Category Archives: Alamance County

Burlington Animal Services Oops-Kills Dog who had Adopter Waiting

A pit bull mix who had been held at Burlington Animal Services for six days, while a family who wanted to adopt him called repeatedly to ask about him, was oops-killed by a pound employee on Jan. 15. Brand-new pound director Jessica Arias, who started the job last month with “big ideas and hopes to improve the lives of animals here,” said that the oops-kill was caused by an employee who didn’t follow policies and that the policies would be reviewed.

The pit-bull, Si, didn’t even need to be in the Burlington pound to begin with. On Jan. 6 he had shown upon the porch of the Lassiters, the family who desperately wanted to adopt him, soaking wet and covered in what looked like paintball paint. The Lassiters took him in,  and Si fit right in with their dogs and kids. The Lassiters posted lost dog notices but no owner came forward.

Three days later, Si wandered from their yard, but Michelle Lassiter quickly discovered him inside an animal control truck parked by her neighbors’ house. She asked the officer if she could have Si back and he refused, taking poor Si to the pound.

Alamance Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hoover said it’s their policy to take found and stray dogs to the shelter to allow original owners to find them. But state law says that it’s perfectly OK for pounds to allow pets to serve their stray holds in the home of the person who found them:

 G.S. 19A-23 Section 2 (d) (d)   During the minimum holding period, an animal shelter may place an animal it is holding into foster care by transferring possession of the animal to an approved foster care provider, an approved rescue organization, or the person who found the animal. If an animal shelter transfers possession of an animal under this subsection, at least one photograph depicting the head and face of the animal shall be displayed at the shelter in a conspicuous location that is available to the general public during hours of operation, and that photograph shall remain posted until the animal is disposed of as provided in subsection (f) of this section.

So Si could have stayed in his comfortable, loving home, the pound could have posted his photo in case his previous owners came looking, and Si could now be still alive.

Instead, Si was taken to one place where animals are least safe in Alamance County: Burlington Animal Services, which killed 72.53% of the dogs and cats who came in during 2012 (up from 70.9% in 2011). So basically, it’s a killing facility.

When Michelle Lassiter finally tracked Si down at the Burlington killing facility, staff were rude and seemed lacking in compassion, she said. And even though she had been denied the right to keep Si because he wasn’t officially her dog, they now told her that the family could only have him if she pay the standard $25 impound fee plus $5 for each additional day he was imprisoned. When the Lassiters were ready to pay that, staff then said Si couldn’t be released without documentation of his rabies shot or payment of a $50 fine.

The Lassiters were given another three days. Their family vet agreed to vaccinate Si at a reduced rate. In the meantime, Lassiter was busy acquiring kennels and dog beds for Si.

She called Wednesday to make sure there wasn’t anything else she needed to do before they picked him up and was told Si had been put down earlier that day.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the staff of Burlington Animal “Services” were bound and determined to prevent Si from leaving alive. Oh, but nobody wants to kill animals …

BAS is the same pound where, more than a year ago, staff killed a cat who had an adopter literally begging to save him.

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Burlington Animal Services (Alamance County) to end gas chamber use

According to a Humane Society of the United States press release, Burlington Animal Services, which serves the city of Burlington and Alamance County, accepted a grant with a provision that they end all use of the facility’s gas chamber.

The amount of the grant wasn’t mentioned, but previous HSUS grants of this type have been between $7,000 and $10,000. Also not mentioned is any provision for removal of the gas chamber so that it can not be put into service again, but previous grants have stipulated removal within 6 months.

Burlington Animal Services killed 72.53 percent of the dogs and cats that came in during 2012. This is slightly up from the kill rate of 70.90 percent  in 2011.

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Demolish the gas chambers!

Iredell County gas chamber

Iredell County, NC, gas chamber. Photo by Flickr member NCCHE.

A “relatively painless” death can only occur in an environment where sensitivity, compassion and skill combine with efforts to minimize distress and anxiety. By contrast, gas systems take time to kill— during which animals experience distress and anxiety, and can struggle to survive. They can result in animals surviving the gassing, only to suffer even more. And they take longer to kill if animals are young, old, or have respiratory infections, which is common in some shelters. They are designed for the ease of shelter workers, not care and compassion for the animals.–A Call To Ban The Gas Chamber

The good news: Several NC counties, including Person, Johnston and Sampson, have recently announced plans to discontinue or restrict the use  of gas chambers and/or remove them completely. Other NC counties that recently joined the march toward civilized treatment of shelter pets include Brunswick County, where the CO chamber was last used in November 2011, according to inspection reports, and Craven-Pamlico, which ended the use of its chamber on Feb.1, 2012.

But bad news remains: There are still far too many North Carolina counties killing shelter pets in the barbaric contraptions. Fourteen counties still use gas chambers as their primary means of killing shelter pets. Several others have switched primarily to lethal injection but retain the CO chambers for use with wildlife and “dangerous” animals. (Often, feral cats are considered to be in the “dangerous” category, which means the gas chamber still gets used quite a lot in those places.)

The gas chamber has been banned in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

As long as the inhumane contraptions, throwbacks to our less-civilized past, remain in use in North Carolina, we will never be able to move forward to a humane future in which shelters will be places where animals’ lives are protected. The gas chambers in NC must be demolished. Even in counties where gas chamber use has ended, having a working chamber onsite means that it can be put back into full-time use again at any time, as it was in Sampson County.

Below is a county-by-county listing of the the places that still use gas chambers and links to contact information for county officials who can change that. I have written a sample letter that can be used as a template for your own letters to these officials. More points to use in a letter can be found in the American Humane Association gas chamber fact sheet.

Ashe County: If there were a “Worst Place in NC for Animals” award, Ashe County would be a nominee. Not only does their pound gas an incredibly high number of animals each year, but their pound director doesn’t care for adoptions, shooting is a standard animal control technique and animal cruelty is considered just one of those thingsAsk Ashe County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county! Contact information for Ashe County Officials is here. The Ashe County CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in May 2012.

Alamance County/City of Burlington: Lethal injection is the primary means of killing pets at Burlington Animal Services, but the gas chamber is still used for wildlife and “dangerous” animals. Ask Alamance County/City of Burlington officials to completely end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber! Find contact information here. It appears that the BAS gas chamber has not been inspected by the NCDA&CS Animal Welfare Service since 2009.

Beaufort County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Beaufort County. Ask Beaufort County officials to end the use of  and demolish the barbaric gas chamber.  Find contact information here. The Beaufort County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in March 2012.

Cabarrus County: UPDATE: In July 2013, Cabarrus County accepted a $10,000 grant from HSUS to end its use of the gas chamber. The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Cabarrus County. Ask Cabarrus County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Cabarrus County does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Cleveland County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Cleveland County. Ask Cleveland County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Cleveland County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in January 2012.

Davidson County: Davidson County’s gas chamber is one of the most infamous in North Carolina. In 2011, a shelter volunteer told the Davidson County commissioners that he saw “Davidson County Animal Shelter employees laugh as they put a mother cat, her kitten and a raccoon into the same compartment of the shelter’s gas chamber in 2009 and let them fight before they were euthanized.” Then over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011, two Thomasville police officers who were not trained or certified took a dog they had shot and wounded to the closed Davidson pound and killed it in the gas chamber. Despite massive opposition to the gas chamber by Davidson County residents, most county commissioners voted to continue using the barbaric contraption in August 2011. Ask Davidson County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Davidson County pound CO chamber does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Gaston County: According to a June 2012 AWS inspection report,  the gas chamber is only used for about 1 percent of the animals killed in the Gaston County pound. Nonetheless, as long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put into more frequent use at any time. Ask Gaston County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Gaston County pound CO chamber  was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since in June 2012.

Granville County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing pets in the Granville County pound. Ask Granville County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Granville County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in  2011.

Iredell County: Iredell County is famous for being the site of one of several gas chamber explosions in North Carolina. In 2008, Iredell’s almost-brand-new gas chamber exploded with 10 dogs inside as a result of an electrical malfunction. Nonetheless, the county repaired the unit and had it back in service a year later. Ask Iredell County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Iredell County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in  May 2012.

Johnston County: UPDATE: Reportedly, the Johnston gas chamber is now NOT in use, all gas canisters have been disposed of and the chamber is to be dismantled and removed in the near future. In response to years of pressure by animal advocates, Johnston County pound manager Ed Wilkinson announced in December 2012 that he planned to decrease the use of the gas chamber to only “vicious” animals. Wilkinson gave no definition of what constitutes a “vicious” animal, so it’s possible that category could include feral cats, which are killed by the tens of thousands every year in NC pounds. Gas chamber use needs to end completely in Johnston County. As long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put into more frequent use at any time. Please tell Johnston County officials and pound director Ernie Wilkinson that ending the use of the gas chamber represents progress, and ask them to begin implementing the programs proven to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets in their facility. Find contact information here. The Johnston County pound CO chamber does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Martin County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Martin County. Ask Martin County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Martin County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in 2011.

Nash County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Nash County. Ask Nash County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Nash  County does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Randolph County:  The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Randolph County. Ask Randolph County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Randolph County does not appear to have ever been inspected by  NCDA&CS AWS.

Rowan County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Rowan County. Ask Rowan County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Rowan County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in January 2012.

Union County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Union County. Ask Union County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Union County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in September 2012.

Vance County: Vance County is reportedly eliminating or reducing use of its gas chamber. According to a Facebook post by the Vance County SPCA, the county has already ended the gas chamber use. But as long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put back into frequent use at any time. Ask Vance County officials to demolish the gas chamber and remove it completely. Find contact information here. The Vance County pound CO chamber was last  inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in July 2011.

Wilkes County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Wilkes County. Ask Wilkes County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Wilkes  County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in May 2012.

Wilson County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Wilson County. Ask Wilson County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Wilson County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in 2011.

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Filed under Alamance County, Ashe County, Beaufort County, Cabarrus County, Cleveland County, Davidson County, gas chamber, Gaston County, Granville County, Iredell County, Johnston County, Martin County, Nash County, Randolph County, Rowan County, Union County, Vance County, Wilkes County, Wilson County

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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“Nobody wants to kill animals” — Alamance County edition*

Pam Lee went to the Burlington Animal Shelter on Oct 31 looking for her missing cat, Sassy. She saw a large black cat who looked a bit like Sassy, so she asked the attendant if she could look at the cat’s hind legs, because Sassy was attacked by a hawk when she was young and had long furless scars on her legs.

The attendant showed her the cats legs, and it wasn’t Sassy. “The attendant said he believed that this cat was male, rubbed his head, and showed me the cat’s ‘fangs’ which he said were very rare.  The cat was very docile when the attendant was touching him, so I knew he wasn’t completely feral,” Pam said.

Pam went back to the Burlington pound again on Friday, Nov. 2. “I first went back to again check for my Sassy, but I had already decided that I wanted the black cat that looked so very much like her.  I had thought about him for 2 days and keep seeing his eyes.” She had already picked out a name for him: Spirit.

She told the attendant who escorted her that  she wanted the cat and pointed the cat out to him. “He told me that the animals had to go through evaluation and the adoption process before I could receive one.  He said he didn’t think there was anything I could do to get him before going through the adoption process, but that I could speak with the lady at the desk.”

Pam went back to the waiting room:

“I spoke with the clerk there. I told her that I wanted the cat. She repeated the mantra about the evaluation they would have to go through. I told her that money was no object; I would pay for any evaluation, spay/neutering, and necessary shots. Then she said that it wasn’t that easy, that first there had to be space for the animal in the adoption center. I told her that space was not necessary because as soon as the procedures were complete, I would be taking the cat home with me. She told me that people can’t just pick out one of the strays because it may not pass the health screening. She said that a common occurrence when there are many cats in a cage is the presence of an upper respiratory infection. (I know that is no reason to kill a cat; my cat had a URI at one point and responded wonderfully to antibiotics.) I told her again that I was willing to take that chance and would pay for it. She then explained how people get angry about not being able to get one of the cats back there, but that they just don’t understand how many animals go through the shelter and mentioned that there were thousands that pass through the doors.

“That’s when I told her that I didn’t understand; that if there were that many stray and abandoned animals, why wouldn’t they make a way for one to have a good home when it is wanted?  She told me that I would just have to check back with the adoption center the next week to see if the cat made adoption status. (I have no doubt she was well aware that the animals in the room that this cat was in are not even considered for adoption.)  I asked her if the Humane Society could intercede and help me get this cat, to which she said “no.”  I asked her if pulling rank by being the sheriff’s first cousin held any weight; again she said “no.” After slamming into the “brick wall” for over 5 minutes resulting in the same mantra (“check with the adoption center next week”), I finally left determined to call Bev [the woman from the Humane Society] anyway.

“I did stop by the adoption center on my way out which is where I held a third conversation with a staff employee. I explained to him what I wanted and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. He told me he couldn’t help; I would just have to check back next week.  I asked him about the availability of “space” for one to be evaluated.  He told me that they had recently expanded to get more cages and that there were two cages currently open. (So at this point, space was NOT a reason for sending the cat to be exterminated. How about maybe no one bothered to ASK if there was any space for the cat.) He quickly assured me that there was nothing he could do to help me.”

Pam left and called the woman at the humane society, who told her the names of supervisors to ask for. “I would like to point out that during this entire time, no one mentioned referring me to someone in charge, such as Tina Meeks or Tammy Penley.”

Pam went back to the pound and spoke with Ms. Meeks, who asked Pam to show her the cat she was interested in. “We went into the middle room and my heart sank when I saw the cages were all empty,” Pam said. “I pointed to the top cage and told her that the cat I wanted was in there. She then told me that she had filled out he euthanasia orders on all of those cats early that morning. She said he had been put down that morning. I asked her at least twice if she was sure that the deed had already been done and she assured me that it had been done. I am embarrassed to say that I sat there and cried like a baby.”

Ms. Meeks told Pam that incoming animals are separated into two groups: surrendered and most likely adoptable and strays who must be held for 3 days and probably won’t be “adoptable” (by whatever the pound’s standards are for adoptability).  The strays are generally killed after 3 days with no attempt to adopt them out.  “For all intents and purposes, it’s a death sentence from the time they are put in the cages,” Pam said. “They’re just faced with caged indifference for 3 long days before being executed.”

“After speaking to Ms. Meeks, I realized that stonewalling is what is expected of the employees,” Pam said. “Ms. Meeks assured me that the desk lady did as she was supposed to do when someone inquires about the strays.”

The next day, while thinking back on events, Pam said “a sudden realization made the shock more horrific”:

“There was a roll up garage door in the room with the strays. While I was standing there discussing the cat’s adoption with the attendant that took me back, the door suddenly opened and startled me so badly I jumped. The attendant said it was just the overhead and started leading me out of the room. I kept trying to look in the cages on the truck that backed to the door, but couldn’t see any animals in them. I asked him if they were bringing more animals in and tried to look in case mine was in one of them. He said he didn’t know and ushered me back through to the entrance desk.  He told me to discuss the adoption with the desk clerk, although he didn’t think there was anything that could be done without the adoption process being completed. He also told me I would have to check back at the adoption center later. Then he went back in the rooms we had just left.

“The supervisor, Tina Meeks, told me she had issued the euthanasia papers early that morning for all the cats in the back cages and that they were put down that morning. As I didn’t leave until about 11:15, I wondered how it had happened so quickly after I left. Then it hit me: the truck that had backed up to the dock was picking up the cats to be taken to be gassed. That means the attendant that was standing right beside me and the cat telling me to check back with adoption next week, also knew that the cat I wanted was being loaded as we spoke to be executed.  He went back in there to help them load the truck. He lied to me; the desk clerk lied to me. And I figured out why: It was coming up noon on Friday and it would have been too much trouble to have to rework the paperwork that had already been issued.  I feel certain that if the clerk had called her supervisor, Ms. Meeks may have tried to stop that cat from being taken out. As I said, she apologized over and over yesterday afternoon and said she didn’t know. But she also said that the employees did their job by telling me what they were supposed to say to anyone who asked about he strays. This is obviously a common occurrence, but I guess they figure no one will be as dogged as I was about coming back to fight with them. Most people probably just check back, don’t find the animal they wanted, and figure it didn’t make it through the evaluation.”

People who defend shelter killing love to say “Nobody WANTS to kill animals,” before spouting some excuse for the killing like “There are just too many animals and not enough homes.” Pam Lee went to the Burlington pound repeatedly and begged several staffers to be allowed to give a cat a home and save it from being killed. But the staff at the Burlington Animal “Shelter” wanted to kill that cat. They lied to Pam Lee just so they would be able to kill that cat.

*Headline blatantly ripped off from YesBiscuit.

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