State Investigation Determines Two Injured Cats Left to Suffer at Columbus Co Pound

The troubled Columbus Co pound has received a warning letter from the state of North Carolina indicating that the pound “may be in violation of the North Carolina Animal Welfare Act”.  After receiving a letter of complaint from rescuers, the state investigated and determined that Columbus Co may have violated the portion of the law which requires pounds to either seek veterinary care for sick/injured animals or kill them.  The findings pertain to two cats pulled by rescue groups – one who was left without veterinary care for a week at the pound while suffering from two fractured ribs, a draining abscess, bite wounds all over the body and blood in the lungs:

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

The second cat was a kitten who was left for several days without treatment at the pound despite having open wounds on his legs and part of his face falling off.  Pound workers characterized the extent of the kitten’s injuries to rescuers as “an old scab” on the leg:

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

The state is requiring the Columbus Co pound to provide written protocols and additional training to workers regarding veterinary care and assessment of animals. This isn’t the pound’s first rodeo and it hardly seems reasonable to hope that meaningful change will result from the current warning letter. Reform, as usual, is left up to local citizens to force.

(Thanks Arlene and Clarice for sending me this story.)

Newkirk, OK: Shotgun Pound

The city of Newkirk, OK used taxpayer money to build a pound on property belonging to a veterinarian.  The facility is under the police department and is not open to the public.  Pets without collars are held for 3 days and, if unclaimed, are blasted with a shotgun, leaving behind a “bloody mess” according to the former city manager.

The only way for Newkirk residents to see if a lost pet has been impounded is to get hold of the ACO and make an appointment to look at the animals.  Brenda O’Neill, a local animal advocate, tried for a year to talk to the ACO and the police chief about being let in to the facility to photograph the animals for networking online.  She’s still trying.

And if that all sounds depressing, the new city manager says changes might be coming.  Not because Newkirk is doing anything wrong mind you, but just because some modern day people are kind of whiny:

“What we’ve done for the past couple of decades isn’t exactly accepted now,” said Jason Orr, the Newkirk City Manager.  Orr said many people living in rural Oklahoma accept the practice of shooting unwanted animals.  “People have their different opinions especially in rural Oklahoma still view shooting animals a humane way to dispose of animals but however moving forward in the modern day and age there are a lot of people that don’t agree with that,” Orr said.

Some modern day people at the local news station wanted to see the animals and conditions at the pound but no:

The animal control officer told Fox 25 the building’s owner did not want anyone new to visit the shelter and we were denied a look at the conditions of the animals being held at the shelter.

I think they must mean the property’s owner because if taxpayers paid for the building, the city owns it and the public should not be locked out of a facility it financed.  Plus what kind of creepy vet is so ok with pets being shot to death on his property that he’s willing to hide the bodies for the city?

Ms. O’Neill would like to see a new shelter built on one of the many vacant lots already owned by the city.  The city manager is all, you go somewhere away from me and get that done:

“I would rather see citizens come together to initiate projects of this nature because I think that’s where it is handled the best is at that grass roots level,” Orr told Fox 25.

In the absence of city employees actually doing their jobs, Ms. O’Neill is trying to get some dogs out of the pound and adopted into homes but is extremely limited in how much she can help due to the city’s 3 dog limit.  Add that to the list of outrageous city policies which need to be smote in Newkirk.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Adopters at Miami-Dade Shelter Say They Witnessed Workers Abusing Dog

Lisa Merkin and her son were at Miami-Dade Animal Services last week looking for a dog to adopt.  She says they saw a worker outside with a dog on a chokepole.  When the dog refused to move, she says a second worker began ramming him repeatedly with a cart, bloodying the dog’s face.  She screamed at the workers to stop and whipped out her cell phone to film what was going on.  That seemed to shut things down.  Ms. Merkin says she pleaded for the dog’s life, offering to adopt him on the spot but workers killed the dog for “aggression”.

Ms. Merkin contacted the local news and a reporter went to the shelter manager who offered a rather different version of events:

“The dog was never struck with the cart,” said Kathleen Labrada, the Miami-Dade Animal Service manager. “The cart was used inappropriately to encourage the dog to move forward.”

As evidence, the reporter was shown surveillance video showing the worker making one pass at the dog with the cart.  No contact is made during that one pass.  But that video snippet does not show what happened before or after that one pass and does not mesh with Ms. Merkin’s account:

“I took my camera out for a reason, and the reason was they were ramming (the) cart into the dog,” Merkin said.

In addition to Ms. Merkin and her son, there was another witness who says he saw the same thing:

“We were looking at the dogs — the big dogs — and we turn around and we see the people hitting and ramming the dog with the cart,” said Tyler Visnich, a witness to the alleged abuse.

[…]

The Merkin family and Visnich are adamant that the dog was hit with the cart six times and suffered a bloody face.

The puzzling part:

“They didn’t strike the dog, but the manner in which they encouraged the dog to move is absolutely unacceptable,” Labrada said.

Labrada said the employees broke protocol simply by the way they were treating the dog. For that reason Jose Rodriguez, the man holding the pole, was terminated.

Yosmiel Rivero, the man with the cart, has been placed on administrative leave.

While I want to be clear that I am not in any way endorsing ramming a dog with a cart and that I would prefer to see a dog who refuses to move handled in a different manner from what’s shown in that surveillance video snippet, I would add that I don’t consider the one pass shown on that video to be a firing offense.  I consider it to be more along the lines of an opportunity for improvement.  If the manager’s version of events is true – that the worker made one pass at the dog with the cart without making contact in an effort to encourage the dog to move – it seems to me that both workers should be offered guidance on how to better handle similar situations in future.  Taking them off the job seems extreme, which is why it’s hard for me to believe that the manager’s version of events is accurate.

If there is surveillance video that shows the complete period of time the dog was on that chokepole, that should obviously have been made public in order to address the abuse allegations.  The brief snippet of video and the manager’s statement do not seem to jive with the disciplinary action taken.  If the rest of the video shows what the eyewitnesses say they saw – the dog being rammed with the cart until he bled – then criminal charges would seem to be in order.

Anyone at the Miami-Dade shelter interested in getting to the truth and seeking justice?  If not, it will once again be up to taxpayers to demand transparency and accountability from their public servants.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Chicago Pound Leaves Dog in a Van for 5 Days

"Waaaaaateeer" Missy, as pictured on the NBC Chicago website.

“Waaaaaateeer”
Missy, as pictured on the NBC Chicago website.

That pillar of animal care and control, the Chicago pound, is once again pillaring all over the animals.  Pound staff brought 14 dogs to the Chicago Wolves hockey game for an adoption event on Saturday, April 18.  A dog called Missy was reportedly “having problems” at the event and was taken out to a cage in a city vehicle.  Missy was left unattended in the cage for the remainder of the adoption event and for the next five days.  A volunteer found Missy on Thursday night, April 23, “barely alive” and still caged in the van which was parked in a city lot a mile from the pound.  Someone called the police, who immediately went into corrupt enabler mode:

Police said they do not know specifically how many days the dog was left inside the van.

[…]

Police say it was an accident and they do not expect any criminal charges.

We don’t know how many days the dog was left in the van because math is hard and also a very inexact science.  But we don’t need to know how many days it was because even if it was 5 or 3 or 53, we know it was just an oopsie.  And oopsies are not crimes when committed by city employees I guess.

Pound spokesmen describe Missy as “playful” and suffering “no health issues” after being neglected for 5 days.  Which totally gels with the “barely alive” thing.  Maybe she was too weak to stand and had to be carried and they figured she was “playing dead”, I don’t know.

Anyhoo the pound will investigate itself in the matter and depending on the findings, may go so far as to take disciplinary action against someone.  Which is exactly the same punishment as would be doled out to a regular citizen who neglected a dog so egregiously no doubt.

In addition to determining who left Missy in the van instead of returning her to the pound after the adoption event, I have more questions.  Who signed off on feeding Missy every day from April 18 through April 23?  Who signed off on walking her?  Who made the daily notations in her records about her general well-being?  Are any of those people going to face the dreaded disciplinary action?

Chicago taxpayers need to demand that pound employees do their jobs and be held accountable when they don’t.  For whatever that demand might be worth.

(Thank you to everyone who sent me links on this story.)

Good Ol’ Boys in KY Forced to Suspend One of Their Own at the Pound

The Bullitt Co pound in Kentucky is run by ACO Jimmy Miller.  Miller was suspended last week by the county due to alleged violations of the employee handbook.

Delsie Williams, a female employee, told WDRB that Miller, who kills animals at the pound, left a dog in a garbage bag in front of the freezer “because it was still breathing”.  She also explained that Miller won’t touch cats and when he kills them, he has Williams snare them in a chokepole inside the cage, drag them up to the cage bars and hold them there so Miller can jab them with the drug used to kill animals.

But Bullitt Co officials did not suspend Miller over the allegations of animal cruelty.  They suspended him because Williams secretly filmed Miller at work using racial slurs in referring to African-Americans and making sexist remarks and then the local news showed up at the offices of county officials and played the video in their white faces:

We showed the video that an employee secretly recorded in the shelter to Bullitt County Deputy Judge Lisa Craddock and County Attorney John Wooldridge.

They refused to talk to us on camera, but just hours later, told us that Miller is suspended because of alleged violations of the employee handbook.

Craddock appears to be trying to minimize the whole debacle by completely ignoring the allegations of animal torture, blaming social media, and implying that Miller just has a problem with his “tone”. Perhaps most revealing of all:

A previously scheduled public meeting to talk about the shelter Tuesday afternoon has been canceled.

Yeah, saw that coming, blindfolded.  Local taxpayers need to demand better from their public animal shelter and county officials.  The poor shelter pets in Bullitt Co are being hurt and killed by the people paid to protect them.  That needs to stop immediately and officials need to hear from Bullitt Co citizens that anything less is unacceptable.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Florida Pound Oops-Kills Pregnant Dog Tagged by Rescue

Rosie, as pictured on Facebook.

Rosie, as pictured on Facebook.

A rescue group had committed to saving a pregnant dog called Rosie at the Sumter Co pound in Florida this week.  But pound staff killed her because of a clerical error.  She was supposed to be on the save list but got put on the kill list instead.  Oops:

A mistake was made by a very good employee,” Sumter County Public Works director Richard Baier said.

Gee, I hope they don’t have any really super good employees there.

It’s wrong to kill healthy/treatable dogs.  That right there should have been the staff’s first clue that a mistake was being made when Rosie was walked into the kill room.  It’s also wrong to kill pregnant dogs, causing their unborn pups to suffocate inside the mother’s belly.  That would have been a second clue for the staff that Rosie should not be killed.  But apparently staff at Sumter Co are accustomed to killing healthy pets, including pregnant dogs, and no one even hesitated when killing Rosie.

This is the problem.  It’s why we need systemic shelter reform in this country.

Rosie’s would-be rescuer shared her heartbreak on Facebook.  The county says it will institute a system of cross-checking in order to minimize oops-killings in future.  I guess this is where we’re supposed to be all yay.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

TN Pound Closed, Worker Suspended After Dog Found Alive in Freezer

Note:  You never know how images of a dead animal or a live animal who has been hurt, neglected, or otherwise abused will affect people.  Although I make an effort to avoid these images when possible, I have seen too many in the course of writing this blog.  Some are extremely graphic, others less so.  But for me, that is not the determining factor in how deeply these images affect me and to be honest, I don’t know what is.  It is likely a combination of things relating to the image and things unrelated (e.g. you’re having a bad day and then you see a photo of a pet someone hurt and you find it affects you more than you anticipated).  This is the reason I post warnings whenever I link to images that I think some people may find disturbing.  Because I have no way of judging how much each individual can stomach nor do I know in what context the images will be viewed.  Which is a long way of getting to:  The video linked in the post below may be disturbing to some readers.  Speaking for myself, I’ve seen far more graphic images but this one broke my heart, despite knowing the dog is still alive.  Use your discretion.

***

The Lauderdale Co pound in TN has been shut down by order of the mayor and one worker suspended after a dog was found alive in a freezer by a citizen last week.  The woman who found the dog was reportedly looking for the remains of a different dog when she noticed a vein pulsing on the pet.  She shot a brief video showing the dog’s pulse on his leg.  His body is crumpled up and squished like a dirty rag among the dead pets in what appears to be a chest type freezer.  The woman removed the living dog and shot another short video of him which shows he is extremely weak but his eyes are open.  She took him to a vet for care and named him Asher.  The vet reportedly found no evidence of sedatives or sodium pentobarbital in Asher’s system which led to the suspicion that he was placed in the freezer alive and left to suffer and die.

Asher, as shown on LocalMemphis.com.

Asher, as shown on LocalMemphis.com.

The woman who saved Asher was “too afraid to go on camera” because you know, everyone who works at a shelter is a kind-hearted animal lover and such.  LocalMemphis.com reports the Lauderdale Co pound “has a history of problems which include animal control officers shooting dogs and illegally putting dogs in a gas chamber.”

A rescuer told Fox13 that it’s too much work for pound staff to allow rescue groups to help save pets and “easier to throw an animal in the freezer or the incinerator.”  A woman who has lived across the street from the pound for years says she has witnessed abuse there, including starving dogs forced to cannibalize their kennel mates and caged dogs being sprayed full force with a hose.  No one paid by taxpayers to run the county would speak to the Fox13 reporter but the DA said the county sheriff’s department is investigating an allegation of animal cruelty at the pound.

Lauderdale Co leaders have called an emergency meeting for this afternoon regarding the pound.  There is reportedly someone tending to the animals while the facility is closed.  Assuming that person avoids torturing any pets, it will be a significant improvement.  It’s a low bar.  Hopefully Lauderdale Co leaders can clear it.

(Thank you Clarice and Arlene for the links.)

More Tragic Cases of Veterinary “Care” at the Memphis Pound

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 was impounded as a stray by MAS on February 27, 2015. Her age was estimated as 8 weeks and she weighed just 7 pounds. Her intake condition was listed as “poor”. Records indicate she was unable to bear full weight on her right rear leg due to a dislocated hip. There was no x-ray taken at the “state of the art clinic” as notes indicate “system currently unavailable”. On March 5, it was noted that she had soft stool and that “overfeeding” must be ruled out as the cause. Records indicate she was being fed just 1/2 cup of food per day. A puppy this age and size would need to be fed this amount 3 – 4 times a day.  Feeding just 1/2 cup per day would presumably be prosecutable under local cruelty statutes.

A rescue group offered to take the puppy but MAS refused to release her intact.  Because policy, MSN, whatever.  On March 7, despite her young age, poor condition, dislocated hip and starvation diet, MAS spayed the puppy. She died shortly after the procedure.

***

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

An 8 year old dog, ID #275494, was impounded as a stray by MAS on March 2, 2015. The medical records indicate he was “emaciated” with a body condition score of 1/9 and had “deep degloving type wounds” to both front legs and “pyotraumatic dermatitis over rump”. The vet notes state that the dog needed “daily cleansing of wounds”. There are no notes to indicate the dog ever received this daily wound cleansing. There are no notes indicating the dog ever received any medication for pain. In fact, the note “monitor for pain” was entered in the vet notes on March 2, as if there was some doubt as to whether a dog whose front legs are flayed would experience pain.

Thankfully after 10 days at the pound, the dog was pulled by a rescue group.  I assume he finally got the care he needed immediately thereafter, thanks to the irresponsible public.

Taxpayers pay the head veterinarian at MAS $87,400 a year.  In case any vets out there are looking for a job where you don’t have to work too hard.

State Report: Lawton Pound Sucks but More Importantly, Facebook Sucks Worse

The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners conducted an investigation into allegations of neglect and other wrongdoing at the Lawton pound at the request of the city manager.  The 464 page report starts out with a page titled “Conspiracy and Connection of Defendants”.  On one side of the chart featured on this page is a local spay-neuter clinic and on the other side is a Facebook page with various uh, conspirators named below each.  Yes, that says Facebook page.

The Facebook page is administered by a group called Lawton Citizens for Humane Treatment of Animals.  On that page, which I have not visited, people apparently post complaints regarding the mistreatment and killing of animals at the Lawton pound.  I know this because the board’s lead investigator has screencapped a ton of inflammatory posts from that page and included them in the report.  To show that some people act like dicks on Facebook, I guess.

If you are interested in reading a bunch of trash talk and the investigator’s wagging-finger-o-shame responses, knock yourself out.  The gist of the report, in my interpretation, is that oh sure, animals were being neglected and starved to death at the Lawton pound but you know, Facebook is terribleawfulsuperblech.  And the employees are doing the best they can.

Here are a few items I fished out of the muck and summarized that don’t have anything to do with Facebook:

Page 27, Item 69: Employees complained to the investigator that neither the kennel staff nor the ACOs had been properly trained; kennel staff refused to do their jobs and refused to follow instructions from supervisors; male staff refused to wash bowls or do laundry because it’s “woman’s work”; sick and injured animals were left to suffer without veterinary care.

Page 28, Item 70 and 72:  If the rescue group trying to pull a pet was not liked by the employees, they would kill the animal in retaliation.

Page 28, Item 73:  A dog was placed in a kennel with a dog who was known to be a resource guarder so that workers wouldn’t have to clean an additional cage.  (This was reportedly not an uncommon practice.)  The resource guarder prevented the other dog from eating and the dog starved to death after 3 weeks.  One of the employees responsible for the dead dog’s feeding and daily care has since transferred to the Lawton police department.

Recommendations, Pages 39 – 40:

  • Rotate animal killing shifts among the entire staff so that each person gets a longer break between killing shifts.
  • Ban all the people who talk smack on Facebook.
  • Sharing information and photos from inside the facility should be “strictly prohibited”.
  • The city needs to re-evaluate the practice of allowing animals discovered to be pregnant during spay surgery to give birth.
  • Staff should be trained in areas such as basic animal care.
  • A fresh coat of paint!

The city manager says that by July 1, all the violations noted in the report will be brought into compliance.  I would note that one of those violations was starving a dog to death.  But yeah, let’s silence the critics, start killing unborn puppies and kittens, slop some paint on the place and call it good.  The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners must be so proud.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Case Update: Former Pound Director Charged with Felony Cruelty

Pete Brock, the recently fired director of the Martin Co pound in NC, has been arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty.  This is in addition to the charge he was already facing regarding alleged threats made to a former co-worker.  The new charge was filed as the result of an investigation stemming from a February 12 euthanasia inspection in which the facility received only one “acceptable” rating and twenty-two “not acceptable” ratings.

On that date, the state inspector found impound paperwork for nine cats.  Although the drug log only showed that six cats were killed, there were eight cat carcasses in the freezer and one cat was in distress in a trap.  ACO Beck explained that then-director Brock had injected the cat with a euthanasia drug before leaving for the day, telling him to check on the cat later.  If the cat wasn’t dead, ACO Beck was to re-kill the cat.  ACO Beck is not certified to kill animals and asked the inspector if she could kill the cat.  The inspector instructed ACO Beck to take the cat to a local vet clinic.  The vet at the clinic determined the cat had been injected with something that failed to kill him.  The cat was re-killed by the vet.  A technician called the state inspector to report on the cat and said that this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

The technician told the inspector that one week prior, ACO Beck had shown up at the clinic “in a panic” with a kitten who had been injected by Brock and left in the freezer overnight.  ACO Beck found the kitten alive in the freezer with icicles on her ear tips, whiskers and fur.  The tech described the kitten as “hypothermic, wobbly, showing signs of neurologic compromise, thin, hungry and had frostbite damage to the eartips.”  The kitten was saved and has been adopted.

Drug logs at the Martin Co pound were either incomplete or non-existent according to the inspector’s report.  Controlled substances were left unsecured, both inside the facility and in Brock’s county issued vehicle.  Brock was allegedly killing trapped cats immediately upon impound with improper documentation.  ACO Beck had never seen Brock sedate an animal prior to killing and trapped cats were being jabbed at random spots on their bodies through the spacing in the wire traps.  The inspector found no euthanasia manuals on the premises nor was there a stethoscope to verify death.

On March 11, the state permanently revoked Brock’s kill license.  That document details the two botched cat killing attempts as well as an incident with a dog at the pound.  The dog was slated to be killed on December 3, 2014 and ACO Beck reportedly witnessed Brock use the county’s tranquilizer rifle to shoot the dog with several darts filled with euthanasia solution.  The dog was in his cage while Brock repeatedly shot him in the shoulder.  After the dog collapsed, Brock went into the run and injected him with more drugs.

And in case anyone was thinking that these taxpayer-financed violent crimes against dogs and cats are indefensible, hold up:

The county manager says they recently started lethal injections on animals after receiving grant funds to do away with the gas chamber.

David Bone says, “This was a new program we started recently, so anytime you start something new, there can be challenges.”

Bone says the State Department of Agriculture came to the shelter for a routine inspection to check on how they put down animals.

He says, “Part of that process was when they found some discrepancy about the records.”

[…]

Bone says, “He’s had a good career, unfortunately these circumstances came up and so we’re dealing with them .”

Ah, circumstances.  Records discrepancy.  Challenges.  And for some additional context, I refer again to the state inspector’s February 12 report, in which she states she met with county manager David Bone to detail her findings:

During this session it was clear that Mr. Bone had not known of any of the improprieties and showed much shock and surprise.

*slow clap*  What a performance.

This is what enabling looks like.  This is why we have animal cruelty happening in our broken shelter system.  This is why re-training, moving to a new building, and juggling numbers do not solve any problems.  We need systemic reform, now.

As for Brock, he is reportedly out on a $500 bond and due in court on March 30.  Watch this space.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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