Tag Archives: Pender County

Pender County pound volunteers required to attend re-education session

More than two months ago, Pender County pound employee Darlene Clewis sent all of the pound’s volunteers a notice telling them they were not welcome at the shelter until further notice:

From: Darlene Clewis <darleclew@aol.com>
Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 5:14 PM
Subject: updated volunteer procedures

we are currently updating our volunteer procedures until this is done we ask that you be patient with us every one will be notified with the new volunteer sheet. no volunteers at the shelter until the new policy is in place.

Some believe this was done because Pender volunteers were telling other folks what sort of things went on that the pound, and apparently Clewis and former director Keith Ramsey* didn’t like that.

The new policy appears to be in place now, because the volunteers have all been invited back to the pound for a volunteer orientation, or re-education in the case of existing volunteers, this Saturday, February 16, at 11 am.

Would it be surprising if the re-education includes volunteers being made to sign an unconstitutional “confidentiality clause?” Maybe not. Directors and staff of high-kill pounds like Pender often prefer to intimidate volunteers into keeping their mouths shut than to be held accountable for dismal conditions, questionable practices and high kill rates.

Fortunately for animal advocates who want to improve conditions for and save the lives of pets in pounds, it is illegal to ban or retaliate against volunteers or rescuers who exercise their First Amendment rights by talking about what they see going on at the pound. A federal statute best known as “Section 1983,” has been successfully used by animal advocates whose ability to help or save shelter pets was restricted  after they went public with their observations of shelter conditions and neglectful treatment.

In fact, the very existence of a mandatory “confidentiality” agreement could be considered a threat of retaliation against a volunteer or rescuer exercising his or her constitutionally protected rights. In the words of attorney Sheldon Eisenberg, (who successfully sued the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control in such a case):

A question may arise as to whether a volunteer or rescuer needs to wait for a government official to follow through on a threat to retaliate before filing a claim under Section 1983 or whether a threat of retaliation alone is sufficient to trigger one. For example, some volunteers have been told by officials that publicly speaking about a shelter will result in the volunteer being banned. 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. (From: Section 1983 To The Rescue)

There is also precedent under US statues for the prevailing party to recover all attorney fees in a suit filed in vindication of civil rights. This means that volunteers and rescuers, who often don’t have a lot of money to hire lawyers, may be able to find an attorney who would take such a case on contingency. For more about Section 1983 and its application to animal shelters, see Sheldon Eisenberg’s slide show.

The Pender County pound volunteer orientation is open to new and existing volunteers. The pound is located at 3280 New Savannah Rd. Burgaw, NC 28425. Phone: 910-259-1484.

*In January, the animal shelter was taken from under the control of the Pender County sheriff’s department and put under the county manager, so Ramsey, a sheriff’s lieutenant, is no longer director and Darlene Clewis (who was director before the sheriff  took over the shelter) is back in that spot.

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Dalmation sits in Pender County pound for two weeks with a broken hip

Dalmation with broken hip in Pender County pound

This boy came into the Pender County pound on Sept. 27, 2012. He was pulled on Oct. 10 by a rescuer, who immediately noticed something wrong: He had a broken hip.

On Sept 27, 2012, a Dalmation came into the Pender County pound. He was there almost two weeks, until Oct. 10, when he was pulled by a Dalmation breed rescue group, who immediately discovered that he had a broken hip. He had surgery to correct it on Oct. 16.

Dalmationwith broken hip from Pender County pound

The Dalmation after his rescue from the Pender County pound, lying on something cushy.

A pound employee told rescuers that she walked the dog and didn’t see any problem. Sources close to the pound say employees never walk the dogs, however. “The only time those dogs get walked is when they are taking them to the incinerator,” one source said.

The incinerator is where they kill animals.  The kill process at Pender County pound has been described to me like this: the animals are taken out to the incinerator, which is in a fenced area behind the pound. The pets are injected on a table right in front of the incinerator and then rolled into it. One person close to the pound told me: “I’m sure not every animal going into that incinerator is already dead.”

The purchase of the incinerator last year was opposed by one county commissioner, Jimmy Tate, who said he was afraid it may speed up killing at the pound. He was right.

The fencing that is now around the incinerator had originally been donated by a volunteer to make a place where adopters could go spend time with animals one-on-one. But when Lt. Keith Ramsey, the pound director, got his new incinerator, he dismantled the adoption area so he could put the fencing around his new toy. In other words, he took materials that had been donated to get more animals out of that pound alive and repurposed them to make killing animals and burning their corpses easier and quicker. Oh, but Ramsey just hates the idea of killing any animal and calls it “an unfortunate part of the job.” (And completely unnecessary.)

As for injured and sick animals, the Dalmation is not the first one not to receive necessary veterinary attention at that pound. (NC Animal Welfare Administrative Code.) On Oct 3, 2012, I had posted about a hound with an injured nose who received no care while at the pound, and instead of being released to a rescue that had planned to take him to a vet was given to a man who said he was going to tie the dog to his porch.

I had sent an open records request via email on Sept. 26 for “all records (intake details, records of vet care given while in shelter custody, including vaccinations, and adoption or other outcome details) pertaining to a hound or hound-looking mix with a severely injured nose that was adopted out of the PenderCounty shelter on Friday, Sept. 21.”

Several days after publishing the post about the dog, I received a response, postmarked Oct. 3–the day the post was published. All the materials inside were dated Sept. 27, however. The packet also contained documents I did not request: statements by pound workers Darlene Clewis and Danielle Miller that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hound.  If the statements hadn’t been dated Sept. 27 I would swear they were written specifically in response to the blog post.

Statement by Darlene ClewisStatement by Danielle Miller

Duke the boxer mix came in to the pound on March 24, 2012. On Saturday April 14, a volunteer noticed that he had become sick and had bloody diarrhea consistent with parvo. Pound staffer Danielle Miller told the volunteer that Duke had been sick all week  and that they were de-worming him.

Duke at Pender County Animal Shelter

The volunteer rushed Duke to a veterinarian. He had a very advanced case of parvovirus. Duke received treatment at the volunteer’s expense, survived and is now in a new home.

On August 24, 2012, a little cattle dog pup was pulled by a rescuer, who discovered the dog had been sitting on the concrete at the pound with a broken leg, receiving no care.

Cattle dog pulled from Pender County pound with a broken leg

On Sept 15, 2012, a rescuer visited the pound only to discover a litter of puppies so full of worms that the rescuer didn’t think they would survive. They had been in the Pender County pound for a week.

Wormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal Shelter

It’s almost a given that, without fundraising to supplement their budgets,  public pounds in rural places like Pender don’t have the money to pay for much veterinary care. That’s why it’s so important for them to partner with rescue groups who will get the animals out of the pound to the care they need. But in NONE of the cases above were rescuers called by pound employees and asked to pull animals who needed vet attention. Instead, rescuers went to the pound on their own initiative and discovered the sick or injured animals sitting there without care (or with improper care, as in Duke’s case).

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Pender County Pound: Where is this dog?

Injured hound at Pender County animal shelter

This hound (name unknown) was reportedly given no veterinary care for a very obvious nose injury while in the Pender County pound. Pound employees reportedly gave him away with no adoption papers on Friday, Sept. 21. The dog’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

During the week of Sept. 21, 2012, a hound with a very obvious nose injury resided at the Pender County animal shelter. The dog reportedly received no veterinary examinations or care for the injury during its stay at the pound, in violation of the NC animal welfare administrative code.

Several rescuers became interested in helping the dog get to safety and receive necessary vet care, and the Pender County pound staff was notified that a rescuer wished to pull him. In full knowledge that the dog had a safe place to go and guaranteed vet care waiting, pound worker (and former director) Darlene Clewis gave him to a man who came to the shelter on Friday. According to a source (who I am choosing not to identify), no paperwork, signatures, fees or any other transaction took place, and when the man was asked what he planned to do with the dog, he said he was going to tie him to his porch.

According to the source, a concerned rescuer asked for the adopter’s contact information so she could make sure that the dog’s severe nose injury was examined by a veterinarian. Clewis  reportedly could not recall the adopter’s name, despite claiming that she knew him and that he was a frequent volunteer at the pound. Clewis reportedly told the rescuer that she would follow up with the man on Monday (Sept. 24).

On Monday, after repeated calls by the rescuer to check on the dog, Clewis reportedly said the man had come by the pound to report that the dog had gotten loose and was nowhere to be found.

I have filed an open records request for this dog’s records, but I hold little expectation that it will be fulfilled without further pressure or legal action. Sources tell me that “off the books” adoptions and other book-cooking are the norm at the Pender County pound.

The Pender County pound reported a 36 percent kill rate for 2011, but this number is most likely a complete fiction. (NCDA&CS does not audit the numbers reported by pounds for veracity. They could all be complete fictions, but some are more obvious lies than others.)

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Complaint lodged against Pender county pound

A volunteer at the Pender County pound emailed a local TV station with a complaint about the way the pound is run, “including that the shelter has failed to properly clean the dog kennels, which resulted in some animals suffering chemical burns. The volunteer says the animals are generally mistreated and if the volunteers don’t advertise the dogs, the animals will be euthanized.”

The Pender pound is under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff’s department. Lt. Keith Ramsey, the officer in charge,  says “We feed and water daily, we clean the pens daily.”

Regular volunteers did not respond to the TV station’s request for comment, which is disturbingly common in the animal shelter world because volunteers and rescuers who speak out fear they will be banned, leaving no one to advocate for the animals or help them get out alive. A volunteer who had been at the Pender pound for one day praised director Darlene Clewis based on having known her previously, but said nothing about current conditions at the pound.

The pound passed its last NCDA&CS inspection on April 23, 2012, but has had many previous problems, failing repeated inspections on April 14, 2011, Jan. 6, 2011,  Nov. 3, 2010, and  Oct. 27, 2010. Darlene Clewis was the director of the Pender pound at the time of those failed inspections.

The October 2010 inspection report, the result of a complaint about overcrowded cat cages and foul odors, is 6 pages long and includes photos of cats in dirty and crowded cages and other issues (click to see larger):

Photos from Oct. 27, 2010 NCDA&CS inspection of Pender County Animal Shelter

Photos from Oct. 27, 2010 NCDA&CS inspection of Pender County Animal Shelter

The inspection report states “This inspection finds this to be a valid complaint.”

In one black wire cage housing 13 kittens, there were at least two kittens with matted eyes who were sneezing. “The attendant said these kittens were admitted today and they had been commingled with the other cats due to lack of cage space,” according to the report.

So Darlene Clewis has presided in the past over a filthy shelter that failed to protect animals from the spread of disease.  Is it such a stretch to imagine it happening again?

While complaining about an animal shelter to the local TV station might shed some light on a problem, in order for an inspection to take place, the complaint must be in writing to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Division:. The email address for complaints is: AGR.AWS@ncagr.gov.

The second part of the recent complaint, that the shelter does not make any effort to advertise the dogs for adoption, is also not so hard to believe. The Petfinder page for the Pender County pound is run by volunteers. There are no animals listed on the Pender County Adopt-a-Pet page. There is a page for the Pender pound on Facebook, but it doesn’t appear to have ever been used to network animals for adoption.

In terms of saving animals, the Pender County pound did a worse job in 2011 than it did in 2010. Statistics reported to NCDA&CS show that pound staff killed more animals in 2011 than in 2010, despite an intake decrease. In 2011, 2,797 dogs and cats entered the Pender pound, down from 2,846 in 2010. Pound staff killed 952 dogs and cats, or just over  33 percent of animals taken in,  in 2010, and in 2011 they killed 1,021, or slightly over 35 percent. There was a very small uptick in dog adoptions in 2011, but that was counteracted by an even larger decrease in cat adoptions.

Pender County Animal Shelter Statistics 2010-2011

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