Tag Archives: Sampson County North Carolina

Good riddance to the Sampson County gas chamber

The Sampson County gas chamber is gone at long last.

Sampson County gas chamber is loaded onto a truck to be hauled away.

Photo: Sampson County Animal Shelter. See the whole series on Facebook.

Gas chambers remain in the following NC counties: Alamance (Burlington), Ashe, Beaufort, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Davidson, Gaston, Granville, Iredell, Martin, Nash, Randolph, Rowan, Union, Vance (not in use, but may be put back into use at any time), Wilkes, Wilson.

Animal advocates need to keep the pressure on until all gas chambers are removed from NC animal shelters. Contact information for gas chamber counties can be found here. A sample letter for inspiration is 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

Sampson County hires new pound director

Lori Baxter announced on the Sampson County pound Facebook page (screenshot here in case the post gets deleted) last week that she was not offered the permanent director position and that her last day would be Friday, Dec. 21. According to an article in the Sampson Independent, the new pound director will be Alan W. Canady, currently the lead officer with Cumberland County Animal Control.

It’s not clear what this means as far as the demise of the Sampson County gas chamber. In a comment on her farewell Facebook post, Baxter said the county is waiting for “the second part” of the license required to possess the drugs required to kill by injection.

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Sampson County pound holds man’s dog for $65 ransom

On Dec. 4, 2012, the Sampson County pound took in two “strays,” Rebel and Sheba. Their owner had let them out to relieve themselves* and a neighbor called animal control to pick them up, according to a comment posted by the owner’s daughter, Samantha.

Samantha contacted the pound and was told that the dogs were safe there for three days and would not be put up for adoption, but without proof of ownership it would cost the family $195 to get them back.

Meanwhile, however, Samantha saw Rebel, renamed “Levi,” posted for adoption on the Sampson pound’s Facebook page:

Rebel, renamed Levi and posted to the Sampson pound's Facebook page despite the fact that his family already notified the pound that they wanted to get him back.

Rebel, renamed Levi and posted to the Sampson pound’s Facebook page despite the fact that his family already notified the pound that they wanted to get him back.

Samantha said the Sampson pound staff kept deleting her comments off of the page.

I contacted Sampson County pound director Lori Baxter on Friday morning, Dec. 7. She said “I can tell you that both dogs are at the shelter and safe. We have spoken with the owner and they are planning to pick them up when we open at 1:00 this afternoon.”

But as it turns out, for lack of $65, Samantha’s dad was only able to reclaim one of his dogs. Samantha wrote in an email to me:

My dad took $130 with him and we ask to work out something so that his mother Sheba could be brought home Monday. She said she (Lori) couldn’t promise anything, then I said how come, I mean we are here to claim them but we are lacking $65, we want them both home. My dad told Anna he was financially embarrassed and that he has shed tears over his dogs since they’ve been gone. So then she said as long as we are in contact with her she would be there Monday for pick up. So we get to worry all weekend if something will happen to her, these people are too wishy washy. These animals belong to someone and it shouldn’t be this way when trying to reclaim your animals.

Lori Baxter “couldn’t promise anything” even though as pound director it is completely within her power to give Samantha’s dad his dog back. If she wanted to, Lori Baxter could say “Hey, I love empty kennels, you want your dog back, and sending a dog back to her home is a life-affirming way to make space for another dog. So why don’t I just waive the $65 and let you have your dog? That would be a win for everyone.”

So why doesn’t she? After all, earlier this week she posted that a lot of dogs were “out of time” because she was “out of space” (which doesn’t actually mean all the kennels are full, because Lori Baxter maintains half of the Sampson pound kennels empty at all times).

outoftimedogs

Following is an excerpt of an email I sent to Lori Baxter:

In a previous correspondence, you told me you use the gas chamber “as little as possible.” You wrote: “If you follow our page, then you know that I am forever begging for rescues to save them.”

I do follow your Facebook page, and I also see that you are always writing about how you must “make space” in your pound. Meanwhile, rather than work out a payment plan or, heaven forbid, actually waive $65 in reclaim fees in the interest if reuniting a dog with a family that desperately wants her back, you have chosen to hold that dog in your pound over an entire weekend, taking up the space that you claim is so scarce.

I wonder which dog you killed in order to house Sheba, a dog who already has a home and family?

On your Facebook page, you make it appear as if your main goal above all else is to get pets out of your pound alive. Sheba is a dog who would be very easy to send home to a family who wants her back, yet you refuse. It almost appears that your motivation is not to protect animals or save their lives, but to vindictively punish a man for not having enough ready cash to redeem his dog. Or worse, could it be that you love demonstrating your powers of life and death over people’s beloved pets? Whatever your motivation, you are doing the wrong thing.

I urge you to do the right thing: waive Sheba’s fees and return her to her family now.

Sampson County pound director Lori Baxter can be reached via email at lbaxter@sampsonnc.com and the pound’s phone number is (910) 592-8493. Sampson County manager Ed Causey can be reached at (910) 592-6308 or ecausey@sampsonnc.com. Sampson County residents who would like to discuss animal shelter issues with county commissioners can schedule “Citizen/Commissioners Conferences”  to meet with representatives of the county Board of Commissioners and appropriate county staff members on the third Monday of each month immediately preceding the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting. Conferences must be scheduled in advance by calling the Office of the County Manager: (910) 592-6308.

*Yes, people would be wise to confine or leash their dogs and keep identification on them, as well as up-to-date rabies tags. (I triple ID mine with microchips, rabies tags and “Boomerang” collar IDs.) But the focus of FixNC is shelter reform. Regardless of how dogs end up at the pound, what happens to them once they are there is the responsibility of the pound director and staff. So I will not be publishing any comments on this post about what is or is not responsible pet ownership because the point of discussion here is what happens to pets after they get to the pound. There are lots of free blogging platforms where you can start your own blog and discuss whatever you want there.

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Job Opening: Sampson County Animal Control Director

The following ad appeared in the Sampson Independent on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012:

Sampson County, NC, Animal Shelter Director

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT
ANIMAL SHELTER DIRECTOR
Applications are now being accepted for the position of Animal Shelter Director. Responsible for the management of the county’s animal shelter operations, including, but not limited to ensuring shelter meets state regulatory standards with regard to humane housing and euthanasia; supervising animal control department staff; preparing and maintaining departmental budget and accurate records and reports; developing and overseeing volunteer, adoption and other public education programs. Applicants must have knowledge of the principles and practices of managing an animal facility with preference given to candidates with knowledge of veterinary best practices and those holding valid, current euthanasia certificate. Must be able to deal tactfully with the general public, cooperate effectively with other agencies, including law enforcement, and effectively manage staff and volunteers. Applicant should have high school diploma supplemented by 1 to 2 years experience involving contact with animals, or any equivalent combination of education and experience providing knowledge of laws and ordinances related to humane animal control, collection and care. Managerial and budgetary administration experience is desired. Possession of a valid NC driver’s license is required. Salary range $32,244- $48,348. Sampson County offers a complete benefit package, which includes County paid health and dental insurance, annual and sick leave, retirement and 401K County contributions. County application forms available at Employment Security Commission or online at http://www.sampsonnc.com. Submit completed application and/or resume to: Sampson County Manager’s Office, Att: Susan J. Holder, 406 County Complex Road, Clinton, NC 28328 by November 26, 2012.
SAMPSON COUNTY IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY/AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER.

The position is not, however, listed on the county’s website:
Sampson County NC seeks Animal Control Director 11/11/2012

Local observers have told me they believe the job description was written to fit Lori Baxter’s experience and that the decision to leave it off of the county’s website was to limit the number of applicants.

So with that in mind, please share this job opening far and wide among all the No Kill advocates you know.

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RIP Doogie, killed for a cough in Sampson County despite volunteers willing to save him

Sampson County pound director Lori Baxter maintains half of the dog cages empty, just as she did while she was director of the Robeson County pound. She says it prevents disease, although the multiple distemper outbreaks at the Robeson pound during her tenure challenge that claim.

Despite the empty-cage policy, a dog named Doogie, who had been in the Sampson pound since Oct 19, came down with kennel cough. Kennel cough is not fatal. It’s a mild-to-moderate, usually self-limiting disease. It’s basically a canine cold, and aside from temporary discomfort much like we all experience when we have a cold, it causes no suffering. Some vets may recommend a cough suppressant or antibiotics if a secondary infection is suspected, but many recommend just doing nothing and waiting for the cold to go away. Every now and then one of my own dogs or fosters gets kennel cough and, even though it’s considered highly contagious, it rarely spreads to the others.

In a high-kill pound like Sampson, however, kennel cough is usually a death sentence. Not because it causes irremediable suffering or somehow turns fatal, but because … well that’s the way high-kill shelter directors roll. They choose death whenever possible, and a cough is as good an excuse as any.

Sometime around noon today, Lori Baxter posted Doogie’s photo with the caption “Doogie has kennel cough! He HAS to leave in the next few hours! Please someone step up for this great boy!!” If Baxter were concerned about other dogs catching kennel cough, with half the cages in the pound empty she could have easily isolated Doogie while she gave rescuers a chance to arrange to get him out. But about four hours later (after someone posted that there was a foster available), Baxter posted “We have no rescue. Nobody to be responsible for him…RIP boy…sorry we failed you…” (UPDATE 11/05/12: The posts have all been since deleted from the Sampson pound Facebook page.)

Doogie at Sampson County Animal Shelter

But the fact is there WAS someone responsible for Doogie: Lori Baxter, who claims to be one of “the ones who really are making a difference.” What a difference she made in Doogie’s life: for no reason at all he went from being a handsome dog with a cold to being a dead body in a dumpster. I’m sure Baxter’s words of apology on Facebook were a great comfort to Doogie as he went to his death.

But even sadder than Doogie’s needless death is that there were local rescuers willing to whisk Doogie out of the pound and to a vet.

Doogie, killed by Sampson County pound for coughing

And here we discover the “difference” Lori Baxter is making in the lives of shelter pets: “Please remember that most shelters would have euthanized him first thing this morning and not even given most of the day to network.” (I’m not sure how four hours equals “most of the day.”) But the “difference” stops short of actually picking up the phone and calling well-known, long-time pound volunteers who have reliably been available to pull pets in need. Apparently, in Lori Baxter’s universe, if you’re not on Facebook all day responding to her posts you are failing the pets in her pound. But because she waits four hours before killing a dog with a cold, she appears to think we should hail her as a one-woman shelter revolution. And many of the posters on Facebook do just that:

Rah Rah Team Sampson!

Lori Baxter is far from a revolutionary shelter director. She practices the same old “save a few, kill the rest” method that has been failing our shelter pets for years. She just happens to do aggressive Facebook marketing of some of the pets in her pound, which is actually unsustainable because it keeps volunteers and rescuers in crisis mode. They are always rushing to save one “urgent” pet after another–the urgency being that Baxter will send the pets to their deaths in the gas chamber if rescuers don’t get them out of there pronto. Baxter is the one deciding who dies and when, killing pets even when half the cages sit empty.

The real revolutionaries are the shelter directors in the more than 70 No Kill communities across the nation, where 90 percent and more of the pets going into open-admission shelters are getting out alive.

The programs and services that are working in those communities could be achieving the same results in Sampson. The one indispensable ingredient, however, is a leader who is not content to continue killing while regurgitating tired clichés about “public irresponsibility,” hiding behind the myth of  pet “overpopulation,” or fobbing her own responsibility for killing off on caring volunteers and rescuers.

Sampson County residents who would like the county to hire a shelter director dedicated to ending the killing of healthy and treatable pets should contact County Manager Edwin Causey.

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Sampson County’s Lori Baxter: will she stay or will she go?

Sampson County officials announced that they are hoping to put a permanent director in charge of the county’s pound. The director’s position has been occupied since June by Lori Baxter, former director of the Robeson County pound, who was hired on as “interim manager.”

County manager Ed Causey said he hopes Baxter will stay on. Baxter has not communicated to county officials what she plans to do, but on Oct. 15 she posted to her Facebook page that she is “sick to death of people who pretend to be all about the animals while kicking the ones who really are making a difference. I think the end of the year shall see a change in my life … one that doesn’t include an animal shelter.”

That sounds a lot like a no. A source said Baxter later deleted that post.

Shortly after starting in the position last June she posted in a Facebook note (also since deleted) that she took the interim director job in part so she could get rid of the pound’s gas chamber:

A Note from Lori Baxter by Sampson County Animal Shelter on Sunday, 24 June 2012 at 22 :02 Many of you may be surprised that I've agreed to accept this Interim Director position due to the fact that Sampson County Animal Shelter is a gassing fadty. Make no mistake, I am horrfied at the thought and am 150% behind its complete and utter destruction. The chamber itself is part of the reason I accepted this position, so I can get rd of it! The term euthanasia meanS "good death," and the gas chambers method of killin companion animals is hardly a humane form of euthanasia. This is not tolerable on my watch. However, it still exists, for the moment, killing near to 2,000 a year. I have arranged for a grant to bury it, never to have it be used again but it will take a bit of time. It takes time to get a more humane form of euthanasia into place. It takes time to put together a new way of doing things, a better plan, for the safety of the people and the humane treatment of animals. Gassing pets is an abomination in this day and age and WILL be rectfied, if it's the last thing I do. In the meanwhile, I NEED YOUR HELP! I need these animals to go to rescue as quickly as possible to avoid the use of that death chamber. The staff here has been using it for years and as it has been the ONLY resource to make needed space. Its use will go on until l such time as things are in place for it to be buried along with the thousands killed within its walls. This sheiter didn't have a FB page until 2 days ago. There has been virtually no rescue involvement, no networking the animals and very few local adoptions. Basically, animals were brougt here to be gassed. We KNOW there is a better way! I KNOW that together, we CAN make a difference in Sampson County! I have the full support of the County Manager to terminate the use of the gas chamber as soon as we can get things in order. In the meantime,let's show this county what animal rescue is all about!!! Please help network as many as you can! Find fosters and contact rescue groups to get them OUT! Please cross-post far and wide! Tell everyone you know! Interested rescue groups should email lbaxter@sampsonnC.com to express interest in partnering with Sampson County Animal Sheler. Thank you so much for all you do for the animals! Lori Baxter

Note Posted on Facebook By Lori Baxter on June 24, 2012, and later deleted.

As of this writing, the gas chamber is still there. Previously, I wondered why it would take so long to switch kill methods from gas chamber to injection. I finally got the answer from Baxter herself after I emailed her requesting records. The Sampson County Pound is currently not licensed by the DEA and NC DHHS to possess the drugs necessary to kill by injection, and Baxter said it can take months to get the required inspection. (Currently all animals under 4 months old, elderly, pregnant or suffering from upper respiratory illness are sent to the pound’s vet to be killed by injection). Baxter told me that the inspection is now scheduled for the first week of November.

“I wish it wasn’t necessary to have an alternate method of euthanasia, but sadly it is,” Baxter said. Actually, it’s not. In fact, many public shelters across the country have switched almost overnight  to not killing at all, only performing euthanasia in its true meaning for the relief of irremediable suffering.  One example is the Seagoville, TX, Animal Shelter, which went No Kill on Jan 10, 2011, the day police Sgt. Karl Bailey took over as director. He turned his shelter’s gas chamber into an air- and watertight food storage cabinet.

Baxter could do the exact same thing herself by following a proven formula that’s currently working at open-admission animal shelters in at least 75 communities across the country. Of course, it involves doing things like expanding the shelter’s public hours to make it easier for community members to visit and adopt. One of the first things Baxter did as interim director was reduce adoption hours from 40 per week to 15 per week. The Sampson pound is not open at all on weekends or any weekdays after 4 pm, making it inaccessible to most working people.

So how much of a difference is Baxter making? Statistics she released following an open records request show that she has taken the Sampson County pound’s kill rate from an extremely high to very high. Partial-year statistics for 2012 show that Sampson’s live-outcome rate, as of the end of September, was just around 77 percent, down from almost 89 percent in 2011. It’s an improvement, but it puts her kill rate right around that of the Granville County pound in 2011, and their director isn’t even a fan of making animals available for adoption.

Sampson County Animal Shelter Outcomes 2011-2012

This is a good time for Sampson County residents to contact County Manager Edwin Causey and tell him how finding a director who will implement the No Kill Equation can transform his community without draining his budget. Residents can also schedule “Citizen/Commissioners Conferences”  to meet with one or two representatives of the county Board of Commissioners and appropriate county staff members on the third Monday of each month immediately preceding the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting. Conferences must be scheduled in advance by calling the Office of the County Manager: (910) 592-6308.

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