Tag Archives: Cruelty to animals

Beating and killing your own dog isn’t considered cruelty in Ashe County

Even though the names of the private citizens involved in this story are a matter of public record, I’m leaving them out. If you must know them, send a public records request to the Ashe County Manager. I will name the dog, however: she was a pit bull named Bullet.

In North Carolina, it is a Class H felony to “maliciously torture, mutilate, maim, cruelly beat, disfigure, poison, or kill, or cause or procure to be tortured, mutilated, maimed, cruelly beaten, disfigured, poisoned, or killed, any animal.”

So, if someone reports that they heard their neighbor beat his dog, heard the dog crying and yelping as if in great pain and then heard gunshots that ended the crying and yelping, do you think local law enforcement should perhaps at least investigate whether felony animal cruelty occurred?

If you said  yes, I hope you don’t live in Ashe County, NC, because you would be very disappointed. No one seems to have told the folks in charge there that cruelly beating and killing a dog is a felony in the state of North Carolina. They all still seem to think that if a dog is your property, you can do whatever you want with her.

Sometime in September*, an Ashe County resident called the sheriff’s communications center to report that her neighbor had horribly beaten and killed his dog after the dog had killed her Yorkie. According to an email from a sheriff’s captain to County Manager Pat Mitchell, “neighbors and their children could hear dog crying and yelping and heard the beating” before the man shot and killed the dog.

Took it home and beat it really bad. Neighbors and their children could hear dog crying and yelping and heard the beating.

The comm center referred the call to Animal Control, where it was handled by ACO Dana Shatley. According to an email from Animal Control Director Joe Testerman to Dr. Mitchell, the ACO  “explained that Mr. ___ did have a legal right to destroy his own property,” and that had the man not killed his dog, he would have been told to keep the dog on his property and issued a citation.

Well, I guess that settles it, then.

"It seems reasonable to me since the owner killed his own animal"

One may presume the rules are different if the animal one beats and kills belongs to someone else. That would probably be theft.

According to one email, a sheriff’s employee reported the incident to social services because the man’s 3-year-old son was present during the killing, and to “Narcs” because the man is “a meth user” and a convicted felon.

None of the emails mention any concern over why a convicted felon has a firearm. I guess if he’s only using it to dispose of his own property they’re all good with that up in Ashe County.

*I don’t know the exact date of the incident because the only records County Manager Pat Mitchell sent me as a result of my public records request were emails written more than a month after the incident.  Information I obtained elsewhere puts the date around Sept 23. Even though the emails reference calls to the county comm center, which are recorded and logged, I received no records from the sheriff’s department at all. Sheriff James Williams told me he had sent all dispatch records regarding this incident to Dr. Mitchell, and Dr. Mitchell told me she sent me everything she received. I can’t say if these records are being deliberately withheld from me or if this is just bureaucratic incompetence at work, but it appears the only way I would get these records is by filing a legal complaint against Ashe County.


Filed under Abuse, Ashe County, cruelty

Surry animal advocates hope abused, abandoned dogs are safe in the pound

A Surry County animal control officer  took custody last week of  two severely injured pit bulls*, found tethered with heavy logging chains behind a vacant business in Mt. Airy. The two reportedly are receiving care at the Surry County pound. One of the dogs had a lip hanging off of his muzzle and the other had a broken leg. According to a local rescuer, there was blood splattered over the surrounding area.

The news report doesn’t say what treatment the dogs have received at the Surry County Pound or what their current condition is.

One Surry animal advocate asked me: “I wonder if these two boys will be the first pits to leave that shelter alive?” According to records obtained from Surry County as a result of a public records request, 17 “pit bulls” left the shelter alive between Jan. 1 and Oct 23, 2012: three were “released to owner” and 14 were “returned to owner.” (I have no idea what the difference is.) Of the 14 dogs released to rescue and 111 dogs adopted from the Surry pound during that time period, none were identified as “pit bulls.” (Not that animal control officers or shelter workers are actually are any good at identifying actual pit bulls when they see them, because they typically are not.)

The Surry County pound had a kill rate of almost 91% in 2011. Between Jan 1 and Oct. 23, 2012, the overall kill rate was just under 89%.

*I’m only calling them pit bulls because the news report does. One looks reasonably pit bull-esque, but the other looks more like an American bulldog, Rhodesian ridgeback or boxer mix.

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Filed under Surry County

Ashe County fires animal control officer, still isn’t a great place for animals

An Ashe County animal control officer has been fired after not responding to a call that would have “justified emergency response from animal control,” and then later lying about the incident to county officials. While it may appear that Ashe officials have taken care of the problem by firing one ACO, it could be argued that the incident sheds light on  a generally regressive attitude toward animals and their humane treatment by Ashe County employees.

The incident occurred on Sept. 27, when Animal Control Director Joe Testerman and his two AC officers were trying to capture a dog in response to calls from neighborhood residents. Testerman said the dog behaved aggressively toward the officers, so even though he had a catchpole, he decided to “capture the dog by shooting it,” according to a report he made later to County Manager Pat Mitchell.  The dog was shot but escaped alive, and according to Testerman it “was later found dead on Beaver Drive not far from where it was shot.” Testerman’s only concern about the incident appears to have been that the dog “was shot by a rifle at close range were a side arm would have been a better choice.”

Email from Joe Testerman to Pat Mitchell 10/09/2012

It turns out that the dog was “found” in the basement of a Beaver Drive residence, and “later” was the next morning. The dog had shown up there sometime before 7 pm the night before, alive and bleeding from his gunshot wound. The resident had called the sheriff’s communications center, and a dispatcher called ACO Jim Walters. Following is a transcript from the recorded call:

Dispatcher: Did you go out and shoot a dog this morning?
Walters: Uh, Dana shot it and we lost it.
Dispatcher: Well the lady says it’s back in her yard again. She didn’t know what to do with it.
Walters: Well …
Dispatcher: It’s, it’s not dead.
Walters: Okay, it’s not bothering anything, is it?
Dispatcher: Ah, uh, she didn’t say it was.
Walters: All right. Well, it probably wouldn’t be considered as an emergency. We’ll just try to get up there in the morning and pop it again.
Dispatcher: Okay.
Walters: I don’t want to shoot it with all these people home, you know.
Dispatcher: Yeah, yeah.
Walters: And, but I’ll call … I’m gonna be off tomorrow, but I’ll call Dana and tell him to go up there in the morning first thing and see if it’s there and pop him again and get it.

Setting aside Walters’ lack of concern about the animal’s suffering (he’s been fired, after all), what about the response by the dispatcher? A wounded dog is bleeding and, we can assume, suffering in someone’s basement and the dispatcher’s only response when an AC officer proposed leaving the dog there overnight was “Okay.”

Even if you don’t consider the animal’s suffering, what about the resident who has called the sheriff’s dispatcher about this wounded dog in her basement? Regardless of how deeply she may or may not have been affected by the suffering, she most likely called dispatch because she did not want a wounded and bleeding dog in her basement.

And in fact, shortly after the resident called, a neighbor called dispatch about the dog, stressing the fact to the dispatcher that the dog was bleeding and appeared to have been shot:

Dispatch: I talked to the animal control officer and he said that if it, hang on, he said that if the animal wasn’t causing any problems that they would just come out tomorrow and they would take care of it.
Caller: [unintelligible] is they’ve got it shut up in their basement and they said it looked like it might have been shot cause it’s bleeding.
Dispatcher: It’s what, I’m sorry, what did you say?
Caller: My neighbor called, it was another neighbor come down, because they knew that I knew one of the animal control officers and been in contact with him, and they said they’ve got it shut up in their basement as I said, but they said it’s kind of bleeding, looked like it might have been shot.
Dispatch: Yeah, it has been shot. They shot it, but they couldn’t find it.
Caller: Oh, OK.
Dispatcher: But they said they’d come put tomorrow and take care of it.
Caller: Oh, OK, thank you.

At some point, wouldn’t someone with a humane, compassionate outlook think: it’s not fair to anyone involved–the dog or the people–to leave this situation until tomorrow?

This incident may have never been heard about again, but the residents involved were so unhappy about the way the situation was handled that they complained about it to other people, and at some point the complaint reached Pat Mitchell, who investigated.

Despite the investigation,  there’s still one question left unasked and unanswered: how did the dog die? Joe Testerman said in his report that the only injury they saw was the single gunshot wound, so presumably the dog bled to death in that basement.

UPDATE: There is actually another wrinkle to this story that I had forgotten. There was a reference to this incident in emails I received following a different public records request. A sheriff’s department employee told Pat Mitchell that she heard of the incident from her grandson, who told her about an AC officer “shooting a dog in front of a group of kids and then the dog getting in his friend’s basement and the father having to kill it.” (Which partially answers the question of how the dog  died.) The sheriff’s employee said “Frankly, I disregarded this as I was sure no animal control officer would do that with 5 kids there.”

Email from Ashe County Sheriff's employee to County Manager

The emails, reports and audio files linked to in this post were obtained via a public records request.


Filed under Ashe County

Roanoke Valley SPCA may regret banning volunteer over photos

The Roanoke Valley SPCA, an ostensibly No Kill organization, has a contract with four municipalities (City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Town of Vinton) to run the Roanoke Valley Regional Center for Animal Control & Protection, an animal pound in Roanoke, VA.  RVSPCA and RCACP, which share an executive director, are both in the same building owned by RVSPCA , which also owns Animal Care Services, the company that runs the daily operations. Last year the RCACP took in 6,438 cats and dogs and killed 3,355, or 52% of them.

“So a No Kill organization owns a company that performs euthanasia on pretty much a daily basis. Kind of misleading isn’t it?” said former volunteer Tina Robertson, who was banned  from the facility two weeks ago after having logged hundreds of volunteer hours there since last November. Ms. Robertson often took photos of cats and kittens in RCACP to  post on Facebook in an attempt to get them adopted.  She believes her banning was because some photos she posted showed the white tags outside the cages listing the reason each animal is to be killed.

RVSPCA cage card

This cage card lists the reason the cat inside is to be killed as “space,” despite the fact that, according to animal advocate ChrisTina Robertson there were approximately 25 empty cages available.

“The reason for euthanasia was space but there were three empty rooms of cages, probably 25 cages empty” Ms. Robertson said.

Two days after the photos were posted to Facebook, RVSPCA volunteer coordinator Ruth Pierce sent Ms. Robertson an email saying “In view of the events this past Saturday, your volunteer privileges have been suspended until further notice.”

Because of the attention brought  by a news story about Ms. Robertson’s banning, RVSPCA’s directors found themselves dodging calls from reporters when they made the news again, this time because Botetourt County decided to pull all of its cats out of RCACP so they wouldn’t be killed for spurious reasons. The future of participation by other municipalities may also come into question.

Then the City of Roanoke announced plans to audit the use of public money between the RVSPCA and the RCACP and the use of town employees to do RVSPCA work. The RCACP is already under a cruelty investigation by the Roanoke Police Department stemming from a June incident, and the localities that fund the pound are now looking closely at the agreement to see if criminal charges or convictions can void the contract.

The June incident that sparked the cruelty investigation involved a pit bull mix named Trinity, who came into the RCACP and was seen by a veterinarian on May 29. That vet said Trinity’s foot would need treatment in the long run, but there was no mention in the May 29 paperwork of any serious injury to the foot. But almost two weeks later, on June 9, another veterinarian saw Trinity and concluded that as a result of an untreated severe bed sore,  the leg could not be saved. “The bone itself had been exposed long enough that it was dying and dissolving.” he said.

This is not the first time RVSPCA cruelty or neglect has come to light. In 2010 a cat named Pumpkin, who had been seized from a home along with 20 other cats, was impounded at the RCACP. She was examined right away by a  community veterinarian who then went over her needs with the staff. Despite the fact that the card on her cage said she needed insulin, she was given none for an entire week at RCACP. Pumpkin went into a  diabetic coma and the RVSPCA vet recommended she be euthanized.

In a transparent attempt to defuse criticism and scrutiny of its operations, the RVSPCA has decided to conduct an internal investigation. The task force carrying out the probe is made up of RVSPCA directors, including board president Barbara Dalhouse and her husband Warner.

Volunteers at pounds across the country are often afraid to speak up about the cruelty, neglect and needless killing they witness because they are afraid it will get them banned and they won’t be able to help the animals. But as Ms. Robertson’s case illustrates, getting banned could open up a brand new hope for the animals stuck in pounds like RCACP by shedding light on an  empire of indifference, neglect and corruption.


Filed under Banning volunteers, Virginia