Sheriff Investigating Allegations of Cruelty at Vermilion Parish Pound

When we checked in with Vermilion Parish Rabies Control in LA last week, the director was killing all cats deemed feral, killing pets before their legally mandated 4 day holding period expired, and killing pets tagged for rescue - all with the support of local politicians who appear to be too lazy to do their jobs and seem to like their own kind.  Although the Vermilion Parish police jury protects the pound director from having to answer questions from the public she serves about all the killing she does, the jury did issue a statement in response to KATC’s allegations that pets are routinely being killed in violation of the law during their holding periods.  You can read the statement here but basically, it says the mandatory holding period only applies when we say it applies, we’re all awesome and everything is sparkle-ponies.

While those being paid by taxpayers in Vermilion Parish appear to be on work hiatus in perpetuity, the KATC investigative team is still doing its job.  A review of pound records by KATC found that at least 90 animals last year were listed as dying of “natural causes” when in fact they appear to have been illegally left to suffer in their cages until they fell over dead:

The Guidelines for Louisiana Public Animal Shelters by the Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission requires that, “Veterinary care must be provided in a manner that prevents unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering by the animals.”

[...]

But we found animals like Harmony, a stray cat thought to be sick when she was brought in December 2012. The person dropping her off even wrote, “afraid for my animals – could be sick,” on Harmony’s intake form. Harmony held on for a month before dying of “natural causes.” There’s no record that she ever saw a vet.

And then there’s Miracle, a white pug, that was thought to have been abused, was brought to animal control last year on Sept. 27. She died of “natural causes” three days later, and there were no records showing that she received any veterinary care.

[...]

Not providing animals with veterinary care is considered cruelty to animals, according to Louisiana law. It carries a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail.

An ex-employee verified to KATC that pets were regularly left without vet care at the pound, including a dog with a broken back who was forced to suffer for more than a week without seeing a vet before he was killed.

KATC’s review also found that the pound’s records “contained lots of incorrect information” and that drug logs did not match up with the kill records which, if true, represents another violation of the law.

The sheriff’s office is reportedly opening an investigation based upon the KATC findings.  I wonder how much longer the parish police jury is going to stand behind the pound director.  Is Team Kill going to stick together all the way to jail or will they start stabbing each other in the back to save their own asses before things get that far?

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Vermilion Parish Pound Allegedly in Violation of Law, Local Politicians Shield Director

Vermilion Parish Rabies Control in LA does not adopt animals to the public.  It functions primarily as a pet killing facility while allowing rescue groups to save some animals – unless the director decides she feels like killing those animals too.  After a recent story about the killing of dogs tagged for rescue went viral, the parish placed a temporary halt on pet killing while the police jury came up with some new guidelines.  This week, those new guidelines were announced:

  1. Re-start killing cats deemed feral immediately.
  2. Hold dogs for 30 days in order to allow rescue groups to network them.
  3. Once the pound exceeds capacity (20 dogs), arbitrarily kill the dogs whose intake dates are the oldest to make space.

It seems to me that numbers 2 and 3 are going to conflict with each other unless rescue groups can consistently do the Vermilion pound staff’s jobs for them and keep getting dogs into homes before the 20 dog limit is reached.  Also, number 1 totally sucks.

And there’s more bad news:

KATC reviewed hundreds of parish euthanasia records and uncovered that last year, more than 21 percent of all dogs and cats were killed before [the mandatory holding period of] four days, some even dying the day they arrived at the facility.

The only sort-of-explanation for why the pound appears to have been violating parish law in such an egregious manner comes from an ex-staffer:

“Every Thursday was euthanasia day, and sometimes we would pick up the dog on Monday and by Thursday they were gone,” said Thad Savoy, a former animal warden of the Vermilion Parish Rabies Animal Control Center.

Right.  It’s Thursday.  And Thursday is kill day.  If the lost pet’s owner is looking for him or if an adopter might like to save him, that’s just not happening.  It’s Thursday.

“Most of the dogs that were picked up were able to be rescued. But they were not rescued or put online because of the color or the breed. … It’s kind of hard to say; it’s kind of hard to describe why,” Savoy said.

Wait, wut?  Prolly no owner would want their black dog back so no point posting her online.  Because black.  Plus it’s Thursday.

The current director of the pet killing facility – the one who threatened to call the police last time a reporter tried to ask her a question – is once again being shielded by the asshats who came up with the brilliant killing guidelines:

For now, the parish is not commenting on KATC’s investigation. On Wednesday night, the Vermilion Parish Police Jury unanimously denied KATC’s request for an interview with Animal Control Facility Director Pam Monceaux and Public Works Director Bill Nogel.

Instead of providing cover for monsters, maybe the Vermilion Parish police jury could hire some people willing to do the jobs taxpayers pay them to do and actually shelter animals in need.  Any vote on that?

(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.)

TN Pound Neglects Animals, Mayor Calls It “Good Care”

A woman says she went to the Smithville pound in TN last week during normal work hours to find the placed locked and no employees on site. Even more disturbing, she says a dead dog and a litter of living puppies were in the parking lot. Local animal advocates are calling upon the mayor to at least staff the facility during open hours and/or allow volunteers to care for the pets. But the mayor gots explanations:

Mayor Jimmy Poss of Smithville said the shelter only has one full time and one part-time employee, who had both called in sick Thursday.

An animal rescue group in Dekalb County is calling for more employees or volunteers to work at the shelter, but the Mayor said that’s extra help the shelter doesn’t need right now.

See? Yeah, me neither. But everyone can quit worrying about the animals left in the pound unattended, presumably without food or water, laying in their own waste, suffering from who knows what conditions.  And definitely no one needs to be concerned about the dead dog found outside the pound or the litter of pups running in the road. Because explanations:

Poss said even with budget constraints, the Animal Shelter takes good care of the dogs they have, even though some may be delivered to them sick.

I see what you did there. That whole irresponsible-public-is-to-blame thing. Smooth.

Mercifully, the irresponsible public stepped up and all the wandering pups are now in foster homes.  That’s what I call “good care”.  That thing the Smithville pound is doing?  That’s neglect, cruelty and fraud against taxpayers to my mind.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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.)

Oak Ridge Police Department Conducts Mass Killing in Response to Distemper Outbreak

TN – The Oak Ridge police department, which runs the pound, closed the facility one week ago after two dogs tested positive for distemper:

As a precaution, all animals brought into the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter are being vaccinated on arrival. The shelter is separating dogs with any kind of cough or nasal discharge from dogs available for adoption.

These are not precautionary practices that a facility should institute in the face of an outbreak but rather standard protocols which should be in place 365 days a year.  It’s unclear to me what standard operating procedures are in Oak Ridge:

[Lt. Robin] Smith said the shelter staff vaccinates all animals, but it takes about 10 days for the vaccine to do any good.

So wrong.  As Maddie’s Fund indicates, vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake for all shelter animals is critical and provides protection within hours:

Immunity is not typically an “all or nothing” condition. For some diseases of concern in shelter settings, particularly respiratory illness, vaccination serves to protect from serious symptoms rather than infection.

Additionally, animals will begin to be protected from the worst effects of other diseases, such as canine distemper in a very short time. At the 2011 Shelter Medicine Conference at the University of Florida, Dr. Annette Litster, Director of Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, told the audience, “With canine distemper virus, challenge studies have shown a really incredibly fast response to a modified live vaccine, or a recombinant vaccine. Within four hours of an effective vaccine, those dogs are protected – provided there’s not a problem with maternal immunity – from the really severe neurological effects of challenge with canine distemper. There’s complete protection within 7 days after vaccination from the challenge studies that have been published.”

If the Oak Ridge pound had been vaccinating upon intake across the board, utilizing routine cleaning practices and quarantining new arrivals, those in charge might have a better understanding of disease prevention and management.  From the Koret Shelter Medicine Program info sheet on Canine Distemper Virus (CDV):

The most important factor in disease risk is vaccination: a “fully” vaccinated animal over four months of age is at very low risk of CDV infection. However, even incompletely vaccinated animals may survive a possible exposure.

Relying on incorrect information not based in science, Oak Ridge killed every one of the thirty dogs in the pound – including the majority who appeared to be healthy:

Smith said that the shelter staff refused outside help with the euthanasia. He said they wanted to do it themselves and ensure the animals knew they were loved and cared for.

“I have never been prouder of that staff doing a horrible job that needed to be done,” [Chief James] Akagi said.

Death be not proud. That “horrible job” did not need to be done.  The job that needs to be done here is for the police department in charge of the pound to educate itself on how vaccinations work to prevent disease in conjunction with standard cleaning and isolation practices.  Ensuring animals are loved and cared for includes at least minimal education on standard disease prevention and management practices for shelters.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Vermilion Parish Director Kills Dogs Tagged for Rescue Because She Can

Vermilion Parish Rabies Control in LA does not adopt animals to the public.  It functions primarily as a pet killing facility while allowing rescue groups to save some animals – unless the director decides she feels like killing those animals too.

Last week a group called Animal Aid of Vermilion Area had exchanged e-mails with Vermilion Parish pound director Pam Monceaux, confirming they would pull three dogs – Sasha, Pepper and Ringo – on Thursday morning.  But when the rescuers arrived, they learned Ms. Monceaux had killed Sasha, Pepper and Ringo.

There was no claim of a misunderstanding about these three dogs being pulled by rescue.  Ms. Monceaux apparently killed them intentionally while rescuers were en route.  A local news reporter asked Ms. Monceaux for an explanation:

 News 10 reached out to Monceaux for answers, but we were told to leave the premises or she was calling the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office.

If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

Under our current, broken shelter system, killing is a choice.  Any shelter animal may be killed at the discretion of the director.  Some shelter directors consider this their job while, in stark contrast, there are hundreds others working hard to save every healthy/treatable animal in their care.

There are two ways to stop retaliatory and needless shelter killing in Vermilion Parish:

  1. Replace the director with someone committed to lifesaving.
  2. Enact legislation removing killing as an option.

Contact information for the Vermilion Parish Police Jury that oversees the pound is at the bottom of this page.

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

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.)

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