Category Archives: Person County

Person County illegally bans rescuer from pound

In violation of federal civil rights laws, Person County Animal Services director Ron Shaw has banned a longtime rescuer for speaking publicly about pound staff’s refusal to let her obtain vet care for a puppy who later died in the pound.

Rhonda Beach, director of Chances Angel Rescue and Education and former president of the Animal Protection Society of Person County, has been involved with the Person County pound since 2008. Between her time with APS and CARE, Ms. Beach says she has been responsible for saving 912 pets from PCAS. “To be accurate and to only include what CARE has pulled from PCAS, we have rescued to date 1022 animals and out of those numbers, 726 animals were pulled from PCAS by Chances Angel Rescue,” she said.

On Aug. 21, 2013, Ms. Beach sent a text and a photo of a puppy to a PCAS staff member asking for the pup’s age, weight, and hold date. The staffer replied late the next morning, providing info including that the pup was very malnourished and thin and his mandatory hold was up on Aug. 23.

Ms. Beach responded immediately, asking if she could pick up the pup early and have him serve out his hold period with her, which is permitted by state law. (§ 130A-192.) “My intent was to go get him immediately and take to my vet for an evaluation,” Beach said. “Extremely malnourished dogs should receive immediate vet care and so I offered to pick him up and get him to the vet right away.”

The employee texted back, “He is doing okay. I have been feeding him some can food.” Ms. Beach then asked if the staffer could vaccinate the pup, and the staffer said she would vaccinate him on Aug. 23.

The staffer later texted that the pup could be picked up after closing (4 p.m.) on Aug. 22 because his hold period would technically be up then, but Ms. Beach was unable to get to the shelter at that time. “I was available and ready to go get him immediately at 11:45 am on August 22, but was denied because his hold date was not met,” Ms. Beach said.

Ms. Beach said she tried to contact PCAS staff around 8 am on Aug. 23 to see if they would let her pick up the pup at 8 am instead of waiting until the 10 a.m. opening time. The rescue coordinator texted Ms. Beach at 10 am to tell her that the puppy had died.

Later that morning, Ms. Beach posted a photo of the pup with a caption describing the issue on her Facebook page: 

Puppy died in Parson County Animal Shelter because they refused to allow rescuer to take him to the vet.This poor puppy died in the shelter last night. I had tagged him for rescue and he was there waiting his mandatory 72 hour hold period. I ask the shelter could I get him early and so he could get medical attention since he was extremely malnourished. I offered to hold him at my house for the remaining of the mandatory 72 hour hold period after he received medical attention and was denied. So this puppy died sometime last night, in the shelter, alone, on a concrete floor. I am so heart broken for this baby. This is one of the reasons I don’t work with Person County Shelter as much as I used to… This baby needed help at a critical time. RIP sweet boy. I am so sorry your people failed you.
The next day, Shaw sent Ms. Beach the following email:

Per PC Animal Services Ordinance Appendix B, I am suspending your privileges of pulling animals from our Shelter as of Friday, August 23, 2013.

It has come to my attention of the Facebook posting made by you and comments you made on a picture that are not productive of the over all mission of saving animals and promoting a positive relationship between Animal Services and your rescue group.

I have already notified the Animal Advisory Committee of the suspension and they will be scheduling a meeting in the next two weeks (per County Ordinance Appendix B). You will be notified of the meeting date as soon as it is scheduled.

Thank you.
Ron W. Shaw
Director
Person County Animal Services
2103 Chub Lake Road
Roxboro, NC 2757
336.597.1741

Such an action–retaliation against a volunteer or rescuer who exercises her free speech rights–is in violation of federal law. In the words of attorney Sheldon Eisenberg, who successfully represented rescuers who sued Los Angeles County after being banned for speaking out about animal abuse at the county’s shelters:

There can be no dispute that complaining about abuses or violations of law at shelters is a constitutionally protected right. A rescuer not only has the First Amendment right to speak out against abuses and violations of law committed by a governmental entity, he or she also has a constitutionally protected right to demand that the government correct the wrongs that are identified. This includes the right to threaten to sue or to actually file suit against the shelter. (Section 1983 To The Rescue.)

42 USC Chapter 21, Subchapter I § 1983 states: “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress…”

In essence, local laws and policies that deprive someone of rights and privileges, such as the recent amendment to the Person County Animal Services Ordinance that threatens shelter volunteers and rescuers with loss of access to the public shelter in retaliation for exercising their free speech, are in violation of US civil rights laws.

Per Eisenberg:

In recent years, the courts have said that people have a right to file a claim under Section 1983 when state or municipal governments take action designed to scare or prevent them from exercising their First Amendment rights, or punish them for doing so. The plaintiff must show that all of a few specific conditions, or legal “elements”, exist: The plaintiff’s conduct must be protected by the Constitution,  this conduct must have been a “substantial” or “motivating” factor in the defendants’ decision to take action, and the plaintiff must have suffered actual injury.

There can be no doubt that the suspension of Ms. Beach’s right to save animals from the Person County pound meets the conditions necessary for a lawsuit:

  1. Ms. Beach’s Facebook post is Constitutionally protected free speech;
  2. Ron Shaw explicitly said in his email that his decision to retaliate against Ms. Beach and deprive her of her rights was a result of her Facebook post; and
  3. Ms. Beach has suffered the damage of losing the benefit and privilege of rescuing pets from the Person County pound.

Eisenberg wrote:

It is important to emphasize that the loss of a common benefit counts as injury; a rescuer need not establish a legal right to adopt animals or take advantage of any other benefits afforded by a shelter. As the Supreme Court has stated, a government entity “may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests—especially, his interest in freedom of speech.” Therefore, it should be enough to show, for example, that a person has been deprived of his or her ability to volunteer at, or to adopt animals from, a shelter

The very existence of the new language in the Person County ordinance threatening to revoke access for advocates who speak publicly is in itself in violation of US law. In Eisenberg’s words, “Since the whole point of a Section 1983 retaliation claim is to prevent the ‘chilling’ (discouragement) of constitutionally protected rights, it seems clear enough that a threat of retaliation for exercising those rights, which is specifically designed to obstruct the exercise of those rights, should be sufficient to satisfy the actual injury element of a Section 1983 claim.”

In addition, there is also provision under US statutes (42 USC § 1988 – Proceedings in vindication of civil rights) for the prevailing party to recover all attorney fees in a suit filed in vindication of civil rights.

A letter was sent on Ms. Beach’s behalf to Person County Manager Heidi York informing her that banning Ms. Beach is illegal, and Ms. York replied that she passed it along to legal counsel, who is currently “out of the country,” and that she does not have the authority to intervene in the issue.

 Little Boy Blue by Kim Kavin You can read more about Ms. Beach and her efforts to reform the Person County Pound in Kim Kavin’s book Little Boy Blue.

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Person County pound stacks the deck against pets from “rabies alert areas”

Person County pound dog from rabies alert areaPerson County pound dog from rabies alert areaPerson County pound dog from rabies alert area

The Person County pound kills all pets that come from “rabies alert areas,”  after their hold periods are up, unless the pets are reclaimed by owners. The Person County pound will not release pets from “rabies alert areas” to rescue groups. The dogs pictured above were picked up last week (two on Thursday April 11 and one on Friday April 12) in a rabies alert area. They are scheduled to be killed  Wednesday April 17, yet their photos were first posted online less than 24 hours before they were schedule to to be killed.

Contact the Person County Commissioners and let them know they need to eliminate the unnecessary death sentence on all pets from rabies alert areas. Contact information is here:http://www.personcounty.net/index.aspx?page=187. You may also email County Manager Heidi York at hyork@personcounty.net, and pound manager Ron Shaw at rshaw@personcounty.net.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tam, who posed a response from Person County Manager Heidi York in the comments. Ms. York wrote: “Actually we are in the process of changing our rabies policy which would change this very issue. This will be taken before the Board of Commissioners to adopt our new proposed policy on May 6th.”

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What is your county’s “rabies alert area” policy?

NC statutes specify that  an animal control or peace officer can, after reasonable effort has been made to apprehend animals who run uncontrolled in areas under rabies quarantine the animals, “destroy” those animals “and properly dispose of their bodies.” In Person County, they interpret this to mean that they can and should kill all the pets that they apprehend from such areas, even if there is no evidence the pet had any contact with a rabid animal.

When a case of rabies is confirmed in Person County, the area is declared under “rabies alert” for the next six months. Per the Person County animal ordinance, animals from rabies alert areas “will not be adoptable for a period of six (6) months, unless that animal has been vaccinated against rabies prior to custody at the shelter.”

So Person County pound policy is to kill them, even if they are too young to be vaccinated for rabies and have never been at-large or in a situation likely to expose them to rabies. Such as, for example, the 6- to 8-week-old puppies pictured below, who were surrendered by owners who happened to live in Flat River Township. That area is under a “rabies alert” until July 2013 because a rabid raccoon was found there in December 2012. The puppies pictured were all killed on Feb. 13, 2013.

Puppies killed at Person County pound

These 6 to 8-week-old owner-surrendered shepherd mix pups were killed at the Person County pound on Feb. 13, 2013, without being made available for adoption because the surrendering owners happened to live in a township where a rabid raccoon had been found two months previously.

Puppies need to be 12 to 16 weeks old before they can be vaccinated against rabies. Since the Person County pound refuses to release animals from “rabies alert” areas without proof of vaccination, the policy is an automatic death sentence for puppies. And it’s a death sentence for most of the other pets picked up from the quarantine area as well. In 2012, Person County pound employees killed 86 cats and 28 dogs because they came from a rabies alert area. Below are just a few of the dogs killed during the past year by Person County Animal Services as a result of the rabies alert area policy.

Does your county have a policy for pets that come in from a “rabies alert” or quarantine zone? If you know, please post it in a comment. If you don’t know, you can find out by filing a public records request. (You can read more about North Carolina’s open government laws here.)

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Sampson pound gets grant to stop using gas chamber

The Sampson County commission voted to accept $16,000 in grant money for its animal shelter this week , including $7,000 from the Humane Society of the United States to “phase out” the use of its gas chamber. The rest of the grant money is from the Petfinder Foundation to fund kennel cough  and FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) vaccine programs.

The terms of the HSUS grant stipulate that the county must “phase out the use of the gas chamber in six months from receipt of the $7,000.” Any surplus funds are to be used for shelter repair or upgrades or “animal enrichment.” Previous Interim Director Lori Baxter had announced last June on the pound’s Facebook page that she was applying for a grant to “bury” the gas chamber, but there doesn’t appear to be any stipulation in the HSUS grant about dismantling or removing the gas chamber so that it can’t be used again at some future time.

This is an important step because the Sampson gas chamber had been taken out of service previously after many problems with faulty seals and leakage. The issues became widely known in 2004 following an incident in which four puppies who did not die after being put into the leaky gas chamber were  adopted by Teresa Stewart of  Roseboro, who had no idea they had been gassed. All four puppies subsequently died, and the truth came out after Stewart complained publicly.

The gas chamber was taken out of service, but after a new pound was built, the gas chamber was moved there and put back into service by Assistant County Manager Susan Holder, who was then serving as interim shelter director.

There have been several recent announcements regarding county pound gas chambers in NC. The Johnston County pound announced in December that they will reduce gas chamber use, reserving it for “vicious” animals.

The Vance County pound is reportedly eliminating the use of their gas chamber. According to an email newsletter sent to certain rescue groups by HSUS NC director Kim Alboum, Vance County “made the commitment to eliminate the use of the gas chamber as a form of euthanasia.” She doesn’t mention that they received a grant, but a Facebook post by the Vance County SPCA reports that they did. (Commenters on that post claim that the chamber will be retained for use on wildlife.)

The Person County pound, which had stopped most use of its gas chamber in October, removed it from the premises last week, according to a news article cited by the NC Shelter Rescue Blog. Person County Manager Heidi York said the unit was removed “to assure the public that it is no longer in use.”

The demise of the Person County Gas chamber came about partly because of public pressure. Person pound director Ron Shaw was quoted on CNN as saying “The gas chamber’s not cruel, but animal activists don’t agree with it. And I’m fed up with dealing with it.”

The pressure needs to continue until the other gas chambers are dismantled and removed. Advocates can email Johnston County Manager Rick HesterSampson County Manager Ed Causey and Vance County Manager Jerry L. Ayscue and ask them to completely remove the gas chambers from their pounds.

Advocates can also email Person County Manager Heidi York to thank her for getting rid of the gas chamber and ask her to continue the path toward progress and civilized treatment of animals by encouraging shelter staff to implement the  lifesaving programs of the No Kill Equation.

In other Sampson County news, new pound director Alan Canady started work this week. One change he may consider is actually opening the facility during hours that are favorable to increasing adoptions.  “There are certain processes that we can do where we can possibly open earlier and maybe stay open a little bit later,” he said. The shelter’s current hours, established by Canady’s predecessor Lori Baxter, are 1-4 pm weekdays.

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January 10, 2013 · 10:22 pm

Person County announces early end to gas chamber

Person County sent out a news release announcing that they have officially ended the use of the gas chamber at the county pound, nine months ahead of their projected “phase out” date of July 2013.

Person County Manager Heidi York had said previously that they would still be using the gas chamber for “very sick wildlife and overly vicious animals.”

Ending the barbaric use of the gas chamber is a laudable step, but the fact remains that Person County pound staff are still killing healthy and treatable pets. So when you contact County Manager Heidi York or pound Director Ron Shaw to thank them for making shelter pets’ deaths less brutal, please be sure to let them know that the No Kill Equation is a cost-effective way to end the needless killing.

Person County has also changed the department’s name from Animal Control to Animal Services, and will soon be participating in a spay/neuter matching grant program.

PCAS has taken another positive step by now posting its outcome statistics online. Although the 2012 ones are rather depressing, especially the part where they killed 115 kittens and 21 puppies simply because they were unweaned, and killed 104 cats and dogs just because they were picked up in a “rabies alert area.”

I have put these stats into a spreadsheet and calculated the rates: cat kill rate so far in 2012 is a horrible 91.8 percent, which is worse than last year’s 89.4 percent; dog kill rate is 38.14 percent, down slightly from last year’s 46.84%; overall kill rate is 67.43 percent, which is almost exactly the same as 2011 (67.71 percent.).

I pulled out two particular numbers because I find them rather revealing: the dog adoption rate is almost 13 percent, while the transfer-to-rescue rate is almost 37 percent. Most of the dogs who are getting out alive can thank rescue groups, who used to have to fight for access. Rhonda Beach of  Chance’s Angel Rescue & Education told Kim Kavin, author of Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue from Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth that when she first tried to save dogs from the Person County pound’s gas chamber she was unceremoniously turned away. “I had to fight for two years to get the right to go in and save a lot of dogs who were very adoptable,” Beach said.

But PCAS has begun making efforts toward increasing adoptions as well, using its Facebook page to promote adoptable pets and to post newly arrived animals in hopes of increasing owner reclaims. They have also started holding offsite adoption events at Tractor Supply.

I’m not sure what pastry carries the message “Thanks for becoming less crappy,” (cinnamon rolls, perhaps?) but if you decide to take some to PCAS, please remember to include copies of “No Kill 101,” “Dollars and Sense” and the Cliff Notes version of Redemption. They have moved forward because of pressure from the animal loving public. Why not keep them going in the right direction?

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Adoptable pet of the day: Senior bichon girl in Person County pound

Senior Bichon in Person County Pound

This 12-year-old girl, let’s call her “Tilly,” needs out of the Person County pound ASAP. Email rhonda.beach@yahoo.com if you can help.

I don’t know the name of this little bichon frise in the Person County pound, but every dog needs a name so I will call her “Tilly.”

Tilly is estimated to be about 12 years old, and she needs a rescue or adopter soon.

If you can help Tilly, email Ronda Beach at rhonda.beach@yahoo.com.

CORRECTION: Tilly could be a poodle. I have no idea … she’s a little old fluffy white dog who needs out of that pound is all I know.

UPDATE: Tilly is safe and in foster care!

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Person County AC Director Ron Shaw shares the secret to reforming pound

Little Boy BlueI’m in the middle of (well,  33 percent through, according to my Kindle) a new book that exposes the underbelly of the “shelter” system in the US and the horrors of the gas chamber. I intend to write about it when I’m done, but for now I’ll just say that even if you’ve been making it your business to know the realities, Little Boy Blue by Kim Kavin seems worth a read.

What does this have to do with Ron Shaw? The Person County Animal Control director makes an appearance in the book, because Blue was rescued from his pound in 2010.

This interview, which aired on CNN Saturday morning, prominently features a quote from Ron Shaw about the planned “phase-out” of the Person County Gas chamber:

The gas chamber’s not cruel, but animal activists don’t agree with it. And I’m fed up with dealing with it.

Animal advocates also don’t agree with killing healthy and treatable shelter pets when the No Kill Equation is a proven way to stop it. Gosh, I wonder what it takes to get Ron Shaw “fed up” enough to embrace programs that will end the killing? Animal advocates who would like to (politely and respectfully) share their views (and maybe some good reading) with Mr. Shaw can use the following contact information:
Phone:(336) 597-1741
Fax:(336) 597-3319
E-mail: rshaw@personcounty.net
2103 Chub Lake Road
Roxboro, NC 27574

You may as well include Person County Manager Heidi York and the county commissioners in the conversation as well. Heck, send ‘em all cupcakes!

If you’d like to know more about Little Boy Blue but don’t want to wait for me to finish reading it, you can read some Amazon reviews.

And if you’re near Person County and would like to help Chance’s Angel Rescue and Education, one of the groups that pulls from the Person County pound (run by Rhonda Beach, the woman who actually pulled Blue), you can attend Concert for A Cause Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, at Mayo Park Amphitheatre in Roxboro starting at 3 pm.

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