Cruelty Allegations against Franklin Co Dog Pound

The Franklin Co dog pound in Ohio killed more than 40% of the dogs in its care in 2012.  Among the thousands killed by the pound each year are dogs who don’t pass a behavioral test administered by the staff.  The pound’s assistant director, Deborah Finelli, e-mailed a local reporter regarding the process:

“To be selected for adoption, all dogs 6 months and older must pass a behavior assessment, which evaluates the dog’s ability to be safely handled, reaction to people and other dogs and any situations that might provoke aggressive behavior,” she wrote.

“No dog that is perceived to be a threat to the safety of other dogs or humans will be permitted to be sent to rescue and/or foster, or placed on the adoption floor.”

If this place was truly following this absurd rule, presumably no dogs would be made available for adoption since ALL DOGS BITE. Some bite people, some bite other dogs, some exhibit incredible restraint, some exhibit no restraint – and there are as many variations on these parameters as one would care to contemplate.  But the bottom line is that all dogs represent a potential threat to the safety of people and other dogs, even though that risk is small in the vast majority of cases.

Testing a dog in a pound environment is of very little value since the dog is not behaving normally due to severe stress.  Franklin Co’s statement that they test dogs for “any situations that might provoke aggressive behavior” suggests to me a pokey-in-the-face-with-a-plastic-hand-on-a-stick type deal or a take-food-away-from-a-hungry-stressed-out-dog-while-he’s-eating-it or maybe both monstrosities.  Whatever the tests, they should not be used as a justification to kill dogs.

To make matters worse, there are allegations that Franklin Co pound veterinarian Vincent Morton intentionally mistreats dogs in order to fail them on the behavioral tests and runs needless medical tests for the purpose of failing dogs he couldn’t sufficiently provoke to fail on behavior.

One complaint submitted in August 2013 says Morton would “purposefully be rough with them almost like he was trying to get them to growl or bite.”

Another complaint says Morton made fun of one employee for being gay and another for being Mexican. “Dr. Morton is very rough on the dogs and is rude to the employees and belittles them,” the complaint states.

But wait, there’s more!  There are allegations of oops-killings of dogs who had adopters waiting, dogs left to suffer without vet care for days, and dogs killed for behavior who had never been touched or let out of the cage.  And, despite employing a full time volunteer coordinator, Franklin Co has allegedly been shutting out volunteers.  Because volunteers, so complainy.

Local advocates voiced their concerns to the county commissioners this week and were told basically that their complaints weren’t going to be addressed as the county was already conducting its own investigation.  So tattle your tales elsewhere because we already know everything and you didn’t even know about our ultra secret investigation that is totally happening as we speak so sit back down, I guess.  Neither the vet nor the director have responded to the allegations at this time.

(Thanks Jan and Clarice for the links.)

Stockton Pound Sued for Killing Animals Illegally

Last month, a couple whose dog had been impounded by the Stockton pound in CA spoke to the city council about their experience.  Their microchipped, neutered, vaccinated dog had escaped through a gate accidentally left open in their yard.  When the owners, both newly unemployed, tried to reclaim their pet, the Stockton pound demanded $180.  The owners couldn’t come up with the entire fee so offered a partial payment and a promise to pay the balance in installments.  The pound refused, leaving the crying owners no other option but to beg for their beloved family member’s life.  Stockton killed their pet.

As might be expected, this is not an isolated incident at the Stockton pound:

A review of 2013 documents found instances in which seven dogs belonging to five people were euthanized because the owners could not immediately afford to pay impound fees.

The Stockton pound is no stranger to controversy.  Mayor Anthony Silva put together a citizen commission to examine allegations of wrongdoing at the facility one year ago.  The group has been trying to present its findings since January but have yet to be allowed to speak at a city meeting.

Now local advocates have teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and filed suit against the Stockton pound.  Using a year’s worth of pound documents obtained via public records requests, the plaintiffs in the suit allege:

  • Stockton killed more than 1500 cats and dogs during their legally mandated holding periods.
  • The pound kills owned pets without making meaningful efforts to return the animals to their owners.  One case involved a dog who was killed because the owners couldn’t speak English.
  • Pets who are medically hopeless and suffering are forced to linger in their cages for days before being euthanized.

ALDF attorney Jenni James says no money is being sought in the suit:

“Our request is very simple,” James said. “We’re asking the court to demand that the city of Stockton follow its own laws, and for the city of Stockton to acknowledge that the laws it passed apply to the shelter.”

The pound’s director went the predictable route in response to the lawsuit:

The city of Stockton said it cannot comment on the lawsuit and neither can the Animal Services director — but she did say the shelter does the best it can for the animals.

“People who come here see the impact and how many dogs come into the shelter,” Animal Services Supervisor Pat Claerbout said. “It’s extremely limited, and we can’t keep every animal.”

We’re doing the best we can. We can’t keep them all.  Ergo, the law doesn’t apply to us and if your broke ass can’t come up with the ransom to bail your pet out of our kill factory, sux being you.

(Thanks Clarice and Eileen for the links.)

Someone is Talking about Ending the Culture of Killing! In the South!

Praise Ponies, this is a nice thing to read:

“When we talk about no-kill, we’re not talking about a definition,” says Aubrie Kavanaugh, a member of No Kill Huntsville. “We’re talking about a culture.”

[...]

“If they’re healthy and treatable, let’s not destroy those animals,” Kavanaugh says. “We don’t need to be spending our money that way. And it’s not consistent with our values.

[...]

“I think it’s possible that we could have a no-kill community in Huntsville in months,” Kavanaugh says. And after that, she says, the culture of no kill could spread to other communities in Alabama.

Sounds sensible, believable and achievable to me.

Thank you Aubrie Kavanaugh for speaking out about replacing a culture of killing with a culture of lifesaving here in the south.  More, please.

Assistant Dog Warden Under Investigation in Ohio

The Petfinder page for the Gallia Co Animal Shelter in Ohio describes the facility as a “HIGH kill shelter”.  There are 4 pets listed as available for adoption at the time of this post.

On February 14, a group called Friends of Gallia County’s Animals posted on its Facebook page that “11 dogs were euthanized at the pound this morning because the assistant warden couldn’t wait a day for us to clean the facilities from the dogs who are leaving.”  Friends of Gallia County’s Animals appears to be referring to dogs who were pulled for transport to the New England area, where shelter dogs are also killed, for anyone keeping track.

WSAZ reports today that the 11 dogs who were killed were all vaccinated and friendly:

“There are 11 (other) dogs that we can’t help because they’re aggressive,” [Friends of Gallia County's Animals board member Nathan] Weatherholt said. “They’re cat-aggressive, they’re food-aggressive, they’re people-aggressive. He could have picked 11 of those dogs and euthanized any of those 11 dogs. It would have still been tragic and horrible, but it wouldn’t have been the 11 dogs we were looking at.”

Never fall into this trap of saying it would be better to kill shelter dogs who don’t like cats or have some other perceived flaw than to kill animals who fit an arbitrary, subjective standard.  All shelter animals have the right to live.  Full stop.  If you aren’t advocating equally for the least adoptable animals in the place and the white and fluffies, you aren’t advocating.  What you are doing is buying into the culture of killing and bolstering the position that shelter animals have no inherent right to live.

An unnamed member of the Friends group alleges that the assistant warden killed the 11 dogs via heartstick without sedation.  Ohio code states that heartstick may only be used “on a sedated or unconscious animal”. The Gallia Co sheriff is investigating the matter and the assistant dog warden has been reassigned to a different county department while the investigation takes place.

Gallia County Commission President David Smith says the shelter is not a no-kill shelter, and it’s unclear at this point if anything wrong was done.

This is a consequence of maintaining a culture of killing.  If you believe shelter pets are born with the right to live, opt out.

(Thanks Clarice and mikken for the links.)

 

VA Pound Kills Injured Stray Dog Despite Available Foster and Vet Care

In 2012, the Chesapeake pound in VA took in 3724 animals and put 54% of them into trash bags.  In December 2012, taxpayers bought a new $10 million building for the facility.  But the needless killing has continued.

Earlier this month, volunteer Lauren Sanders, who regularly photographs pets at the Chesapeake pound and networks them on social media, took a picture of a dog called Ozzie.  He had been impounded after being found hit by a car and partially frozen to the road.  She posted his photo on Facebook in hopes of finding his owner, if he had one, or getting him some help if he didn’t.

Photo by Lauren Sanders

Photo by Lauren Sanders

As sometimes happens in the animal advocacy world, Ms. Sanders fell in love with Ozzie herself and decided that if no owner was located during his mandatory stray holding period, she would foster him. But when she returned to the pound to care for Ozzie, the shelter management told Ms. Sanders she had acted inappropriately in advocating for Ozzie:

“The next day, I went into the shelter and they told me I absolutely should not have posted his picture at all because no one wants a broken dog,” Sanders said.

In the meantime, Ms. Sanders still intended to care for Ozzie at the pound during his holding period and take him home when it expired if necessary. Many people offered to help pay for the dog’s vet bills and a vet willing to perform surgery at a discounted rate was found. The day before his holding period expired, Ms. Sanders says Ozzie was doing well despite his injuries:

“I saw him yesterday and he had scooted himself across the floor, gobbled up treats, tail wagging; that leads me to believe he wasn’t dead,” Sanders, a volunteer with Chesapeake Animal Services said. “He still had fight in him.”

But the pound killed Ozzie that day:

Chesapeake officials tell NewsChannel 3 the dog had made a turn for the worse and surgery wouldn’t have helped.

The Chesapeake pound is run by the police department. It’s unclear to me whether any of the officers are also veterinarians but that seems unlikely.  Did the dog see a vet on the day he was killed – the same day that Ms. Sanders describes him as wagging his tail and vacuuming up treats – and did that vet determine he was medically hopeless and suffering?  The city has made no such statement nor offered any details.  Which begs the question: How and why did the police department arrive at the decision that a dog who had a foster waiting and was still on stray hold needed to be killed?

Chesapeake Police say nothing could have helped the dog. With Sanders so ready to do whatever she could to rehabilitate Ozzy, she wishes she would have been given the opportunity.

There is a group on Facebook advocating for a change in management at the Chesapeake pound. An online petition calling for the replacement of staff at the pound has collected 1603 signatures as of this morning.  A website called Justice for Ozzie has been set up in an effort to share his story and aid in reform efforts at the pound.  Ms. Sanders told me she has no intention of returning to the Chesapeake pound under its current management.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me info on this story.)

AL Newspaper Reports Allegations of Cruelty Against Dogs Impounded by City Animal Control

Warning:  The first link in this post contains graphic images and descriptions of dead dogs which may be too disturbing for some readers.  The second link covers the same story but is far less graphic and does not contain any photos.  There is a video at that link which I have not watched so exercise your discretion.

***

The police department runs the pound in the city of Eufaula, AL.  The Barbour County Reporter posted a piece last week citing allegations of animal abuse made by current and former city employees who did not wish to be named for fear of retaliation.  These sources allege that most stray dogs impounded by the city are held for a few days then taken to a local vet, Dr. Tommy Horne, for killing.  The city employees report they pin the fully conscious dogs to the ground with chokepoles while Dr. Horne heartsticks them.   The dogs are then allegedly put into trash bags and carried to a dumpster.  Sometimes the dogs are allegedly still moving inside the bags and are brought back for another injection:

One dog who was still moving was retrieved and returned to the veterinarian where they were given angry advice, allegedly by Dr. Horne, to “put them in a sack and don’t look back”. At times the employees would pull over on the side of the road and vomit.

The sometimes overflowing dumpster is allegedly filled with maggots and buzzards regularly feed on the dogs.  Employees who complained to their supervisors about the killings were allegedly told to keep quiet or they would be fired.

The Barbour County Reporter article includes a quote from Dr. Horne, apparently confirming that he does heartstick dogs for the city:

“I don’t like it but..yes I have done that, its not the best thing, but its an acceptable method”, he said.

In response to the piece, area news station WTVM attempted to speak with Dr. Horne:

WTVM wanted to get the other side of the story, so we went to the veterinarian that the Barbour County Reporter names in it article, but the doctor drove away as we approached his clinic.

A woman inside the building locked the door and put up a sign to say they were closed, but according to the hours, closing time was not for another 90 minutes.

WTVM also reached out to the mayor, a city councilman and a current ACO but no one was willing to speak with the station about the allegations. The Eufaula police department issued a written statement to WTVM in response to its request for comment. The statement reads:

The Eufaula Police Department’s Animal Control Division performs all duties required of them in a professional manner and in accordance with applicable state laws and city ordinances. “Animal Control” is often the handling of feral, sick, aggressive, or otherwise unadoptable animals. For those animals that are healthy and of temperament to be relocated, home are actively sought when possible. However, the fundamental mission of the Animal Control Division is not to rehabilitate, rescue, or solely adopt animals, which is typically the mission of a humane society or local rescue group.

Our primary concern and duty is to protect the health and safety of our citizens. We recognize the unpopular position that places us in at times and we do not take that responsibility lightly. With continued training, conformance with law, and cooperation from overseeing state agencies, we will continue to offer assistance to the citizens of Eufaula in respect to animal control. We could not be able to fully meet the demands of this responsibility without the professionalism from veterinarians such as Dr. Tommy Horne, who has provided years of service to an unfortunate and unpleasant process with integrity and respect for the animals involved.

As always, we ask for the public to assist us and to be responsible animal owners and have their pets spayed an neutered to help control the animal population in town.

Anyone feeling comforted?

The Barbour County Reporter is calling for citizens to contact Eufaula mayor Jack Tibbs and request that all pet killings be suspended while a full investigation is conducted by an outside agency. The article lists the mayor’s contact information:

The Mayor’s office phone number is (334) 688-2005
or you can reach him by email at tbush@eufaulaalabama.com

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Rowan Co ACO Accused of Abusing Then Gassing Injured Pet

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

On January 9, a Good Samaritan in NC came across a dog who had been severely injured after being hit by a car and called 911.  Dispatchers called an ACO from the Rowan Co pet killing facility.  By the time the ACO arrived on scene, owner Jennifer Ridgell had been located and was crying over her dying pet who had accidentally escaped from the house earlier that day.  Bandit had been rescued 6 years ago and was a beloved family member.  But the Rowan Co ACO treated the badly injured dog like he was highway trash:

“He went to his truck, got a pole that had what looked like noose on the end of it, put it around his neck, jerked Bandit up — he was yelping — and threw him in the back of the truck,” Ridgell said. “There was no compassion.”

In addition to the cruel treatment Bandit received as he lay dying, the ACO further tortured the pet by placing him in the gas chamber after returning to the pound.  NC state law specifically prohibits the gassing of animals who are near death.

The Good Sam, Keisha Woodward, complained to Rowan Co officials by sending this letter:

To whom it my concern:
I have a Rowan County Animal Shelter complaint. I tried to leave a message for Officer Staton but he has yet to return my call.
January 9th, 2014 around 7:30 or 8 on 52 in Granite Quarry near Sides Auto I stopped to help a medium sized black/white male dog that had been hit by a car. He was partially laying in the road so I turned around, blocked him from oncoming traffic and applied my flashers. A passerby stopped to help me as I looked for the owners in the surrounding houses. In the mean time I called 911, they called animal control and he then called me to find out my location. The only thing he did right was show up promptly nothing else from that point was ok in my opinion!
The dog was unable to move his back end, the right eye was hanging out of the socket and he had blood coming out of his mouth but still seem to be calm. I petted him and talked to him until his owners could come down. When they arrived I told them I had called animal control and he was on the way. I assured them if they did not feel like they would be able to care for the dog that the officer would put him down.
The lady was pretty shaken up after seeing the condition of the dog. Shortly the officer pulled up. The only thing he said is are y’all the owners? They replied. He said do you want the dog or not? No more than she got out of her mouth I don’t think there is anything that can be done for him, the officer took that pole with the loop and yanked that poor dog up off the asphalt and slung him into the cage! The dog was hollering, the lady started screaming and crying, her husband was trying to get her turned around to get her in the truck so she didn’t have to witness anything further. The Officer acted as if was doing them a favor by not charging them to put the dog down… Are you kidding me!!
When he arrived and seen the condition of the dog and with their consent that poor animal should have been euthanized on the spot with an injection!!
I was completely traumatized by what I had just witnessed. He gave them no warning as to you may not want to watch this or anything! I can guarantee if they had known that was going to take place they would have taken him home and took care of it themselves and I can tell you if I would have known that was going to take place I would have called someone with a gun and would have taken care of it right then and there!
NO one should have to watch their animal be treated in this manner and that was NO way to handle and already traumatized, mangled animal that was in pain!
This has haunted my mind since January 9th and I think something should be done about this so it’s not to happen to another poor helpless animal nor and animal owner. There needs to be an injection taken and the animal needs to be put down on the spot in such cases as this.
If you’d like to contact me please do so.
Thank you,
Keisha Woodward

When contacted by the media about the incident, a county commissioner appears to acknowledge that Bandit was abused by the ACO:

“We’re sorry the family had to witness their animal suffering like that,” said Rowan County Commission vice chair Craig Pierce.

But when confronted about the apparent illegality of gassing a pet who was near death, Mr. Pierce offered:

“We are aware of it,” Pierce said.

Advocates say animal control should have used euthanasia by injection. Rowan County doesn’t have it yet, but Pierce said they soon will.

“If we have that on site, then we’re going to be able to give that animal a more humane ending,” he said.
[...]
The commission says they hope to transition to euthanasia by injection this year.

Rowan Co in fact does have euthanasia by injection on site, and has for some time as illustrated by county records (partially redacted by me) showing kittens who were killed via injection last year:

rowan co kitten
rowan co kitten 2
rowan co kitten 3

Jane Felts of the shelter pet advocacy group Fix Rowan followed up with her own complaint to county officials, demanding the termination of the ACO:

To Whom It May Concern,

I have reviewed the letter below from Keisha Woodward and frankly I am disgusted by her description of this incident. Actions such as those by Animal Control Officer Yaninas are unconscionable and in my opinion (and will be in the opinion of every other animal lover in Rowan County) not repairable by any disciplinary action less than termination. Incidents such as these cause people in the county to not call animal control in situations of neglect and cruelty where they need to be notified. THIS is a situation of cruelty perpetrated by a county employee. What she and this dog’s owners witnessed will stay in their minds forever. As if it were not bad enough to see their dog in such a bad state after being hit by a car what ACO Yaninas did to further this animal’s suffering and that of his owners is truly horrible. Is this the type of person that you want working for Rowan County? Frankly, I believe he should be prosecuted for what he did. This is also, sadly, not the first time that I have heard of such actions by this officer.

Further, Ms. Dee Lazenby was told by your ACO Thomas Staton that this animal had to be put in the gas chamber because you only had one employee available. Please explain that in light of the following section of the NC Animal Welfare Code which states that you must have two adults present to use the gas chamber:

02 NCAC 52J .0609 PERSONS REQUIRED TO BE PRESENT
A euthanasia chamber in a certified facility shall not be operated unless a Certified Euthanasia Technician or a veterinarian licensed in North Carolina and one other adult are present at the time of its use.

If this employee is not removed from his duties as an Animal Control Officer for the County of Rowan, what is now a private incident will quickly become public. Ms. Woodward and this animal’s owners are both willing to come forward and the media will be contacted.

I expect to receive a copy of the letter that is required to be sent to the state of NC when a certified euthanasia technician is terminated by next Friday, January 31st, 2014. This type of callous action towards animals should not and will not be tolerated. And if it is tolerated by the County of Rowan, then all citizens deserve to know that information.

02 NCAC 52J .0415 NOTICE OF TERMINATION
A certified facility shall notify the Animal Welfare Section in writing, no later than 10 days from the date of the termination of a Certified Euthanasia Technician’s employment or volunteer status at that certified facility.

Sincerely,
Jane Felts

If you want to contact Rowan Co commissioners regarding Bandit, please remember that respectful letters are far more effective at forcing transparency and reform. Threats of any kind are never acceptable.

I’m sorry our broken shelter system failed you Bandit. We need systemic reform now.

(Thanks Jane for sending me info and docs on this story.)

Advocates Call for Hawkins Co Humane Society President’s Ouster, President Locks Them Out of Election

The Hawkins Co Humane Society in TN states on its Petfinder page that it’s a “501c3 shelter”.  As of this posting, there are no Hawkins Co HS animals listed on Petfinder for adoption.  I was unable to find a website for the organization.

Animal advocates have been concerned about conditions at the shelter and a petition calling for the resignation of the board’s president and vice-president has reportedly been signed by other members of the board.  Amidst allegations of animal abuse and needless killing, along with calls for transparency, the board president’s plan appears to consist of HIDE.

Last week, advocates tried to voice their concerns at the annual election meeting, normally held at an offsite location.  But the meeting venue was changed to a small office inside the shelter and president Eddie McNally told everyone to leave because there was no room for them.  He said he is required by law to hold the meeting in the little office:

As for why people were not allowed inside, McNally said according to the Fire Marshal, the building could only safely house 11 people for the meeting, and the others that wanted to come inside were not eligible to vote anyway.

Yeah, about that.  Apparently many people paid their dues for membership in the HS in order to have a voice and a vote at the annual election.  But the president now says they paid a Nigerian prince or some such:

McNally claims certain people were scammed and paid membership dues to the wrong person.

No vote for you.

Does anyone have any additional information about what’s going on at the Hawkins Co HS?  Does the organization hold any contracts for animal control?  Why are they allegedly killing animals upon impound?  The situation sure looks odd from this vantage point.

(Thanks Debra for the link.)

Citizen Complains after Odessa City Council Rewards Animal Shelter Brutality

The Odessa pound in Texas is a mess.  The pound’s outrageous recent history includes needlessly killing a beloved pet while blaming the owner, banning rescuers without reasonable cause and violating their First Amendment rights.  Although the police department in charge of the pound does not make its statistics available to the public on its website, one area rescuer cites a kill rate of nearly 85% and claims “6 or 7″ dogs are housed in each kennel.  A petition seeking improvements at the pound has collected more than 5800 signatures to date.  The Odessa American reports the pound killed 5,442 animals in the first 10 months of 2013, deeming all but 353 of them unadoptable.

How does the city of Odessa deal with this level of incompetence and corruption in its employees?  By giving them raises, of course.  In October 2013, a vote to give city employees a 5% pay raise was approved and last week, city council approved another raise of at least 2% at its public meeting.  In attendance was one Lori Baker, who told city council the Odessa pound employees needed to start cleaning cages and providing actual shelter to animals in need:

“I have a problem with you giving raises to people who are not doing their job,” Baker said.

There, she said it.

Thank you Ms. Baker for speaking out and advocating for animals at the pound.  I hope more people will be inspired to speak up at the next city council meeting on February 11.  Otherwise I fear at the rate things are going, the city council might just start handing out envelopes of cash to the pet killers at the Odessa pound.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

OK Pound Shut Down Amid Allegations of Abuse

Animal advocates in Healdton, OK say they have been trying for months to get someone to feed, water and shelter the dogs at the city pound and/or to allow volunteers to help.  The police department is in charge of the pound but the only thing the police would reportedly allow the volunteers to do is donate pet food, which would be left in a pile at the station.  Meanwhile dogs have allegedly been starved, suffered frostbite and some puppies allegedly froze to death after being forced to sleep on bare concrete with the unheated pound’s 8 foot door left wide open by the police department all night.

When animal advocates addressed the city council meeting Monday night regarding the allegations of ongoing abuse, the city manager was all “Whaaaa?” and claimed to know nothing.  He did however feel immediate suspension of the police chief was warranted as well as an investigation.  The investigation is ongoing but the police chief quit.  The pound has been closed temporarily and impounded strays are being taken to a neighboring city facility.

When animal advocates know public employees are not doing their jobs at the shelter, they often feel the appropriate course of action is to work with those in charge and aim to improve conditions over time.  After all, we are frequently told that nobody wants to kill animals and some might believe that the abusers aren’t monsters, but rather animal lovers who have lost their way and need some guidance.  This plan may yield results in certain situations.

But most often, particularly where shelter animals are being starved, neglected and abused to death, animal advocates should take their complaints directly to the city or county funding the facility.  This serves to create a public record of the allegations, places the responsibility on elected officials to take swift action, and eliminates any possibility of them claiming they were ignorant of the abuse.  Waiting while animal abusers hurt shelter pets for months or years, hoping they will stop, is not advocating for animals.  Bring complaints directly to the elected officials in charge of funding the shelter.  If the shelter staff won’t do their jobs, make those seeking your vote for public office do their’s.   Shelter pets can’t wait while compassionate people hope.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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