Grand Jury Findings in Mendocino Co, CA Shelter Investigation

A recent investigation by the Mendocino Co grand jury into the county shelter in Ukiah, CA revealed some troubling findings:

  • Owners attempting to surrender pets at the shelter are regularly turned away, in violation of CA law.
  • The shelter is overcrowded and overflow animals are kept in crates.  Some animals have lived at the shelter for more than a year.
  • The shelter is infested with rats.
  • There is a contentious relationship between shelter staff and ACOs, each falling under separate departments.  The ACOs feel the staff doesn’t want them bringing animals to the facility.  As a result, ACOs tend to work with animal abusers over extended periods of time rather than seize their animals.

Additional grand jury findings:

  • Some veterinarians refuse to work with ACOs because they don’t believe the ACOs seize abused animals in a timely manner and the abusers are not barred from immediately obtaining more animals.
  • ACOs in the field do not have access to the computer system containing licensing information and therefore must use their personal cell phones to call shelter staff when they pick up stray animals.  Because cell service is spotty and the staff only answer the phones some of the time, the ACOs don’t bother trying to get the information they need to return lost pets in the field.  These animals are all brought to the overcrowded, rat infested shelter.

Although it’s stated in the Mendocino Co ACO manual that they are required to maintain confidentiality in their duties, the grand jury found ACOs were telling animal abusers the names of people who complained about them.  As a result, many tipsters and their children were harassed in retaliation.

The grand jury made a number of recommendations including placing ACOs and shelter staff under the same department, training for shelter management, third party inspections at the shelter on a quarterly basis, annual ethics training for ACOs, computer access in the ACO vehicles, and the development of protocols for handling abuse cases.  The Mendocino Co shelter manager, the county sheriff, and the county board of supervisors are just some of the people required to respond to the grand jury findings.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

MI Shelter Closed and ACO Suspended After Dogs Found in Grave Condition

The shelter for the city of River Rouge, MI appears to fall under the police department.  The website says:

River Rouge Animal Control is operated by the Animal Control Officer Ernest Bowling Sr. The Animal Control Officer is available Monday, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

ACO Bowling recently brought two dogs in need of immediate veterinary care to the city shelter, and while no one can say exactly when that was (?), it was presumably on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday.  Both dogs were apparently left in cages to suffer. When the manager arrived on Tuesday, apparently seeing the dogs for the first time, both were dying:

“The pit bull had a hole in his head so that when he would take a breath blood would squirt out,” [volunteer Tom] Maskeny said. “There was blood on the sidewalk and in the shelter from him.”

[...]

Maskeny said the Yorkie also was just tossed into a cage. When volunteers arrived it was laying on the concrete next to a bowl of food, not moving.

Both dogs were taken to a vet who euthanized the elderly yorkie but was able to save the pitbull.

ACO Bowling has been suspended while an investigation is conducted and the shelter is being closed. The animals are being transferred to other facilities and a call for foster homes has been issued.

I don’t know any history on this shelter but it’s hard to imagine that this event occurred in a vacuum.  It’s also concerning that the police department will likely investigate itself in the matter.  If anyone sees any updates on this story, please share.

Pets Go Missing After Animal Control Gets Involved

Doozie Bean, as pictured on The Evening Tribune's website.

Doozie Bean, as pictured on The Evening Tribune’s website.

Annie Allison and her family have owned their beloved cat Doozie Bean for 9 years. He’s been missing since May 7, when he was reportedly trapped in a neighbor’s yard by the ACO for Hornell, NY. Prior to setting the traps in the neighbor’s yard, Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan states the ACO was supposed to knock on doors of area homes to alert residents. In addition, any cats trapped are supposed to be held for 5 days in order to give owners a chance to reclaim them. The ACO in this case, Gary Hadsell, appears to have not followed procedures.

After Ms. Allison brought her concerns to Mayor Hogan, the mayor denied any knowledge of traps being set. He says he talked with ACO Hadsell who reportedly admitted losing one of the cats he trapped. The ACO also apparently denied ever trapping Doozie Bean, claiming he has the ability to immediately distinguish feral cats from owned pets based on their behavior in the trap. The article doesn’t say if he also pulls rabbits out of hats or whether he’s available for kiddie birthday parties.

Mayor Hogan says ACO Hadsell has resigned. This too is clear as mud:

When reached for comment on his resignation, Hadsell said, “I don’t believe I did (resign). If you have any questions, call Shawn Hogan.”

Mayor Hogan also says that because of what happened with Doozie Bean, his city is getting out of the trapping business.

In the meantime, Ms. Allison and her family are heartbroken. She continues to search for Doozie Bean, driving around for hours, whistling for him and shaking cat treats out the window.

***

Blue, as depicted in a screengrab from the WREG website.

Blue, as depicted in a screengrab from the WREG website.

In West Memphis, AR a dog named Blue got spooked during a thunderstorm Saturday night and got lost.  A police officer took him to the West Memphis pound.  When Blue’s owner inquired at the pound Sunday, he was relieved to hear his pet was there.  But Blue’s cage was found empty.  Pound director Kerry Sneed says she personally locked the gate on Blue’s cage Saturday night and that it did not appear that he had escaped on his own.

For several hours Sunday morning, Sneed said there was a window of opportunity for people on the property to steal the dog.

Well gee.  Is that the sort of failure that taxpayers in West Memphis are supposed to accept?  What is being done to actually shelter animals from harm once they arrive at the so-called shelter?  Anything?

The owner, George Johnson, continues to walk the streets, calling for Blue.  He has made his e-mail address public in an effort to get any possible leads on the whereabouts of his pet: rjhealthfirst@yahoo.com

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Detroit Police Shoot 3 Dogs, ACOs Drag Their Bodies Down the Street

A Detroit ACO chokepoles a dog, possibly dead, across a street.  Screengrab from mlive.com.

A Detroit ACO chokepoles a dog, possibly dead, across a street. Screengrab from mlive.com.

Detroit police in riot gear entered a home in a drug raid last week, shooting 3 dogs who were inside the home.  The police called animal control to pick up the dogs.  Detroit ACOs used chokepoles to drag the dogs, who appeared limp and bloody, across the street in front of neighborhood children.  One dog’s entrails were reportedly falling out.  ACOs then heaved the dogs, who were possibly dead, onto the truck which contained live dogs.

These are your public servants, paid by your taxes to protect your community’s pets and promote the human-animal bond.  I guess we’re not giving them enough cupcakes.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Nashville’s Faux Rescue of 38 Dogs Represents Years of Failure

Bad:  Earlier this month, Metro police in Nashville arrested six people in connection with a drug trafficking investigation.  While raiding the home of Michael A. Davis, one of the six charged, police discovered dozens of chained pitbull type dogs in the yard.  Some of the dogs were emaciated and others had open wounds (photos of the dogs here).  In addition, police found items often associated with dogfighting including canine treadmills, syringes, and a rape rack.  WSMV reports that 38 dogs were transferred to the Nashville pound last Tuesday as a result of the raid.

Worse:  The night of the seizure, five of the “rescued” dogs, all of whom were apparently unsupervised, were involved in a fight which erupted after two of them got loose.  One dog was killed, another was seriously injured and the other three sustained minor injuries.  After the needless death and suffering on the rescuers’ (non-existent) watch, officials decided it might be a good idea to supervise the dogs 24 hours a day.

Worst:  After the seizure, the county “discovered” that people had been begging the Nashville pound to help the dogs chained at the Davis home for years.  As far back as 2010 and as recently as 2013, citizens had been reporting that Davis’s dogs were being neglected and possibly used for fighting.  The county was “concerned with the lack of documentation of these complaints” and will investigate itself in the matter.  In the meantime, two of the pound’s ACOs are being paid to not work during the investigation.

This waggy dog, shown on the Nashville.gov website, appears to be in decent shape, unlike some of the other dogs seized by law enforcement in the raid.

This waggy dog, shown on the Nashville.gov website, appears to be in decent shape, unlike some of the other dogs seized by law enforcement in the raid.

It sounds as if these dogs could have been rescued – for real, not the fake kind where they end up dead and injured the night they get “saved” – years ago if the Nashville pound had been doing its job.  Unfortunately, Nashville has long considered its “job” to be killing and if the dogs had been rescued in response to the previous complaints, they likely would have been killed under Nashville’s only recently modified Kill Them All pitbull policy.  Tragically, this way too late botched rescue is probably the best these abuse victims could hope for in Nashville.

(Thanks Karen and Clarice for the links.)

Dog Abusing City’s ACO Charged with Cruelty

The city of Winnfield, LA is home to Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials – an annual event where dogs are turned loose in an enclosure with wild hogs whose tusks have been removed. The length of time it takes the dog to pin down and/or maim the hog determines the winner. Winnfield proudly advertises the blood sport on its website, describing the event as the “Super Bowl” of hog dog rodeos.

Although Winnfield’s city website does not mention an animal control officer, it apparently has one.  Or had – as the last one is currently in jail, charged with animal cruelty.  Former Winnfield ACO Eva Wise allegedly stopped paying rent in October 2013.  At that time, her landlord, who was preparing to evict her, received a phone call from the Heart of Louisiana Humane Society requesting permission to access the property for a cruelty investigation.

Wise had allegedly left 9 dogs on the property she abandoned, chained without food or water along with 8 dogs and a litter of puppies on another property one mile away.  Two of the dogs were already dead and the rest were reportedly in such bad shape, all but two were euthanized on site.

The landlord, Jennifer Johnson, says she asked Wise why the dogs had been left to starve to death:

“She just said that she couldn’t hardly afford to feed herself, much less the animals and she had said that she had told some of her husband’s family they needed to come get the dogs because she had apparently up and left and this had been for several weeks,” said Johnson.

Although the dogs were discovered in October 2013, Wise was not arrested until February 28, 2014.  Law enforcement declined to explain the reason for the lengthy delay.  She has since pleaded not guilty to seven counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.  Her court date has been set for July 28.  One of the two surviving dogs has an adoption application pending and the other is available for adoption.

City of Winnfield, this is your wake-up call. Stop being proud of hurting dogs and start attracting a different element in your animal control department.  Every dog has the right to live, to love and to be loved.  Advertise that.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me this story.)

WV Animal Control Officer Violates Law in Dog Killing, Will Keep Job

A Fayette County dog bit a child on March 11, 2014 and stitches were required as a result of the injury. Fayette Co ACO Russell Parker seized the dog and was advised by the owner that the dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner stated the dog had attacked another person in past and agreed to have the dog euthanized.

The Fayette Co animal control director is the only person licensed to euthanize animals for the county and she works at a veterinary clinic. When ACO Russell was advised by the county health department on March 12 that the dog’s head needed to be sent to a lab for rabies testing ASAP, the individual licensed to perform euthanasia was contacted. She stated she would come to the county facility after her shift ended at the clinic that afternoon to perform the euthanasia. The dog’s owner had already paid the vet clinic for the euthanasia.

ACO Russell decided the euthanasia could not be delayed and opted to shoot the dog to death with a small caliber rifle. He did not inform the animal control director of his intentions.  Nor did he exercise the most obvious option of immediately transporting the dog to the vet clinic for the euthanasia. After killing the dog, he reportedly used some sort of tool to remove the head and sent it to a lab for testing.

West Virginia code allows for the shooting of dogs under limited circumstances and there are specific protocols which must be followed:

(c) In an emergency or in a situation in which a dog cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, a dog may be destroyed by shooting if:

(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and

(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the dog’s suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

The animal control director filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office regarding the killing. The sheriff’s investigator determined that ACO Parker was in violation of the law as he did not use a firearm capable of killing the dog with one shot. In fact, ACO Parker shot the dog three times before he finally died, causing needless pain and suffering.

Fayette Co sheriff Steve Kessler concluded that despite the violation of the law which resulted in the dog’s agonizing death, there were no grounds to fire ACO Parker. His reasoning:

  • ACO Parker was trying to to get the dog’s head to the lab as quickly as possible for the sake of the bitten child and thought this was the only way to do it.
  • Using a weapon of insufficient caliber to kill the pet with a single shot as required by law is exactly the same as when a technician tries to euthanize a pet by injection, misses the vein and must re-insert the needle.
  • Serving as an ACO is a “dirty, nasty” job which pays slightly more than minimum wage.

As to the first point, it does not seem credible to me that ACO Parker thought shooting the dog to death was the only way to get the head submitted for testing right away. He didn’t even explore the alternatives such as driving the dog to the clinic himself or requesting the services of another clinic. Regarding the second point, a missed venipuncture with a small needle is in no way, shape or form the equivalent of a small caliber rifle shot. One does not cause the same pain and suffering as the other, as posited by Sheriff Kessler in his press release.  And lastly, whether or not the sheriff thinks sheltering animals is a “dirty, nasty” job is irrelevant, as is the pay.  The sheriff is sworn to uphold the law which in this case, was violated.

Local animal advocates had been calling for ACO Parker’s termination.  Sheriff Kessler stated that ACO Parker has been disciplined but refused to elaborate.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

GA Animal Control Officer Posts Images Mocking Dead Pets

Barrow County Animal Control Officer Danyal Harper has been on the job for nine years and was promoted to director of the long-troubled Georgia pound on March 25.  Then an anonymous tipster sent screencaps of ACO Harper’s Photobucket account to the local news and all hell broke loose.  So what was ACO Harper posting on Photobucket?  Compassionate people will find these descriptions difficult to read:

The first item was a short clip from a You Tube music video about a board game called “Euthanasia!” that “makes you want to kill your pets.”

When a character on the video asks, “What am I going to do with all these kittens?” the other players respond, “Euthanasia!” And on the game board is a silver device called “The Pound” where the plastic kittens are dropped to their deaths.

Harper also posted an actual photo of a dog copulating with a duck; a photo of two gun-toting GI Joe dolls in camouflage standing on the carcass of a dead squirrel; two photos of “Free Cat” roadside signs posted next to dead cats; and a poster of a kitten that states: “KITTENS. You have to love them. God knows you’ve killed so many already.”

More:

One of the posts includes a satirical advertisement for a Cat Carrier— a contraption with a “stabilizer screw” on one end and muzzle on the other— that’s designed to transport a cat. An “endorsement” states that the device helps mold the cat “into a well-mannered creature God intended.”

Another is a photo of a dead cat with a sign pointing to it saying “Free Cat” and underneath is written “Charitability: At least your heart is in the right place.”

Although news outlets characterized the disturbing images as “dark humor” and “off-color”, there is no indication from ACO Harper as to whether he thought the images were dark, funny, some kind of turn-on, or anything else since he emptied his Photobucket account and hid from reporters:

11 Alive went by the animal control office where we were told Harper was on duty, but that he did not want to comment on the controversial pictures.

At a hastily called meeting yesterday, the Barrow Co Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to yank ACO Harper’s promotion. But he’s still the senior ACO for the county because, you know, it’s not clear whether the postings are indicative of any really serious problems. In order to determine that, the county will investigate itself.

I am not a psychiatrist but I get gallows humor. Totally. I have many years of experience with it as a coping mechanism. This ain’t that. Anyone who reads the descriptions and/or sees these images should be immediately struck by how NOT THAT they are. Why is Barrow Co still paying this guy to handle animals? Would any of the county commissioners like to volunteer their kids or grandkids to be under this ACO’s care? Perhaps a kiddie camping trip in the woods with ACO Harper, just to show the community they have full faith in the guy? [tumbleweed]

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

On-Call KY ACO Charged with DUI

Take a look at the And-For-My-Next-Trick-I’ll-Jump-Through-These Rings-of-Fire adoption application required to save a pet from being killed by the Scott Co pound in KY.  The last question on the form is:

Would you allow a home visit by a representative of the Scott County Animal Shelter?

See, the Scott Co ACO must judge you. To see if you are good enough to save a homeless pet from going to the landfill.

Scott Co ACO Leitha Burton was on-call Monday night when she took the county AC truck home with her.  But instead of responding to emergency animal calls that night, ACO Burton allegedly got drunk and her truck smashed into two vehicles and a house on her street, causing over $30,000 in damages.

When police arrived at the crash scene, they reportedly found ACO Burton alone:

Police say Burton was charged with DUI because she admitted to drinking and driving, and because she smelled of an alcoholic beverage and was unsteady on her feet.

While ACO Burton reportedly admitted to drinking and driving the county truck shortly before the crash, she claimed another woman had been driving at the time of the crash and that the driver had run away before police arrived.  Police are investigating.  Meantime, it’s business as usual in Scott Co:

Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby says Burton won’t be disciplined without a conviction and her use of county property will be examined.

Any adoption applicants volunteering to have ACO Burton drive over to their house to pass judgement on them?

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

AL ACO Ties Dead Dog to Tailgate of AC Truck

AL – Marshall Co ACO Kevin Hooks responded to a call on Monday regarding a pack of 5 dogs who had killed a pet owner’s dog.  The owner had shot one of the 5 dogs to death.  ACO Hooks captured 3 of the surviving dogs and loaded them onto his truck.  He tied the dead pack dog’s body to his tailgate and drove 35 miles back to the city pound used by Marshall Co.

During the trip, several drivers reportedly got out of their vehicles at a red light and knocked on the truck’s window, trying to alert the ACO that a dead dog was hanging out the back of his truck.  But he disregarded the concerned citizens and continued on to a busy highway where a woman photographed the back of the truck and posted it on Facebook.  Local news outlets ran the story.

Hooks told WHNT NEWS 19 he had live stray dogs in the other cages and wanted to keep them from destroying the dead dog.  Hooks said he also wanted to avoid making two 70-mile round trips.

“The mistake he made was not making two trips,” said [Marshall Co Commission] Chairman Hutcheson. “He should have took the live animals and put them in the location and then he should have came back, put the large animal inside the box, closed it up so it wasn’t visible to the public.”

Dogs are sentient beings who are aware of the difference between living animals and dead animals.  They form bonds in life and they grieve when those they’ve bonded with die.  The notion that this incident was objectionable only because the dead dog was visible to the public is outrageous.  Even more troubling, I get the impression that ACO Hooks might have placed the dead dog inside the cage with the live dogs if he felt certain they wouldn’t have made a mess he would have had to clean up later.

Let’s be clear, the reasons this incident is unacceptable are:

  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck and placed within sight and smell of his caged packmates who had just witnessed his killing.
  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck and driven past countless citizens, some of whom tried to alert the ACO to the inappropriateness of the situation but were ignored.
  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck.  Full stop.

Even if it was impossible to make the return trip to transport the dead dog separately, I can’t help thinking what a difference two black trash bags could have made in this situation. If trash bags are not carried on the AC vehicle (and they should be), the ACO could have asked the pet owner for two or picked up a box of them at a store.  Double bagging the dead dog would have been a reasonable alternative if the return trip was deemed impossible for whatever reason.

ACO Hooks’s faux-pology to a reporter demonstrates his failure to understand the situation:

 “Well yes I’m sorry that we alarmed the public by transporting the animal in a way that it raised an alarm to the public. I believe it could have been handled better if time had permitted” Hooks said.

But since time was an issue, it couldn’t have been handled any better so totally not sorry.  If ACO Hooks does not have time to do his job in a manner consistent with respecting the animals in his care, changes need to be made. But don’t expect major reform as a result of this incident:

The Chairman of the Marshall County Commission says he took disciplinary action against Kevin Hooks, but is keeping him in the position for now.

***

Note:  The images of the dead dog at the links have been sufficiently blurred to avoid disturbing most readers in my opinion.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me these links.)

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