Category Archives: “Nobody WANTS to kill animals …”

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

What she said!

Screenshot from the Facebook page of a friend who is not even a No Kill activist (click to view larger photo):

This is so very sad BUT I find a shelter posting this kind of emotional blackmail truly disgusting. He HAS to be out by tonight?? BUT he will only be released to a rescue?? Rescues are manned by volunteers, most of whom work full time jobs and cannot drop their entire loves and go pull an emaciated dog that needs special care and cannot just go to ANY home! I can only hope and pray someone was able to pull him before they killed him!

Fortunately, in this case, a rescuer was able to get to the pound by closing and Brutis is safe.


Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", cruelty, Things that are NOT No Kill

“Nobody wants to kill animals” — Guilford County edition

NOTE: Amanda Liston provided the information and opinions attributed to her in the following post while she was Carolina Care Bullies president. I have since learned that she resigned from the rescue a few days before the post was published.

The next time someone says “Nobody wants to kill animals” to defend the killing of shelter pets, remember Coco. Robin Meadows, a volunteer for Carolina Care Bullies rescue, expended a lot of effort trying to save Coco from the very first day the dog landed in the Guilford County pound, a pet-killing facility where almost half the animals ended up dead in 2011 ¹. Despite days of effort by Meadows and other CCB rescuers, the staff of the Guilford County pound killed Coco anyway.

Coco was a friendly, young pit bull belonging to a boy who lived near Meadows’ sister. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, the boy arrived  home from school to discover that his stepfather had surrendered Coco to animal control. The boy told Meadows, who knew Coco had a wonderful disposition and got along well with her dog Skyleigh (adopted from Carolina Care Bullies). Knowing that Coco was definitely adoptable and that at best she could give Coco a forever home herself, Meadows called the Guilford County pound that very day to ask what she needed to do to get Coco out of there.  (The Guilford County pound refuses to adopt dogs they identify as pit bulls directly to the public, so rescue pulls are generally the only ways such dogs get out of that pound alive.)

Meadows gave pound staff a detailed description of Coco and told them where and when she had been taken by animal control. “At first they told me they weren’t sure what dog I was talking about and they would have to see if they had her,” she said. Then they told her she could pull Coco if she brought along the owner who had surrendered her and paid about $60 in reclaim fees. Meadows posted the situation to the CCB forum, and another volunteer offered to put up the money for the fees. On Thursday Meadows went to speak to Coco’s former owner, who agreed to meet her at the pound Friday afternoon.  She said she called the pound three times on Thursday to make sure that she was making the correct arrangements to save Coco.

The former owner stood Meadows up late Friday afternoon, shortly before the pound closed. Frustrated, she turned for help to CCB president Amanda Liston. Pound staff told Meadows that in order to pull Coco under CCB, Liston would have to speak directly to pound director Marsha Williams on the following Monday.

Liston called the pound Monday morning. “The shelter manager told us that she was expecting our call,” Liston said  “She also informed us that she would in no way release the dog to Robin, that myself and [CCB vice president] Terry [King] would have to pick up the dog personally. We explained that Robin was a local Greensboro volunteer that wanted to foster-to-adopt the dog, and that we lived 45 minutes away, there was no reason for us to come from Hillsborough to pick up a dog.”

Liston said that Meadows is a trusted CCB volunteer and is just as much a part of  the organization as anyone else. “CCB is not one or two people, we are a large network of volunteers, and myself and the vice president can not be expected to do every rescue errand. However, we would have been glad to if that was the last resort,” she said.

“Half a day later, our Vice President Terry King received a voicemail that the dog in question was euthanized early that morning because of inability to identify the dog based on no owner information.”  Liston said. “They played games and stalled us over an entire weekend, telling us we couldn’t get permission to release the dog until Monday—well after they planned to euthanize the dog,” Liston said. “They said they tried to identify the dog and were unable to do so—but they didn’t need to—Robin could point out the dog and provide all the owner surrender information for them.”

Meadows was devastated. “She survived the weekend just to have them kill her the day I was going to pick her up.”

“Five minutes of Guilford County’s time would have confirmed that allowing Robin to pull the dog was a far better alternative than euthanasia for Coco,” Liston said.

“I find it impossible to believe that they were unable to identify this one dog with the level of Robin’s description in addition to the information she was able to provide about the owner, ” Liston said. “The only foreseeable way this could have occurred is if they throw every pit bull that comes into the shelter in a large, multi-dog holding pen with no ID, and I know that to not be true.”

A public records request for Coco’s records was sent to Guilford County pound director Marsha Williams and the county attorney, who forwarded it to Guilford County Animal Control. Animal control responded promptly with their paperwork on Coco, showing where, when and how she was surrendered by her owner and picked up.

Williams, however, did not respond until a second request was sent, when she refused to comply. “I have spoken to the board of Directors and the United Animal Coalition attorney and they have advised me to inform you that The United Animal Coalition that operates the shelter is a private organization and therefore does not fall under your public records statute any information you requested for Coco that falls under that statute can be provided by animal control and the county attorney’s office whom you cc’d on your previous email and this one,” she said.

Williams and UAC seem to have no problem collecting more than $1 million of taxpayer money from the county to operate a de facto government agency “for the mutual benefit of the Parties and for the citizens of GUILFORD COUNTY” in a building and on property owned by Guilford County. But when it comes time to be publicly accountable for what they do with the community’s shelter pets, they want to hide behind non-profit status and claim they don’t have to tell anyone what goes on in their pound.

According to the NC Attorney General’s office, whether a non-profit operating a government service is subject to public records disclosure is “a matter of legal opinion.” There exists legal precedent of courts upholding that municipalities can not hide records from the public by contracting with a non-profit.

In fact, the contract between Guilford County and UAC is very similar to a scenario that UNC Professor of Law and Government Frayda Bluestein sets forth as an example of when a non-profit WOULD probably be subject to transparency laws. She describes a scenario in which a city contracts with a non-profit group that promotes arts:

If not for this contract, city employees would carry out this function. The city appoints three of the five members of the nonprofit board. The city owns the property the nonprofit uses for its offices, and leases it to the nonprofit for nominal consideration. The nonprofit receives most of its funding from the city. Is the nonprofit organization subject to the transparency laws? The answer is probably: yes.

The UAC leases its building and land from Guilford County for $1 per year. The Guilford County board of commissioners has the right to appoint a county commissioner to serve as a fully participating member of the UAC board of directors. The UAC receives most of its funding from the county. In addition, the UAC must obtain written approval from the county manager before it is allowed to change any fees, hours of operation, policies or procedures affecting the public.

The claim of exemption from public records laws by Williams and the UAC is pretty much begging for a legal opinion.² Essentially, Williams and UAC are claiming the right to kill their community’s pets completely in secret. Meanwhile, the Guilford County taxpayers are footing the bill.

Consider the implications: Suppose you live right on the county line between Guilford and Alamance. One day, your dog bolts through the door and takes off. If he heads east, gets picked up by Alamance County animal control and taken to the pound in Burlington, you would have every right to find out exactly what happened to him if he died in kennel or was killed there. But if he were to head west, get picked up by Guilford County animal control and end up in the Guilford county pound, his fate could remain a complete mystery to you. Marsha Williams and her staff claim that you would have no right to find out what happened to your beloved family pet during his last days or hours in their facility.

Despite replying to the public records request by claiming she doesn’t have to send any records, Williams did send one record: a photo of part of a document she says was all her pound received from animal control with Coco:Photo of alleged animal control form for Coco

Williams says that because the form from animal control identified Coco as a stray, no one at GCAS could figure out which dog Meadows and CCB were trying to save until after pound staff had killed her.

“The lack of proper information did not allow the shelter staff to locate Coco in time to transfer her to CCB,” Williams said. Were they in such a hurry to kill Coco that they couldn’t be bothered to take a few minutes to see if maybe the small female pit bull pup marked “stray” who came in from Cotswold Ave. on the morning of Feb. 6 could possibly have been the same small female pit bull pup brought in from Cotswold Ave. on the morning of Feb. 6 that Robin Meadows so desperately wanted to save?

As director of that pound, Williams has the power to decide NOT to kill pets, at the very least for long enough to sort out which dog a rescuer wants to save. It’s not as if there is an unstoppable killing machine conveyor belt that pets are put on as soon as they enter the pound (as much as Guilford’s kill rate makes it seem as if there could be). Williams runs that pound and can decide which pets live, which pets die, and how much time they are given before she or her staff inject them full of death syrup.

Williams and her staff kill more than 6,000 dogs and cats per year. Assuming 260 business days in a year, that means they kill, on average, more than 23 pets per day. Perhaps, given the sheer magnitude of killing they do there, no one at the Guilford County pound saw the point of taking any extra time to kill one fewer healthy and adoptable pet.

What does the fact that Williams sent a record she believes vindicates her and her staff imply about the records she is withholding? Her refusal to release Coco’s records might reasonably lead folks to wonder what is there that she does not want to reveal. Was there more to the runaround Meadows and Liston were given than just disorganization or disinterest on the part of Williams and her staff?

“Were they hoping we would give up before we discovered that the dog was already euthanized?” Liston said. She believes the claim that Coco could not be identified “in time” was an excuse given “when there was nothing else they could say to deter us from rescuing the dog.”

“The dog didn’t have to be euthanized. And had any other shelter manager in the state been in that place, at least the ones we have had experience with, that dog would have lived,” Liston said.“I want the public to know that Guilford is not the amazing shelter that they are often hailed as. They treat pit bulls as criminals, they treat those that want to rescue them as suspicious, and would rather kill these dogs than give them a chance at a new life.

“The glaring difference between this shelter and others I have worked with, no matter how small-staffed or how large their intake is, is that other shelters can easily identify dogs based on even a mediocre description,” Liston said. The larger facilities such as Orange County Animal Services or Wake County Animal Center will mark kennel cards  “rescue hold” or “rescue interest” as soon as CCB calls, she said. “Its uncomplicated. We call, they send a volunteer to mark their kennel card, if they can’t do it themselves.”

“Guilford has made clear to us in the past we are not to try to advertise dogs in their shelter that need homes,” Liston said. “I’m confused about this, as they advertise them on their own FB page, so I don’t know why we cannot. We have also asked them to email us photos of pit bulls at their shelter and we will try to find foster homes. Unsurprisingly, we have never received a single photograph or even personality description of any dog in their shelter. Despite the non-response on their end, we were expected to provide a list of past adopters, references, adoption policies and a copy of our application, all of which we worked hard to compile and provide to them.” Liston said CCB never heard from Guilford again after supplying that information.

“As we have grown, understandably we have had many volunteers want us to help pit bulls in their shelter,” Liston said. “I try to explain what happened, and they insist the shelter manager tells them ‘We would love to work with CCB!’ It’s true, the shelter manager does repeat this, over and over to compassionate pit bull lovers and visitors to their Facebook page. But, it is 100% untrue. They go out of their way to make sure no pit bull leaves their shelter, unless it is in secret, unless we somehow magically find a foster without advertising for one, unless we agree to take a dog we’ve never met or seen.”

Liston said Williams has claimed policies dictated by the Guilford County Commissioners are the reason it’s difficult to extract pit bulls from that pound.  “I know this to also be false, as other counties with similar ‘no public pit bull adoption’ policies have no trouble allowing rescues to share photos, meet dogs, secure foster homes and use their volunteer-base to pick up dogs for their foster homes,” Liston said.

Liston said she suspects a personal prejudice against pit bulls may possibly be what makes it so hard to save them from the Guilford pound. “Why else would one person guarantee the death of so many dogs that have other options?”

Folks who wish to discuss the Guilford County pound or its pit bull policy with the Guilford County Commissioners may find their contact information here. A sample letter regarding anti-pit bull policies can be found here.

A NOTE REGARDING THE COMMENTING POLICY ON THIS POST: Because free and open discourse is only possible when there is full access to information, all comments defending the UAC/GCAS etc. will be held in moderation until such time as Williams and the UAC release Coco’s records. If they never release them, the comments will never be published. Anyone bothered or inconvenienced by this policy may contact Marsha Williams.

¹2011 numbers are the latest available for the Guilford County pound, which is not transparent enough to make their statistics available on their website. Back

²In NC, this will most likely require a lawsuit. Animal advocate Holly Nielsen filed suit last year against the Johnston County SPCA, which received funds from the town of Clayton, over the same issue. The case never went to court because the JCSPCA board voted to dissolve itself immediately after the suit was filed. If you are interested in helping bankroll or helping find pro-bono or contingency legal representation for a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit against The United Animal Coalition, please email me. Back


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

“Nobody wants to kill animals” — Alamance County edition*

Pam Lee went to the Burlington Animal Shelter on Oct 31 looking for her missing cat, Sassy. She saw a large black cat who looked a bit like Sassy, so she asked the attendant if she could look at the cat’s hind legs, because Sassy was attacked by a hawk when she was young and had long furless scars on her legs.

The attendant showed her the cats legs, and it wasn’t Sassy. “The attendant said he believed that this cat was male, rubbed his head, and showed me the cat’s ‘fangs’ which he said were very rare.  The cat was very docile when the attendant was touching him, so I knew he wasn’t completely feral,” Pam said.

Pam went back to the Burlington pound again on Friday, Nov. 2. “I first went back to again check for my Sassy, but I had already decided that I wanted the black cat that looked so very much like her.  I had thought about him for 2 days and keep seeing his eyes.” She had already picked out a name for him: Spirit.

She told the attendant who escorted her that  she wanted the cat and pointed the cat out to him. “He told me that the animals had to go through evaluation and the adoption process before I could receive one.  He said he didn’t think there was anything I could do to get him before going through the adoption process, but that I could speak with the lady at the desk.”

Pam went back to the waiting room:

“I spoke with the clerk there. I told her that I wanted the cat. She repeated the mantra about the evaluation they would have to go through. I told her that money was no object; I would pay for any evaluation, spay/neutering, and necessary shots. Then she said that it wasn’t that easy, that first there had to be space for the animal in the adoption center. I told her that space was not necessary because as soon as the procedures were complete, I would be taking the cat home with me. She told me that people can’t just pick out one of the strays because it may not pass the health screening. She said that a common occurrence when there are many cats in a cage is the presence of an upper respiratory infection. (I know that is no reason to kill a cat; my cat had a URI at one point and responded wonderfully to antibiotics.) I told her again that I was willing to take that chance and would pay for it. She then explained how people get angry about not being able to get one of the cats back there, but that they just don’t understand how many animals go through the shelter and mentioned that there were thousands that pass through the doors.

“That’s when I told her that I didn’t understand; that if there were that many stray and abandoned animals, why wouldn’t they make a way for one to have a good home when it is wanted?  She told me that I would just have to check back with the adoption center the next week to see if the cat made adoption status. (I have no doubt she was well aware that the animals in the room that this cat was in are not even considered for adoption.)  I asked her if the Humane Society could intercede and help me get this cat, to which she said “no.”  I asked her if pulling rank by being the sheriff’s first cousin held any weight; again she said “no.” After slamming into the “brick wall” for over 5 minutes resulting in the same mantra (“check with the adoption center next week”), I finally left determined to call Bev [the woman from the Humane Society] anyway.

“I did stop by the adoption center on my way out which is where I held a third conversation with a staff employee. I explained to him what I wanted and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. He told me he couldn’t help; I would just have to check back next week.  I asked him about the availability of “space” for one to be evaluated.  He told me that they had recently expanded to get more cages and that there were two cages currently open. (So at this point, space was NOT a reason for sending the cat to be exterminated. How about maybe no one bothered to ASK if there was any space for the cat.) He quickly assured me that there was nothing he could do to help me.”

Pam left and called the woman at the humane society, who told her the names of supervisors to ask for. “I would like to point out that during this entire time, no one mentioned referring me to someone in charge, such as Tina Meeks or Tammy Penley.”

Pam went back to the pound and spoke with Ms. Meeks, who asked Pam to show her the cat she was interested in. “We went into the middle room and my heart sank when I saw the cages were all empty,” Pam said. “I pointed to the top cage and told her that the cat I wanted was in there. She then told me that she had filled out he euthanasia orders on all of those cats early that morning. She said he had been put down that morning. I asked her at least twice if she was sure that the deed had already been done and she assured me that it had been done. I am embarrassed to say that I sat there and cried like a baby.”

Ms. Meeks told Pam that incoming animals are separated into two groups: surrendered and most likely adoptable and strays who must be held for 3 days and probably won’t be “adoptable” (by whatever the pound’s standards are for adoptability).  The strays are generally killed after 3 days with no attempt to adopt them out.  “For all intents and purposes, it’s a death sentence from the time they are put in the cages,” Pam said. “They’re just faced with caged indifference for 3 long days before being executed.”

“After speaking to Ms. Meeks, I realized that stonewalling is what is expected of the employees,” Pam said. “Ms. Meeks assured me that the desk lady did as she was supposed to do when someone inquires about the strays.”

The next day, while thinking back on events, Pam said “a sudden realization made the shock more horrific”:

“There was a roll up garage door in the room with the strays. While I was standing there discussing the cat’s adoption with the attendant that took me back, the door suddenly opened and startled me so badly I jumped. The attendant said it was just the overhead and started leading me out of the room. I kept trying to look in the cages on the truck that backed to the door, but couldn’t see any animals in them. I asked him if they were bringing more animals in and tried to look in case mine was in one of them. He said he didn’t know and ushered me back through to the entrance desk.  He told me to discuss the adoption with the desk clerk, although he didn’t think there was anything that could be done without the adoption process being completed. He also told me I would have to check back at the adoption center later. Then he went back in the rooms we had just left.

“The supervisor, Tina Meeks, told me she had issued the euthanasia papers early that morning for all the cats in the back cages and that they were put down that morning. As I didn’t leave until about 11:15, I wondered how it had happened so quickly after I left. Then it hit me: the truck that had backed up to the dock was picking up the cats to be taken to be gassed. That means the attendant that was standing right beside me and the cat telling me to check back with adoption next week, also knew that the cat I wanted was being loaded as we spoke to be executed.  He went back in there to help them load the truck. He lied to me; the desk clerk lied to me. And I figured out why: It was coming up noon on Friday and it would have been too much trouble to have to rework the paperwork that had already been issued.  I feel certain that if the clerk had called her supervisor, Ms. Meeks may have tried to stop that cat from being taken out. As I said, she apologized over and over yesterday afternoon and said she didn’t know. But she also said that the employees did their job by telling me what they were supposed to say to anyone who asked about he strays. This is obviously a common occurrence, but I guess they figure no one will be as dogged as I was about coming back to fight with them. Most people probably just check back, don’t find the animal they wanted, and figure it didn’t make it through the evaluation.”

People who defend shelter killing love to say “Nobody WANTS to kill animals,” before spouting some excuse for the killing like “There are just too many animals and not enough homes.” Pam Lee went to the Burlington pound repeatedly and begged several staffers to be allowed to give a cat a home and save it from being killed. But the staff at the Burlington Animal “Shelter” wanted to kill that cat. They lied to Pam Lee just so they would be able to kill that cat.

*Headline blatantly ripped off from YesBiscuit.


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

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.


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

Rescue tries to save mama dog, Wilson County pound kills her after sending her pups to NJ

Beth Wilson, a.k.a. the Durham Animal Advocacy Examiner has posted an article about a mama dog in the Wilson County Pound who was killed after her 5-week old puppies were sent to a rescue in New Jersey, even though there was a rescue committed to saving her.

A Pennsylvania group called Pregnant Dog Rescue learned about “Mama,” who entered the Wilson pound on Oct. 2, and began trying to coordinate rescue and transport for her and her pups with the goal of getting them out by Oct. 13. A Wilson pound volunteer notified the group on Oct. 10 that Mama and pups had been pulled by another group. PD Rescue learned the next day that the rescue group had taken only the unweaned pups, leaving Mama behind.

Through the volunteer, PD Rescue notified the Wilson pound on the morning of Oct. 12 that they would be coming to get Mama. They received an email later that day notifying them that the pound had killed Mama even though she had a rescue committed to saving her.

For their part, Companion Animal Rescue & Education in New Jersey, who pulled Mama’s pups, say they were never told by the Wilson County Pound that Mama existed. Please read the whole article at

Defenders of shelters are fond of saying “No one wants to kill animals” and “They’re doing the best they can” to excuse  the killing of healthy and treatable pets. Wilson County pound did the best they could to make sure they killed Mama. They lied about Mama’s existence to the rescue that took the puppies, then they killed her even though they knew a rescue group was committed to saving her.

NC animal shelter laws are so toothless and full of holes that it’s perfectly legal for a pound to kill a pet even when a rescue group is begging to save her, or for a pound to adopt out unweaned pets and kill their mothers. For that matter, they are free to summarily kill them all at will without even attempting to find a rescue. This is just one of the many reasons North Carolina needs a Companion Animal Protection Act.

North Carolina public pounds killed 64.98 percent of the animals that entered them in 2011. But those stats don’t tell the whole story of what’s broken in the NC “shelter” system:

  • NC pounds may withhold animals from public viewing and adoption for any reason and consequently kill them as “unadoptable.” (Among the reasons shelter volunteers tell me they have heard for killing animals rather than offering the public the chance to adopt them are “too old,” “there are too many black dogs,” “there are too many labs,” “it looks like a pit bull,” “it barked at other dogs.” In Granville County, the pound director declares pets unadoptable just because she doesn’ t want to hear volunteers protest when she decides to kill them later.)
  • NC pounds are free to turn away volunteers who would like to help save animals lives and provide them with care for free. They also often retaliate against volunteers who expose what goes on in the shelter.
  • NC pounds are allowed to kill animals even when there is a qualified rescue group ready and willing to save them.
  • NC pounds are allowed to kill pets even when there are plenty of empty cages. NC shelters are free to kill all the pets so that staff doesn’t have to come in to feed and clean over a holiday.
  • NC pounds are free to impound and kill feral cats even though it has proven to be a very ineffective method of controlling the feral cat population compared to neutering them and returning them to their habitat, where they can live long, healthy and happy lives.
  • NC pounds may adopt out companion animals without requiring that they be spayed or neutered.
  • NC shelters are not required to report their intake and outcome statistics because there is currently no penalty for failure to report (aside from ineligibility for the spay/neuter program, which most counties don’t bother with).

Because too many shelters are not voluntarily implementing the programs and services that would prevent killing of shelter pets, animals are being needlessly killed. And because animals are being needlessly killed, taxpayer money is being needlessly wasted. CAPA addresses this issue by:

  • Establishing that saving lives and public safety are compatible;
  • Protecting all species of shelter animals;
  • Making it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to save that animal;
  • Requiring shelters to have fully functioning adoption programs including offsite adoptions, use of the internet to promote their animals, and ample adoption hours when the public is available;
  • Prohibiting shelters from killing animals based on arbitrary criteria when alternatives to killing exist;
  • Requiring sterilization of adopted animals;
  • Requiring animal control to allow volunteers to help with fostering, socializing, and assisting with adoptions; and
  • Requiring shelters to be truthful about how many animals they kill and adopt by making their statistics public.

CAPA would save taxpayer money by mandating public-private partnerships that not only reduce expenses associated with having to care for then kill and dispose of an animal, but which transfers expenses from taxpayers to private philanthropy. It would also bring in revenue through adoption fees. CAPA is modeled after a similar law which has been in effect in California since 1999. An analysis of that law found that sending animals to non-profit animal rescue organizations saved the City and County of San Francisco $486,480 in publicly funded animal control costs. Under CAPA, shelters can also charge the cost of an adoption to those groups, thereby bringing in needed revenues and defraying any costs associated with implementation.

For more information about CAPA legislation, please visit If you are interested in helping introduce a statewide CAPA bill, please contact me at crashtestmoonpie (at) gmail (dotcom), or comment on this post.

Meanwhile, there is no reason for people in Wilson County to wait for a statewide CAPA law to reform their own county pound, because CAPA can be introduced at the city and county level, too. Wilson County residents can send information about CAPA to County Manager Ellis Williford and members of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners.


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

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).


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