More on AL Shelter Being Investigated by Police

There have been some major developments since I posted last week about a police investigation of alleged abuse at the Lawrence Co shelter in Alabama.

In a 3-2 vote during an emergency meeting, the Lawrence Co Commission canceled the $80,000 AC contract with Bobbie Taylor:

Taylor frowned as Commission Chairman Joey Hargrove read the terms of the termination.

All animals must be removed from Taylor’s property by July 1. Taylor said Thursday she had about 80 animal[s] on the property.

When police attempted to visit the public shelter on Taylor’s private property, she reportedly refused to let them in, telling them to get a search warrant.  When they did, they found that “about 80 animals” was more like 250.

The dogs were living in filth, some were dying, others were dead:

Volunteers took some of the sick dogs to see a veterinarian. At least one dog died on the way to the vet, [Moulton Police Chief Lyndon] McWhorter said.
One volunteer drove off with a few bags of what appeared to be dead dogs in the back of a truck. McWhorter did not give an exact count of how many dead animals were found.
[…]
Matthew Seahorn, 18, spent four hours sweating in a hazmat suit, boots and mask as he inspected the barn beside Taylor’s home. Inside, he counted 45 dogs of various ages, several ill animals confined to pens, three dead puppies and the stench of feces.
“They are all in cages to the point where they can’t even turn around, and the stench is unbearable,” Seahorn said. “No one should live in conditions like that. Not even an animal.”

Local police called in the ASPCA for assistance. Dogs were carried out in front of the television cameras by people wearing ASPCA t-shirts, images which are likely to be used in fundraising campaigns by the wealthy organization. No word on where the animals are or how they are doing but they will presumably be dumped on local rescues, as usual.

One woman who saw her long lost dog on the news in terrible shape says she went to the shelter and that Taylor had hidden the dog.  She was ultimately able to reclaim her pet and take her for veterinary care.  The dog remains hospitalized.

Taylor still has local supporters and has not been charged at this time.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

ACO Accuses TN Shelter of Acting as “A Puppy Mill for Rescue Groups”

A friend of Cheatham Co ACO Darrell Hooper reportedly tried to adopt a stray Doberman at the pound but was turned away.  The potential adopter was told the dog was being held for a rescue group.  A Doberman rescue in Knoxville is said to have pulled the dog from the pound for free and sold her for $300.

ACO Hooper says this isn’t an isolated incident, especially when it comes to purebreds and puppies, and that he’s brought his concerns to the mayor several times but nothing has changed.  After his friend was prevented from adopting the Doberman, ACO Hooper angrily confronted the pound director in the parking lot:

“I questioned him. I said, ‘So we’re just a puppy mill for rescue groups? Are we just providing them products to sell?'” Hooper said. “He shook his head yes in the affirmative and again he stated to me, ‘You don’t understand the political ramifications of this.'”

The heated argument ended with ACO Hooper punching the director.  He has since resigned and publicly apologized.  But he still wants the county to change its protocols regarding rescue groups.

The local news contacted the director who declined to be interviewed.  They also contacted the rescue group and a representative told them they would have been happy to pay the $50 fee Cheatham Co normally charges to adopters but nobody asked them for any money.

On the one hand, breed rescues offer a valuable service.  They understand the breeds they rescue better than most and that may help them to make more successful matches between dogs and adopters.  A breed rescue would be better equipped to handle special needs cases of their given breed since they have the expertise and resources and ideally might be more motivated to make the investment.

On the other hand, it’s hard to justify a stray dog being left to sit in a pound while an adopter is turned away.  Assuming the dog faced no extreme challenges (e.g. a legally designated “dangerous dog”) and the adopter was just as qualified as the average adopter at the pound, why leave the dog in the cage to take up space needed by other homeless pets and to potentially get sick?

Cheatham Co AC’s website says:

Cheatham County Animal Control is a county government run facility that receives nearly 2200 animals a year with room to house only 50 at a time. Only four staff members clean, feed, treat, bathe, intake, answer phone, and make onsite calls for: at large, cruelty, neglect, and all other issues. The staff also works to save every animal possible with limited resources. Cheatham County is over 360 square miles and is filled with unwanted animals. Our county compliance on vaccinations, spay/neuter, and safety of animals is low. We are leading our staff and our community toward a culture change – which will take time…time our animals do not always have on their side.

It sounds like the Cheatham Co pound could use all the empty cages it can get, like most municipal facilities.  But if ACO Hooper’s allegations are accurate, the pound may be keeping cages filled unnecessarily with “high value” dogs and puppies by holding them for rescues.  Are other pets, particularly those whom no group could expect to sell for $300, being killed by Cheatham Co in order to make space for the white-and-fluffies being held for rescue groups?

All shelter pets have the right to live, regardless of their resale value.  Is anyone in Cheatham Co advocating for the right of all the animals in the shelter to live, political ramifications be damned?  There seems to be a need.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Bringing Up from the Comments

Regarding the issue of animal shelters requiring proof of ownership in order to surrender/redeem pets, a reader commented:

If they ‘found’ a dog yesterday, got it vac for rabies today, and ‘surrendered’ to a shelter Tomorrow – presenting valid Rabies Vac as proof of ownership — will that make the dog theirs? should there be a 6 month limit on Rabies Vac before being accepted as ‘proof’ of ownership?
I would appreciate any reasonable suggestions or what your county/state is using as ‘Proof of Ownership’ Thanks!

Do you know if your state, county and/or city has any language on the books defining what constitutes proof of ownership with regard to surrendering and/or redeeming pets at shelters? I checked SC state law and could not find any references to the issue at all. I failed to find any relevant county ordinance either. In checking my county pound’s website, they have no information whatsoever on the surrender or redemption process. So I am operating on the assumption that my local pound falls under the Anything Goes protocol, probably based upon the whim of the person in charge of the pet killing facility at the time a person attempts to surrender or reclaim a pet.

Does your state, county or city have any laws addressing the issue of proof of ownership for shelter surrender/redemption? Does your local shelter set its own policies on that matter and if so, are they published online? Please share your location and whatever relevant info you have on this subject.

Weekend Jade

Schroeder:  Got your nose. Jade:  Interpretive jiggery-pokery!

Schroeder: Got your nose.
Jade: Interpretive jiggery-pokery!

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

Photo by Richard Harrington, 1950

Photo by Richard Harrington, 1950

Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your guesses in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is interpretive jiggery-pokery optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tonight.

nta

AL Shelter Under Investigation by Police

In February, the Lawrence Co Commission in Alabama awarded an $80,000 annual AC contract to Bobbie Taylor, whom the county had previously been paying $15 per animal for sheltering services. The controversial decision included an agreement that Ms. Taylor purchase and operate a new shelter within 6 months. She is currently using private property to house animals, many of them outdoors, for the county. Her shelter’s website states:

She has the backing of the community, local officials and AVRAL (Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation), a grassroots political action committee dedicated to helping pass animal-friendly legislation. It is run by Dr. Rhonda Parker.

I’ve blogged about AVRAL before.

In April, pictures from the Lawrence Co shelter were reportedly circulated on social media and claims were made that the conditions were sub-standard. The local paper ran an article and Ms. Taylor denied the allegations, stating basically that she was doing the best she could and that her intention was to buy an actual building:

Taylor said she is purchasing the former Liberty Woodworks building on Ala. 24 as the location for the new shelter, which she said will be the first county no-kill shelter in Alabama.

Yesterday WHNT aired a story centered around video and photos taken by Caleb Scott, a recent volunteer at the Lawrence Co shelter who said he quit after two days because he could not stand it any longer. The video shows a person identified by Mr. Scott as Bobbie Taylor whacking a dog on the head repeatedly. The pictures are also disturbing:

Scott provided us with additional images from the shelter showing dogs lying in their own waste, and at least one emaciated dog lying in a pen too small for it to turn around in. Scott claims several of the animals are obviously sick and in need of care.

“Sick animals, they can’t even get up to walk, just laying there, laying there in their own waste,” Scott says.

Screengrab from the WHNT website showing an emaciated dog in a metal crate at the Lawrence Co shelter.

Screengrab from the WHNT website showing an emaciated dog in a metal crate at the Lawrence Co shelter.

Mr. Scott says he brought his concerns to law enforcement and the police chief confirmed there is an investigation being conducted.  I get the impression that politics run deep here.

WHNT describes Ms. Taylor as “an outspoken advocate for no-kill animal shelters”. As many readers know, pet killing groups such as PETA enjoy exploiting any opportunity to condemn no kill sheltering and further an agenda of killing by falsely claiming no kill is about warehousing and neglecting animals. I don’t know if PETA or any other anti-pet groups have yet commented on the Lawrence Co situation but I want to make my position clear.

The Lawrence Co shelter’s “no kill” claim is irrelevant. If the allegations of abuse and neglect are true then in fact the shelter has more in common with high kill pounds and the leadership and staff who run them: the idea that animal life is cheap. Animal abuse, filth, neglect and suffering do not represent the no kill movement.

As Nathan Winograd writes:

No Kill does not mean poor care, hostile and abusive treatment, and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes. The No Kill movement puts action behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals, which means not only saving their lives but also giving them good quality care. It means vaccination on intake, nutritious food, daily socialization and exercise, fresh clean water, medical care, and a system that finds loving, new homes.

At the open admission No Kill shelter I oversaw, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of less than two percent, we reduced the disease rate by 90 percent from the prior administration, we reduced the killing rate by 75 percent, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved 93 percent of all impounded animals. In short, we brought sheltering into the 21st century.

The difference between true no kill advocates and those who embrace pet killing facilities is that we will not hesitate to condemn neglect and abuse of animals regardless of what label the group attaches to itself: AC shelter, no kill shelter, rescue group, etc. We speak only for the animals. By contrast, no kill’s detractors will generally ignore or even defend abuse, so long as the facility also intentionally kills the animals and does so by falsely claiming there are too many animals, not enough homes and the public is irresponsible.

I hope there is a fair and thorough investigation of the Lawrence Co shelter that rises above political interests and truly protects the animals.  Regardless of the results of that investigation, it’s important to be clear that animal abuse and neglect – wherever it occurs and whoever is responsible – is unacceptable.

(Thanks to Clarice and another reader for the links.)

Columbus Co Pound Fined by State for Illegal Pet Killing

In NC, a pet owner filed a lawsuit alleging that the Columbus Co pound killed one of his two impounded dogs before the state mandated 72 hour holding period had expired.  He also filed a complaint with the NC Department of Agriculture, responsible for overseeing animal shelters in the state.  County Manager Bill Clark defended the killing to a local reporter:

“Our side of that story is that the dogs were aggressive and dangerous,” Clark said. “The gentleman who released the dog to us signed a release, basically giving us control of the animal and when he did that, we have the ability to put down a dangerous dog.”

Clark said safeguards are in place to prevent the accidental euthanasia of an adoptable pet, but in this instance, because the animal was “dangerous” the county was within its legal rights to destroy it.

As it turns out, the NC Department of Agriculture disagreed with the county.  Totally.  In a letter to the Columbus Co pound dated June 18, the state says that the two dogs were impounded as owner surrenders on May 19 but no proof of ownership was obtained.  Further, the impound papers state the dogs will be held until 2pm on May 22.  The owner came to reclaim both dogs on May 21, only to find one had been killed that same day.  The state says that records for that dog do not indicate any serious illness or injury – the only exceptions legally allowed for killing an animal during the mandated holding period.

As a result, the state fined the Columbus Co pound $5000 for violating the law while noting that the pound had previously been fined $6500 in 2013 for the same violation.  That fine also occurred under the current manager who appears to kill at will, regardless of any dumb laws.

Gosh, I wonder how many shelter animals could be saved for $11,500?  I guess that’s not something Columbus Co is interested in finding out.

The county has 60 days to either file an appeal or pay up.  The lawsuit is, I presume, going forward.  And as far as I know, the county is standing by their man at the pound.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Texas ACO Leaves Cats to Suffer and Die in Truck

Michael Arista, an ACO in Big Spring, Texas, reportedly picked up “numerous” cats at some unknown time last week and put them in the metal boxes on his ACO vehicle which he left in a police station parking lot in 95 degree heat.  A police officer noticed the vehicle on Saturday morning and contacted the on-call ACO.  When that ACO arrived and opened up the metal boxes, it was discovered that 4 of the cats had died.

A local news reporter contacted ACO Arista who reportedly characterized the incident as a mistake and complained that the ACOs in Big Springs are overworked.  And just in case that doesn’t shut you up:

Arista added that the cats were feral, very sick and would likely be euthanized.

See.  They were just gonna be killed anyway so what’s all the fuss about?

Cue the local enablers:

“People like to vilify and put the blame on the Animal Control officers and it really comes down to the system as a whole and the changes that need to be made,” said Alison Herm, Volunteer with Relocation Rescue.

[…]

“Unfortunately, there are so many feral cats that if Animal Control traps them, they are so feral that there is nothing they can do for them but to euthanize them,” said Herm.

So many, so feral.  *shrug*  I guess it’s just off to Killville.  Never mind all the communities doing TNR for their feral cats.  They probably don’t have so many, so feral.  Big Spring is unique!

Photo by Casey Post

This is the cat I’d like to feed enablers to.  (Photo by Casey Post)

ACO Arista has been placed on administrative leave while the city investigates itself in the matter.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Complaints Prompt State to Inspect VA Shelter and Enablers to Circle the Wagons

In Accomack Co, Virginia, another sad case where pets who were reportedly living in unacceptable conditions in a resident’s yard are now allegedly suffering at the pound after being “rescued”:

An Exmore man who tipped off Accomack County Animal Control officers about poor living conditions of 15 dogs at a rural Onancock residence now is asking the state to shut down the facility where they were taken.

Jim Mason submitted a petition to the state veterinarian and the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services on June 8, asking them to close the Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility in Melfa because it lacks air conditioning and an outdoor exercise area, among other issues.

The dogs, several of whom have whelped litters since being seized, have been held at the pound in connection with an ongoing court case for many months. They are allegedly being denied exercise and socialization.

After receiving the petition, a state inspector visited the Eastern Shore Regional AC Facility and found a number of deficiencies, including:

[S]everal dogs and cats showed signs of discomfort due to heat and humidity and the dog run area was “extremely hot and humid” with no climate control and flies[.]
[…]
Additionally, the inspector said not all animals euthanized at the facility were sedated beforehand.

Members of the Accomack Co Board of Supervisors have also received complaints from animal advocates regarding conditions at the pound.  But(t):

“The shelter is in very, very good hands,” Supervisor Robert Crockett said.

Also:  all county pounds “have to” kill animals (which will undoubtedly come as a shock to the many no kill shelters operating in municipalities all over the country) and the state inspector only dinged Eastern Shore on the recent report because of pressure from pesky activists.  And the offer of free air conditioning from a local SPCA is now being put on hold by the county because reasons.  Seems legit.

I couldn’t find any government website listing animals for Eastern Shore and the facility’s Facebook page is out of date.  The Eastern Shore page on Petfinder says:

We invite you to take a look at all our listed animals.To us, they all deserve the recognition as “featured”.

Petfinder has zero animals listed for Eastern Shore.

Very, very good hands.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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