required. Salary range $32,244- $48,348. Sampson County offers a complete benefit package, which includes County paid health and dental insurance, annual and sick leave, retirement and 401K County contributions. County application forms available at Employment Security Commission or online at http://www.sampsonnc.com. Submit completed application and/or resume to: Sampson County Manager’s Office, Att: Susan J. Holder, 406 County Complex Road, Clinton, NC 28328 by November 26, 2012.
SAMPSON COUNTY IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY/AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER.

The position is not, however, listed on the county’s website:
Sampson County NC seeks Animal Control Director 11/11/2012

Local observers have told me they believe the job description was written to fit Lori Baxter’s experience and that the decision to leave it off of the county’s website was to limit the number of applicants.

So with that in mind, please share this job opening far and wide among all the No Kill advocates you know.

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Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, Sampson County

WRAL’s Cullen Browder investigates highest-kill shelter in NC

Thursday night at 6 pm, WRAL will air an investigative report on the killingest kill shelter in North Carolina. It will be followed at  by an “online event” from 6:30 to 7  pm, during which you can to hear what reporter Cullen Browder has to say about the story and submit questions or comments.

For people not in the WRAL broadcast area, the newscast can be watched live or after the fact from the WRAL home page.

UPDATE: You can read the article and watch the report here.

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Filed under Montgomery County, NC county/municipal pounds

Johnston County residents beg to be allowed to volunteer at pound

A group of Johnston County residents are begging the county commission to make pound director Ernie Wilkinson let them volunteer. But “county officials” claim that there are “bureaucratic hurdles” in the way.

For example, the pound manager said, his previous volunteer program was badly managed. And then there are all the feral animals that might attack volunteers. And he would have to train all those volunteers in the very difficult art of walking dogs.

Amanda Walrad, community relations manager at the Wake County pound, which has about 800 volunteers, has offered a consultation, but Wilkinson hasn’t accepted the offer.

Wilkinson was the recipient of a Humane Society of the United States/NC Voters for Animal Welfare “Shelters We Love” award in 2011, because he “has worked to create  robust volunteer and community outreach programs.  Ernie is always willing to reach out to other agencies to share knowledge and build coalitions to benefit the animals in NC.”

In 2011, 75 percent of the dogs and cats who entered Ernie Wilkinson’s pound were killed in its gas chamber (which doesn’t appear to have been inspected since 2009.)

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Filed under Johnston County, NC county/municipal pounds