Tag Archives: Ashe County

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

Ashe County pound director Joe Testerman eliminates pet adoptions

In mid-August of this year, Ashe County Animal Control Director Joe Testerman, after “several hours of research,” decided to cut the hours his shelter killing facility is open for adoptions and owner reclaims to just 12 per week. He attempted to justify it by saying that “most animal control departments in North Carolina have similar business hours that they are open to the public.” Actually, not so much. Joe Testerman’s “several hours” of research most likely consisted of looking up the minimum requirements for keeping his pound open per NC law (“at least four hours a day, three days a week”).

Last week, Testerman responded to complaints about the extremely restrictive hours by claiming he and his ACOs needed to be away from the pound at all hours. “Our workload requires us to be out on the road working, and that’s where most of our work is at,” he said.

In fact, Testerman said, there is no guarantee anyone will even be at the pound during the open hours, state law be damned. “It’s good practice to call before you come, though, to make sure somebody is going to be here. The unknown is always a factor. We never know when we’re going to get an emergency call that requires all of us.”

Testerman claims that the public is welcome into the pound for adoption during open hours, but the reality is that the Ashe County pound is now pretty much out of the adoption business. According to statistics released by the Ashe County clerk in response to an open records request, Joe Testerman’s death house did not adopt out a single animal between late July and mid-September. The last animal adopted out of the Ashe County pound  was a cat that came in on July 23. (Scans of all adoption stats are below, click to enlarge. And yes, the Jake Testerman who turned in six collies on April 9 is in fact Joe Testerman’s brother.)

Ashe County Animal Shelter adoptions Jan 1-Sept 17, 2012Ashe County Animal Shelter Adoptions Jan. 1-Sept. 17, 2012

Since that time, six dogs have been released to the Ashe County Humane Society, and six dogs have been released to other rescue groups. Three dogs were returned to owner. No cats appear to have left that pound alive since the end of July. (The report for the open records request was run Sept. 17, so there may have been an adoption or two in the weeks since then. I am planning to file another request for the statistics from Sept. 17 to Oct. 17.)

In an article earlier this year, Testerman shed crocodile tears for  the animals he kills: “It’s a sad day for all of us, the animals we have cared for, petted, named, and hoped for homes for, are kept as long as we can. When the kennels are all full and more come in, we have to make the painful decision of who has to die and who lives.” Actually, Mr. Testerman has a very easy time with that decision. By restricting adoption hours and not advertising available pets for adoption, he is actively choosing death for these animals.

The only dogs shown for adoption on the Ashe County pound’s web site are a hound/lab mix with a photo dated April 20, and a Treeing Walker Coonhound in a photo dated May 20. There is one cat, whose photo is dated Feb. 14. There are three dogs and no cats listed on the pound’s Petfinder page (which also lists the old, more adoption-friendly hours, so may not be updated all that regularly.)

Testerman said that killing animals “takes something out of the humans who have to make that decision and if anyone has an answer for it, we are sure willing to listen.” I sent him a letter back in April telling him that I did indeed have an answer:

The truth is that there IS an answer for it, and it you really are willing to listen I would be happy to share. Others have taken shelters just like yours and turned their numbers upside-down, going from 85% kill rates to 90%+ SAVE rates, often in the first year.
For example, in Seagoville, Texas, a police sergeant with no previous animal control experience was put in charge of the animal control center. He told his boss he would do it only if he didn’t have to kill animals. And he did it:
Sgt. Karl Bailey of Seagoville Animal Services is an inspiration: a veteran of the police department, he took over a rural kill shelter in Texas with no experience, abolished the gas chamber on his first day, ordered that the killing come to an end, and last year saved roughly 98% of all the animals. Seagoville, Texas just might be the safest community in the U.S. for dogs and cats entering shelters—on average, only one animal loses his or her life every month, due to extreme illness, injury, or for dogs, aggression.
You can read more here if you are interested.

Just to our north in Virginia there are now SEVEN open-admission city or county shelters that have achieved lifesaving rates of 90 percent or more:  Arlington,  Charlottesville,  Fluvanna County, King George County, Lynchburg,  Williamsburg, and Powhatan County. There are also several more “in progress” toward a 90 percent lifesaving rate (you can see more here, check out the list on the right-hand side of the page).

There is no reason you cannot achieve the same, and all you need to do is follow a formula that has been tried and tested by many before you.
Yes, there is a lot of work involved, but the rewards would be huge for you, your community and thousands of animals you would be saving instead of killing. What’s more, once you put your facility on this positive path toward saving many more animals than you kill, you will almost certainly find members of your community who previously avoided your shelter lining up to help you do your life-affirming work.
Let me know if you are interested. I would be overjoyed to help

I have never heard back from Joe Testerman.

All of the Ashe County Animal Shelter Statistics for Jan. 1 to Sept. 17, 2012 (and beyond when available) can be found in this spreadsheet (see the individual worksheets for the outcome breakdowns).

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Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", Ashe County

Distemper strikes Ashe County pound again; Shame on you, Joe Testerman

Distemper has once again hit the Ashe County Pound, where dogs are vaccinated “if we have the vaccine,” according to director Joe Testerman. In other words, no, he doesn’t bother to practice proper disease-preventing protocols in his shelter, and then goes on to cry crocodile tears about how “heartbreaking” it is.

“Even animals in close proximity may be healthy, but animals that are exposed, it’s in our best interest to put those animals down to prevent further spread of that virus.” So, just to be clear: Joe Testerman prefers to spend money on Fatal-Plus to KILL the animals in his shelter than to spend some of that money on vaccines that are “possibly the single most powerful weapon we possess for stopping significant disease outbreaks in their tracks.” (Oh, never mind, the Ashe County pound uses the barbaric gas chamber to kill, doesn’t it?)

But hey, wait a minute: Testerman says vaccinations remain the best, and only, way of protecting your dog from contracting distemper.

“We highly recommend that everyone check your animal’s vaccination history and make sure you are providing the much needed vaccinations,” said Testerman. “It may save your pet’s life.”

And yet, Mr. Testerman,  you refuse to vaccinate the animals that come into your pound. If you were to practice what you preach and vaccinate all animals at or before intake into your facility, you could save HUNDREDS of lives. Vaccination is not a guarantee that no shelter animal will get a disease such as distemper, but it is the most important step in preventing a widespread outbreak that will cost many lives. “In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.

Shame on you, Joe Testerman. How dare you push the blame onto others for a disease outbreak YOU can prevent in YOUR facility.

This is the second distemper outbreak in the Ashe County pound this year. After the previous one, Joe Testerman said: “There’s no way to predict these things with any certainty, but we are anticipating more distemper cases in the county this year.” And yet he still failed to do the most important thing he could do to prevent it.

The Ashe County pound killed  69.44 percent of dogs and 96.59 percent of cats that came in during 2011, for a total kill rate of 84.38 percent.

Ashe County Animal Shelter Outcome Statistics 2011

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Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", Ashe County, Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds

Ashe County also closed for distemper; NCVAW & HSUS-NC blames the public

The Ashe County pound was closed for distemper recently (although the article doesn’t make it clear exactly when or for how long, only that the pound director noticed the distemper in late March). They killed all the dogs, although again, the article isn’t specific on how many.

AC Director Joe Testerman said the outbreak “does bring home the need for county residents to vaccinate their dogs.” Yes, but does the shelter also vaccinate upon intake? The article does not say (but I have emailed Joe Testerman to ask).While not a magic bullet, “vaccination is the cornerstone of distemper prevention in a shelter.”  That’s assuming, of course, that the manager’s preferred protocol is not to just kill all the dogs and hope to start over again clean.

Ashe County did not report their 2010 outcome statistics to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They claim a 15% adoption rate for last year on their web page. (They also claim that the national adoption rate is only 4%, a number that seems way off. The rates I usually see are 15% for cats and 25% for dogs. But if national statistics are kept the way North Carolina’s are, it’s really anyone’s guess.)

Meanwhile on Facebook, Susie’s Law, a.k.a North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare, and the NC branch of HSUS blamed the public for the recent rash of distemper outbreaks at county pounds.

“Our shelters are a reflection of our community,” the NCVAW chirps. Yeah, no … I’m pretty sure no one in my community is killing anywhere near as many animals as  our so-called “shelters” are. In fact, Many people I know are aghast when they discover just how much killing goes on at these places.

“If Parvo and Distemper are present in the shelter it means that we have to do a better job vaccinating within the community,” says NCVAW. Meanwhile, they give pound managers a pass for skipping that bit, even though it’s step #1 of preventing the spread of distemper in a pound.

But the bit that’s hardest to take of the NCVAW post is ” It is important to support our shelters that are going through the terrible experience of finding that they have Distemper.” Not a word about the terrible experience of the dogs killed.

Fifty bucks says NCVAW won’t be on board when we introduce a Companion Animal Protection Act bill in NC. (No bets on HSUS–they can be counted on to oppose shelter reform.)

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Filed under Ashe County, Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds, North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare