Alabama ACO Fails to Catch Loose Puppies, Guns Them Down

A litter of friendly puppies who appeared to be suffering from mange turned up near a golf club in Boaz, AL.  Two pups were caught by local rescuers and are being treated for mange before they go up for adoption.  The local ACO was called about the other pups who had wandered into someone’s yard.  The ACO reportedly tried to catch them but was unsuccessful so he shot them to death.  There was a public outcry over the killings on social media.  The Boaz police department, which oversees AC, responded by releasing a statement which reads, in part:

The animal control officer responded to the residence where the dogs had been dropped, and the owner of the property wished the dogs to be removed. The animal control officer noticed that the dogs were covered in mange and appeared to be sickly. However, after several attempts to catch the dogs, the officer was unable to do so and informed the home owner of this fact. After talking with the property owner and with a neighbor, it was decided that to remove the dogs, they would have to be put down. The home owner and neighbor both agreed with the animal control officer that because of the conditions of the dogs and for the safety of the public, it was best to put the dogs down. The officer had no alternative except to remove the dogs due to their conditions and concerns about the health, welfare, and safety of the public.

Guys, GUYS – The Neighbor was consulted and agreed that shooting the puppies was a good idea!  Totes reassured.  But just in case any of you nitpicky animal advocates have any lingering questions:

The Boaz police are investigating the incident to insure that all proper measures were taken and to implement corrective procedures if necessary.

The Neighbor gave the thumbs up and the police are investigating themselves so I guess there’s nothing left to do but fall into enabler mode:

Doug McGee [the rescuer who saved two of the pups] said he’s spoken with [Boaz police chief Scott] Farish about the whole thing and is hopeful the animal control officer made the right call. McGee said it’s a sad situation, and it’s hard for anyone who wasn’t there to know if shooting them was a correct move because of the public safety issues involved. He hopes the officer weighed all the options first.

“I wish he could have come up with a different approach. Sometimes decisions have to be made,” he said.

Yeah it’s hard for anyone who wasn’t there to know if shooting puppies was the right thing to do.  Because sometimes shooting puppies is the right thing to do, apparently.  Although no circumstances jump to mind of when that would be exactly.  But The Neighbor agreed.  And the public is now safe.  From puppies.

Animals:  Controlled.  Well done, Boaz.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

No Apologies: NC Pound Refuses to Say What was Done with Owned Dog

Chance, as shown on the ABC11 website.

Chance, as shown on the ABC11 website.

A family in NC says their dog Chance chewed his way out of their fence last week and was picked up by the
Wilson Co pound, run by the sheriff’s department.  The pound told them they had 72 hours to repair the fence and reclaim their pet.  They fixed the fence immediately and went to the facility to get Chance the next day.  That’s when the situation took a dark turn.

The family says Wilson Co pound staff told them several different stories:  Chance wasn’t there, Chance was dead, Chance was listed as “active” in the computer system – none of which was offered with any explanation or even an apology.  Unable to get a straight answer, the family asked to see Chance’s body but the pound refused.  They asked to see Chance’s records but the pound refused to provide those either.

Chance’s people are devastated.  They consider him family.  And they want to know what happened to him.  A local reporter tried to help get answers but was also rebuffed by the pound:

ABC11 reached out to the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department. They would neither confirm, nor deny, if Chance was euthanized. They said their office is looking into the matter to see if protocol was followed.

In 2014, the Wilson Co pound killed 53% of its dogs and cats.  The most likely outcome for a pet at that pound is killing.  I don’t know if that’s what they consider “protocol” at the Wilson Co pound but it definitely isn’t sheltering – the service taxpayers believe they are paying for.  Further, NC has a state sunshine law requiring public entities to make records available to taxpayers upon request.  Wilson Co appears to be falling down on that job too.  Taxpayers must demand better.

(Thanks Lisa for the link.)

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.)

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.)

Rowan Co Deigns to Let Citizens Work for Free at the Shelter, Within Limits, Because Obviously

One of the six pets advertised for adoption by the Rowan Co shelter in NC.  (Image via Petfinder)

One of the six pets currently advertised for adoption by the Rowan Co shelter in NC. (Image via Petfinder)

Some Rowan Co animal advocates are apparently pleased with promised policy changes at the shelter but after reading about the changes, I was able to contain my enthusiasm. In an effort to be fair, I’ll outline the changes in yay/nay format.

Paws Up: Beginning July 1, the shelter is going to start vaccinating and microchipping animals.
Paws Down: These costs will be passed on to adopters and rescuers who will have to pay an additional $10 for pets (beyond the current $70 fee).

Paws Up: The county will allow a volunteer program at the shelter.
Paws Down: The program won’t be implemented until a new cat wing, currently under construction, is opened. The volunteers will be issued reader cards in order to be prevented from accessing all areas of the shelter. The county has yet to purchase the card readers. Inmates who work at the shelter reportedly have full access but volunteers will be restricted.

Paws Up: There has been universal support for a 60 day TNR program for feral cats which would cost the county zero dollars.
Paws Down: The county decided to table the measure.

Paws Up: The shelter will purchase new software which will allow photographs of impounded animals to be posted online upon intake.
Paws Down: There is no set date for implementing this change. In the meantime, animal rescuers are restricted to following the current policy: they are allowed in the shelter for one hour at the county’s discretion and can take no more than 8 animal photos during that hour. The county commissioners and the shelter director were asked to relax this rule but refused.

So there you go. Keep your cheering to a dull roar, if you can manage it.

I appreciate that advocates have been working hard for a long time to effect change at the Rowan Co shelter. And I understand that progress doesn’t always take the form we hope for or arrive in a timely fashion. It’s an ongoing effort and you have to start somewhere. I get all that.

But speaking for myself, I’d rather eat glass than volunteer my services to people who treated me with such contempt and are more interested in wielding their sovereign power over me than saving animals. There are, tragically, many places where shelter animals are desperately in need of help and many ways to help them. I wouldn’t waste my time in Rowan Co. On the other hand, I am eternally thankful that not everyone in the world is like me. I’m glad there are some animal advocates in Rowan Co able to put up with these dickheads. Long may they run, especially since there may not be anyone on this planet willing to replace them.

(Thanks Lisa for the link.)

State Finds Person Co Pound in Violation of Law

In 2014, the Person Co pound in NC took in nearly 1800 dogs and cats, killing 62% of them. The county’s website provides a link to Petfinder to see adoptable animals. Today on Petfinder, Person Co has 11 animals listed.  They’re doing the best they can, probably.

Or not.

Twice in recent days, representatives from the NC Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal shelters in the state, called the Person Co pound manager who they say admitted that the pound does not provide veterinary care to its animals nor does it hold them for at least 72 hours before killing – both of which constitute violations of state law.  The representatives apparently asked the manager if at any point she might like to try following the law and doing her job which, based upon the warning letter from the state, she appears to have nah’d:

PCAS’ shelter manager has stated her intention to willfully disregard or violate [both provisions of state law] in the future.

Wow.  I’ve heard of being confident in your feeling of job security but this is extraordinary.  I really want to try this “conflict resolution” approach on my boss but I’m hoping one of you will try it first and let me know how it goes.

WNCN reports:

According to notes taken by the Department of Agriculture, Kellie Oakley with Person County Animal Services said, “The shelter does not provide veterinary care. If the animal is not going to a rescue, it is euthanized.”

But how do you know a rescue isn’t going to pull the animal if you aren’t even waiting the 72 hours mandated by the state?  Oh right, because nobody rescues dead animals.  I see what you did there.  Another victory for the Cats Don’t Need Holding Periods crowd, I guess.

The state has given the Person Co pound 14 days to bring its written protocols and practices into compliance with the law.  If the pound fails to comply, disciplinary action may be taken which might include the suspension or revocation of the pound’s license to operate.  The animals should be so lucky.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Clayton Co Pound Conducts Mass Killing

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

Two of the dogs killed by the Clayton Co pound, as posted on Facebook.

Two of the dogs reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

Captain Andre Jackson is in charge of the Clayton Co pound in GA where approximately 60 dogs were killed on Monday after some dogs sneezed:

CBS46 asked Clayton County animal control officials what kind of contagious illness prompted the latest action.

Jackson said, “We can’t determine at this time, but we had an increase in animals that came into the shelter, and they began to exhibit some signs of runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.”

Interestingly, when the reporter tried to press for answers, he was told he’d have to file a FOIA request, which he did.  So basically they don’t know what the sneezing was about or if they do, they aren’t going to tell unless forced by sunshine laws to provide the information.  But they “had to” kill 60 dogs.  Sounds legit.

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

One of the dogs killed for this unknown/super secret sneezing thing had reportedly just whelped a litter of puppies at the pound.  Those puppies are now orphans being bottle fed by a member of the irresponsible public.

Clayton Co does not vaccinate upon intake – one of the most basic tenets of disease prevention in shelters.  There has been talk for years about “starting over” in a new facility, which Clayton Co voters approved funding for in 2009.  But a new building won’t force shelter staff to do their jobs.

Mass killing for non-specific reasons, killing a nursing dam, failure to follow best practices for disease prevention, telling a reporter to file a FOIA request in order to get his questions answered – these are the hallmarks of a dysfunctional shelter in desperate need of reform.  And the same exact things will happen in a shiny new building, if that ever materializes.  Taxpayers need to demand meaningful reform at the Clayton Co pound now.

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

A dog reportedly killed by the Clayton Co pound on June 1, as posted on Facebook.

(Thanks Clarice and Anne for the links.)

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.)

NC Dog Owner Files Lawsuit for Return of Her Pet Sold by County Pound

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

A lawsuit has been filed by a dog owner against Cumberland Co and the couple who bought her dog from the county pound, despite all parties knowing the dog had an owner who wanted him back.  The lawsuit provides a detailed timeline of events but I’ll provide a summary.

Bobo the golden retriever wandered away from his home on January 21, was found by a Good Sam and taken to the Cumberland Co pound.  The Good Sam said he would take Bobo back after the mandatory 3 day holding period if no one claimed the dog because he felt certain there was a local owner due to Bobo’s excellent condition and manners.

Meanwhile Bobo’s owner was physically searching for her family’s lost pet and networking with neighbors, including the local fire department.  Through the owner’s efforts, the Good Sam was made aware of her name and address while he was on his way to pick up Bobo from the pound on January 26.  He stopped by the owner’s residence but she was not home at the time.  He left his card and called the pound to advise he was on his way and to provide them with the owner’s name and address.  The staffer he spoke with told him if he didn’t arrive within the next 10 minutes – when the 3 day holding period expired – the dog would be sold to someone else.  The good Sam arrived at the pound 12 minutes later and found a man there in the process of adopting Bobo.  The Good Sam explained again to pound staff that the dog’s owner was known and told the potential adopter as well.  The adopter said he could provide a better home for Bobo than the actual owner and decided to move forward with the adoption, which the staff agreed to process.

State law and Cumberland Co code require pound staff to make reasonable efforts to contact the owner of an impounded pet, which the lawsuit alleges the county did not do.  And:

Like many shelters, Cumberland County gives owners three business days to claim a pet from the shelter. A county ordinance requires that timeline be extended another 72 hours “if the owner is known.”

The lawsuit alleges that the county only held Bobo for the initial 3 day period then ignored information regarding the owner’s identity and sold him improperly.  Bobo’s family is heartbroken and tried to get their dog back without resorting to legal action but both the county and the couple who bought Bobo ignored communication from the family’s attorney.  The couple reportedly stated in an email to WRAL that they had narrowly missed out on some previous attempts to adopt other rescue goldens and so placed their name on the list for Bobo.  They further stated that they could not return Bobo to his family “in good conscience” because it’s not in the dog’s “best interest”.

While the buyers seem to vaguely allude to some perceived lack of fitness upon the part of Bobo’s owners, the county was more specific, and in typical fashion, and put the blame for Bobo’s loss on the family:

“Cumberland County Animal Control followed its procedures in dealing with the stray dog dropped off at the Animal Shelter with no identifying tags or microchip. The impounded animal was not claimed by its owner after the required three-day holding period and no owner’s name or address was provided to the department. The dog then became available for adoption and we followed our procedures for that process.

“It is upsetting to lose a pet and we sympathize with the Davis family. We encourage pet owners to have their animals microchipped. All pet owners should make sure their pets are wearing proper vaccination and identifying tags. Should your pet go missing, contact or visit Animal Control immediately.”

Although it’s not 100% clear to me, it sounds as if the county may be denying the Good Sam provided Bobo’s owner information over the phone within the 3 day holding period and that when he arrived at the pound to provide it again, he was 2 minutes past the holding period and the county was within its legal rights to sell the dog.  And despite the county’s obvious attempt to smear the owners, the worst they could come up with is an implication that the owners failed to have tags on the dog (which is denied in the lawsuit).

It seems obvious what the right thing is here.  It should have been obvious to both the county and the buyer at the time the adoption was being processed.  Cumberland Co killed 63% of the dogs and cats it took in last year so perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that staff failed to do right by a pet in its care.  I don’t know what the buyers’ excuse is except for the fact that they didn’t get some previous rescue goldens they wanted and were apparently determined to get this one, even if he didn’t need rescuing.  The pettiness and mean-spiritedness from both the county and the buyers is shameful.  And poor Bobo has been needlessly separated from his family all these months.

Bobo’s owner is seeking his return in the lawsuit.  If the court rules in her favor, perhaps Cumberland Co will think twice next time about breaking up a family.  One hopes anyway.  Watch this space.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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