Tag Archives: Joe Testerman

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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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