Tag Archives: shelter fail

Burlington Animal Services Oops-Kills Dog who had Adopter Waiting

A pit bull mix who had been held at Burlington Animal Services for six days, while a family who wanted to adopt him called repeatedly to ask about him, was oops-killed by a pound employee on Jan. 15. Brand-new pound director Jessica Arias, who started the job last month with “big ideas and hopes to improve the lives of animals here,” said that the oops-kill was caused by an employee who didn’t follow policies and that the policies would be reviewed.

The pit-bull, Si, didn’t even need to be in the Burlington pound to begin with. On Jan. 6 he had shown upon the porch of the Lassiters, the family who desperately wanted to adopt him, soaking wet and covered in what looked like paintball paint. The Lassiters took him in,  and Si fit right in with their dogs and kids. The Lassiters posted lost dog notices but no owner came forward.

Three days later, Si wandered from their yard, but Michelle Lassiter quickly discovered him inside an animal control truck parked by her neighbors’ house. She asked the officer if she could have Si back and he refused, taking poor Si to the pound.

Alamance Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hoover said it’s their policy to take found and stray dogs to the shelter to allow original owners to find them. But state law says that it’s perfectly OK for pounds to allow pets to serve their stray holds in the home of the person who found them:

 G.S. 19A-23 Section 2 (d) (d)   During the minimum holding period, an animal shelter may place an animal it is holding into foster care by transferring possession of the animal to an approved foster care provider, an approved rescue organization, or the person who found the animal. If an animal shelter transfers possession of an animal under this subsection, at least one photograph depicting the head and face of the animal shall be displayed at the shelter in a conspicuous location that is available to the general public during hours of operation, and that photograph shall remain posted until the animal is disposed of as provided in subsection (f) of this section.

So Si could have stayed in his comfortable, loving home, the pound could have posted his photo in case his previous owners came looking, and Si could now be still alive.

Instead, Si was taken to one place where animals are least safe in Alamance County: Burlington Animal Services, which killed 72.53% of the dogs and cats who came in during 2012 (up from 70.9% in 2011). So basically, it’s a killing facility.

When Michelle Lassiter finally tracked Si down at the Burlington killing facility, staff were rude and seemed lacking in compassion, she said. And even though she had been denied the right to keep Si because he wasn’t officially her dog, they now told her that the family could only have him if she pay the standard $25 impound fee plus $5 for each additional day he was imprisoned. When the Lassiters were ready to pay that, staff then said Si couldn’t be released without documentation of his rabies shot or payment of a $50 fine.

The Lassiters were given another three days. Their family vet agreed to vaccinate Si at a reduced rate. In the meantime, Lassiter was busy acquiring kennels and dog beds for Si.

She called Wednesday to make sure there wasn’t anything else she needed to do before they picked him up and was told Si had been put down earlier that day.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the staff of Burlington Animal “Services” were bound and determined to prevent Si from leaving alive. Oh, but nobody wants to kill animals …

BAS is the same pound where, more than a year ago, staff killed a cat who had an adopter literally begging to save him.


Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", Alamance County, Burlington Animal Services

Demolish the Iredell County Gas Chamber!

Iredell County officials are hoping that new pound manager Brad Gates, will improve the “image” of Iredell’s high-kill gas chamber pound. Gates was previously director of the high-kill, gas chamber pound in Alexander County, which failed its most recent inspection during Gates’ tenure as director.  Gates was hired to run the pound after former director Chris Royal resigned amid suspicion of wrongdoing.

Here’s an idea, Iredell leaders: How about actually improving your county’s pound to turn it into a bona fide shelter that protects the lives of animals? First step: DEMOLISH THE GAS CHAMBER! Next step: end the killing of healthy and treatable pets altogether by adopting the cost-effectiveproven programs for lifesaving successMore than 171 (and counting!) communities across the US are doing it. It’s time to add Iredell County, NC, to that list.

Animal advocates may contact Iredell County leaders using the contact information below and respectfully ask them to make REAL improvements at their county pound:

County Manager: Ron Smith, rsmith@co.iredell.nc.us, 200 S. Center St., Statesville, NC 28677, 704-878-3050


Iredell County Animal Services and Control 2012 Statistics


Filed under gas chamber, Iredell 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
Person County Animal Services
2103 Chub Lake Road
Roxboro, NC 2757

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.


Filed under Person County

Franklin pound director “euthanizes” injured dog with .22 rifle

WRAL reports that Franklin County shelter director Taylor Bartholomew used a .22 caliber rifle to kill an injured Bassett hound in the shelter.

Bartholomew told an NCDA&CS inspector that the Basset hound sustained an injury to the left rear paw during  a fight with another dog who was sharing the same kennel. According to the report:

“The dog wasn’t seen by Veterinarian at that time because the wound didn’t appear to be severe. The shelter staff  had been cleaning the wound and applying Blue Lotion. However on  7/25/13 the dog was found to be hurt worse then first realized. The dog was chewing on the paw and the dog appeared to be in severe pain. The dog was not taken Veterinarian and the two ACO’s who are CET’S  who were working out in the field on this day were not notified to return to the shelter. Mr. Bartholomew decided the injuries were to severe and instead of transporting the dog to a Veterinarian or contacting the CET’S he utilized a 22 rifle and dispatched the dog. The dog didn’t survive.”

According to the animal welfare administrative code, killing animals with gunshot is only permitted “under extraordinary circumstances and situations which occur offsite from the shelter.” Bartholomew told the inspector he did not know he was not allowed to shoot animals on shelter property.

The code also states that only “a Certified Euthanasia Technician, Probationary Euthanasia Technician, or a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine in North Carolina may euthanize an animal in a certified animal shelter.” Bartholomew is not a certified euthanasia technician.

As a result of breaking the law, Bartholomew received a talking-to by the state inspector, possibly in a very stern voice.

Franklin County did not report their 2012 outcome statistics to NCDA&CS (also a violation of the law.) In 2011, 68% of the pets taken in to the Franklin County pound were killed.


Filed under Franklin County

Pender County hires new manager for killing facility

Pender County has hired a new manager for its pet killing facility. The new manager will be Jewell Horton who, according to her 2012 application for appointment to the Pender County Health Board, was a “manager/technician/receptionist” at Rocky Point Animal Hospital.

According to statistics that Pender County Health Director Carolyn Moser provided to the Star News but has refused to provide to me in response to a public records request, Pender pound staff killed more than 73 percent of the pets that came in during July 2013, an increase over the 66 percent that were killed during July 2012. There’s no way to compare either rate to the overall 2012 Pender pound kill rate because pound staff submitted clearly bogus numbers to the state.

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Filed under Pender County

Durham pound loses quarantined dog, bills family $157

A black lab named Onyx, who was quarantined at the Durham County Animal Shelter after a bite incident, escaped from the facility and was later found along Interstate 85 in Durham, dehydrated and suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

The Durham pound then billed Onyx’s family $157 for his stay. The fees were later waived. (Perhaps as a result of the family contacting a local TV station?)

The Durham pound is run under contract by the Animal Protection Society of Durham. Staff there killed almost 56 percent of the dogs and more than 72 percent of the cats they took in during 2012, for a combined dog and cat kill rate of more than 62 percent.


Filed under APS of Durham, Durham County

Death takes no holiday at Pender County killing facility

Staff at the Pender County pound are so dedicated to killing animals that they are doing it on holidays. According to information received by a local animal advocate as a result of a public records request, Pender pound staff went to work on July 4th to kill 29 cats and one dog.

29 cats and one dog killed at Pender County pound July 4, 2013.

Meanwhile, Pender County Health Department head Carolyn Moser, who is now overseeing shelter operations, has shut down the pound’s Facebook page, which was used to network animals to rescues and adopters, and fired the employee added earlier this year to maintain the page, photograph animals and post pictures. Moser said that volunteers should be used to manage the page. But new volunteer orientations have been placed on hold until a new shelter manager is hired, and longtime volunteers say they have received letters telling them their services are not required.

Meanwhile, the only way Pender pound animals get “seen” is via their Petfinder page, which looks a little like this:

Pender county pound Petfinder page

or this:

sideways "Finnish Spitz" at Pender County Pound

One might be forgiven for assuming the Pender County pound’s killing facility’s adoption program is designed to make sure that insanely adorable pets like this guy never make it out alive:

Insanely cute dog probably destined to die at Pender County pound


Filed under Pender County

Ashe County Commissioners consider, then reject, ending gas chamber use

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners this week considered changing the kill method in use at their pound from the barbaric gas chamber currently in use to lethal injection.

The meeting featured a lot of back and forth about money and killing and safety, but one alternative not proposed or considered in the meeting was ending the completely unnecessary killing of healthy and treatable pets. That’s how Sgt. Karl Bailey ended gas chamber use at  Seagoville Animal Services in Texas.  Bailey abolished the gas chamber on his first day, ordered that the killing come to an end, and went on to save more than 97 percent of its animals in 2011 and 98.5 percent in 2012. Because the gas chamber was the only airtight and waterproof place in the shelter, he began using it for food storage.

More than 16o communities across the country are saving more than 90% of their shelter pets, and there is no reason Ashe County, NC, cannot be the next.

Currently, Ashe pound director Joe Testerman  kills most of the animals that come in to his pound every year.

Testerman told the board the gas chamber is cheaper than LI and said that because the gas chamber is automated, staff can go off and do other things while it runs. He also cited “psychological trauma, or ‘burnout,’ experienced by staff performing LI” which presumably doesn’t bother them when they shove the pets into a death machine where the  animals fight a final, futile battle to cling to their lives. (Do Testerman and his staff suffer any psychological trauma or burnout when they go out and “capture” dogs by shooting them?)

Despite having been offered a grant by HSUS to get rid of the gas chamber, the Ashe County Commissioners decided to keep the gas chamber  “until other developments compel a vote.” 

Animal Advocates interested in trying to compel a vote can contact Ashe County commissioners Larry Rhodes, Judy Porter Poe, Gerald Price, Gary Roark and  William Sands at administration@ashecountygov.com, 336-846-5501, fax 336-846-5516 or  by mailing to 150 Government Circle Suite 2500, Jefferson, NC 28640.  County Manager Pat Mitchell can be contacted at  pmitchell@ashecountygov.com, 336-846-5501, fax: 336-846-5516 or 150 Government Circle Suite 2500, Jefferson, NC 28640. Joe Testerman can be contacted at joetesterman@ashecountygov.com. Feel free to put your own personal spin on this sample letter. (More inspiration for your own letter may be found here.)

While ending the use of the barbaric gas chamber would be a very good thing, ending the killing of healthy and treatable pets is the most important goal. So while it’s tempting to call for an end to gassing by citing the relative humane merits of lethal injection, why not call for an end to gassing through adoption of a proven program for lifesaving success?

Saving lives is a very effective way to end the dispute over gas chambers once and for all. Think of it: Ashe County pound took in 921 dogs and cats and killed 714, or almost 78%, of them in 2012. (Assuming the numbers they reported to the state can be trusted, which is doubtful, especially considering that for at least three months last year there were no adoptions at all from the Ashe County pound.) Foothills Humane Society, on the other hand, which fulfills the role of animal control shelter for Polk County (and parts of 2 SC counties), took in ALMOST TWICE AS MANY dogs and cats (1,746) in 2012, yet SAVED almost 99% of them, killing only 18 animals. Voilà, problems of expense, “safety,” “psychological trauma and burnout” solved!

Take killing off the table in Ashe County!


Filed under Ashe County, gas chamber

Horrible Harnett

Mom & pups in the horrible Harnett County pound

The Harnett County pound kills all pets not on mandatory hold every Wednesday. Essentially, no matter how adoptable a pet is, it’s almost certainly dead on Wednesday morning if it isn’t out of that pound by Tuesday evening.

This beautiful family’s photo was posted to the Harnett killing facility’s “friends” Facebook page after 5 pm on Tuesday, July 9, with the caption  “We need a foster or adopter for this mama dog. Her puppies can be held over, but with the shelter being so full, we do not know if they can hold her over. Please, please spread word for her. She most likely needs adoption/rescue by 730p tonight!”

So basically, the lovely and most likely very adoptable mom, and possibly all her adorable pups, might just be dead by the time you read this. Why? Because the kill-em-all-every-week policy is convenient for the staff, who don’t want to be bothered with holdover inventory at their killing facility.

The staff of the Harnett County pound killed 59% of the dogs and cats that came in during 2012.

Write to the Harnett County Commissioners (listed below) and ask them to mandate implementation of the No Kill Equation. Let them know that No Kill is a cost-effective lifesaving alternative to the barbaric catch-and-kill method in use now.

JIM BURGIN: jburgin@harnett.orgGARY HOUSE: gary@GHouseCPA.comBEATRICE HILL: bhill@harnett.orgGORDON SPRINGLE: gspringle@harnett.orgJOE MILLER: jmiller@harnett.org

UPDATE: the original version of this post noted that the Harnett Friends Facebook page would ban people who “bad-mouthed” the shelter. Current administrators say they have changed that policy and that, aside from foul language, criticism is allowed on the page.


Filed under Harnett County

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.”


Filed under Person County