Southern Pines Animal Shelter Killed Beloved Lost Dog Shortly After Intake

The Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Hattiesburg MS indicates on its website that it killed 67% of the pets in the facility’s care in 2010 and adds:

Unfortunately many animals must be euthanized because of lack of space, resources, and adoptive homes.

This statement needs to be updated to include “because they won’t let a stranger in a pet slaughterhouse open their mouths to look at their teeth”.  That appears to be the reason a family dog named JoJo was killed within hours after being picked up by the pound.

JoJo’s owners came home one day last month to find the back gate open and senior Chow Chow JoJo gone.  They immediately began searching for her and contacted the pound as soon as it opened.  The owners were advised JoJo was there, was in fine shape and they could pick her up the next day.  At the time of that call however, JoJo had already been killed by Southern Pines Animal Shelter.

“When I tried to look in it’s mouth to determine it’s age, it wouldn’t let me look at it’s teeth – it was in pain,” said shelter Manager Lara Hudson, who made the decision to euthanize Jojo. Hudson said the dog was in bad shape, that she could not walk on her two back legs, that she was matted, old, and disoriented.

Since this information directly contradicted what they were told on the phone, the owners decided to have a veterinarian perform an autopsy on JoJo.  They then took the records to a second vet for another opinion:

[B]oth vets said that Jojo was old, but she was a healthy uninjured dog.

The Southern Pines Animal Shelter responded to the veterinarians’ reports with something along the lines of “So’s ya Mutha”.  And then they got in one last zinger:

While the website says Southern Pines will hold an animal for five days – Hudson says, she doesn’t let it suffer. If the animal has a tag or an ID chip with an owner to call, she won’t be the one making the decision.

“Please, have some identification on the animal,” she said.

So you see whose fault it is that the Southern Pines Animal Shelter killed an uninjured dog and then lied about the reason why, right?

“If I make a mistake, I thoroughly apologize, but that’s what I have to do every day, and it’s not fun,” said Hudson.

Look, 6000 pets a year aren’t just going to kill themselves you know.  The Southern Pines Animal Shelter “has to” kill all these pets and to make things worse, it’s not even fun!

35 thoughts on “Southern Pines Animal Shelter Killed Beloved Lost Dog Shortly After Intake

  1. People need to stop jumping to conclusions.

    If my 5-year-old dog went missing at the wrong time of year he could appear to be neglected or suffering. He has some pretty nasty allergies, the contact allergies being the worst. When we lose the battle against itching he can get bad and fast. Bald patches, thinning hair, red bumps, inflamed skin. He tears into his skin, scratching and licking, making it all the worse. By that time he has a skin infection. And he won’t let a stranger touch his feet (he’ll scream like he’s being hurt).

    If you know my dogs and I you know how much time I spend on/with them. You know how many baths I give him, how many times we’ve had to do food trials, that I have a shelf dedicated to combating his allergies and soothing the symptoms, that I have a stash of clothing and booties to protect sensitive skin, and that I recently bought a humidifier for to tackle sinus problems (my vet was so right). Seriously, my dog has his own humidifier.

    1. There was no “lie.” I could just as easily say that the owners were lying when they said the dog was healthy and cared for (if the dog was only out for a few hours, why was it injured, dirty and matted?), but I don’t think that these folks should be attacked like that. At the same time, the shelter was doing the best they could in the given situation. Nobody profits when an animal is put down. Shelter workers are devastated every time an animal has to be put to sleep. I have personally witnessed the tears. Maybe we should all be a little less quick to judge.

  2. Yes, it would be wonderful if all dogs wore a collar with I.D. tags and where micro-chipped, but if they do not have these when found that should not be a death sentence. The owner of this dog cared and they are not the ones that killed him.

    This shelter could also have done with some other shelters do and that is network about the new shelter dog asking people and rescues to network to find the dog’s owner or consider adoption or rescue when the hold period is over. You know treat the dog like a precious being and aim to save him or her and find home or new home. Killing (disposal) should not be the main mission of our animal shelters/pounds.

    1. Something tells me that even if the dog had 3 ID collars, they would still “euthanize” the dog and claim that it was because the dog was a threat or whatever. Its the same old “catch and kill” philosophy that Ive heard about too many times since joining this website and reading these articles.

      1. Yikes! This blog certainly make it seem like this shelter is evil. But that just isn’t the case. I volunteer at this shelter, and I can tell you that everyone there is an animal lover. We are devastated when animals have to be put to sleep. We treat sick animals so they have a chance to be saved. Healthy pets are cared for until adoption. Not all animals are healthy enough to be treated, and not all healthy animals are adoptable (for example, they might be super aggressive). What is to be done in these situations? We will not let animals suffer.

        Refusing to let animals suffer also means that we are willing, in some cases, to violate the general policy to have a five day holding period. By the way, that is five days until the animal can be put up for adoption (some seem to imply that it means five days until the animal is put to sleep).

  3. This shelter was in the news a couple of years ago when a former staff member set fire to the office and the disabled office cats were killed. Last year after most of the staff resigned, the director was fired. Now they have killed a beloved dog, lied about it, and the shelter manager gives a flippant response.

    My 6 year old, formerly abused dog, will not let the vet open her mouth. I have to open her mouth for him. Anyone who works with animals and likes animals, would not kill an animal for this pathetic reason. I think Southern Pines still has staff problems.

  4. I wonder how many other shelters actually keep older dogs for the time required by law. I think many shelters do not want to take care of the seniors as it costs them too much money and they consider them unadoptable! All my older ones are microchipped but I wonder if the shelters really check all the time.

    Many elderly dogs have dental problems and some are too old and have health issues to be put under anesthesia to have it corrected. That is why some older dogs have to eat canned food. Don’t even let me get started about gait issues in older dogs. It sounds as if this shelter knows nothing about older/elderly animals!

  5. They probably killed the dog because it was old and a chow. Lots of people are predjudiced against chows for the same reasons people are predujiced against pit bulls. Chows have a reputation for being biters. That rep probably came from those who breed chows because they look cute not because they are good representations of the breed, thus producing dogs of incorrect temperament. Yes chows aren’t supposed to love everyone like golden retrievers and they are suposed to be aloof to those outside the family, but they aren’t supposed to be wontonly aggressive either.

    1. Check their website. They have chows and bulls available for adoption. They also have many older dogs available. There was no bias against the breed or age of the dog in this case.

      If other shelters discriminate based on breed or age, that is terrible!

  6. Do these shelter directors have a playbook? It’s always the same: needlessly kill the pet on intake or soon thereafter, then — when caught — lie about the victim’s condition, blame the victim’s family, enlist your defenders, and feel sorry for yourself. It’s a script.

  7. What a shame. This shelter is all a lie to the media. They could have given the owner time to find their dog once it was sent to the shelter. I would never recommend this shelter to anyone. This tells you a lot about the people that manage it.

  8. I am a very active volunteer for the Southern Pines Animal Shelter and want to add a few things to this conversation.

    The shelter’s live release rate has gone from about 21 percent last April to about 60 percent in December (this means that right now 60 percent of the animals who come in are either reunited with their owners, are adopted, or are placed in breed-specific rescues around the area.) This is due to hard work by the shelter staff and volunteers and the expertise of the new shelter director, Lara Hudson, who has made a lot of changes to shelter practices.

    Standard protocol when a stray animal is brought in is that the animal be held for five days to allow the animal’s family to “find” the dog at the shelter. If an animal has a collar, a microchip, or a rabies tag (which is actually required by law), that animal can easily be reunited with its owner. Jojo did not have any of these markers.

    If, however, an animal comes in that is aggressive, injured, sick or in pain, that animal may be put down the same day. (Less than 3% of the strays who come in are ever reunited with their owners.)

    This dog not only indicated it had pain in its mouth and a matted coat, but it was not using its back legs properly, which meant it could have been injured, possibly hit by a vehicle, abused, or had a brain condition. It didn’t appear to be someone’s pet, because of the tough condition it was in. The autopsy that was conducted on the dog would not have been able to explain all reasons why Jojo’s legs weren’t working properly. The decision to put Jojo down was made in the best interest of the dog, based on the evaluation by Lara Hudson and the shelter vet technicians, who determined this dog was suffering and in pain.

    These decisions are never made lightly; everyone who works at the shelters loves animals. I know this because I volunteer there. It’s very easy for people on the Internet to get fired up about something like this, because it’s easy to imagine how the owners felt…and one can extrapolate that to imagine how one would personally be affected by such a situation. But shelter staff and volunteers are heartbroken by every lost life.

    This small city of about 50,000 people (and the surrounding area) generates 10,000 unwanted and stray animals every year. This is not the fault of the shelter. The shelter works hard to educate the population and has opened a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, which also does a fabulous job of soliciting grants to make these surgeries ever lower-cost or free for area citizens. Pet owners need to realize the impact a few extra litters can make on a community and help control the population. Microchipping is offered through the Spay & Neuter Clinic for $10. A microchip in every pet would further ease the burden.

    Don’t blame those who are doing what they can with a terrible situation. The shelter cannot currently find 10,000 new pet owners a year in a community this small, but all of the volunteers and staff members continue to work very hard to save every animal possible, and every animal that comes through those doors is treated with love and respect. I know this, because I see this demonstrated the few times a week I am over there.

    Please support your local shelter by donating your time and money, and by adopting pets whenever you need a new friend, rather than buying them from a breeder.

    Theresa Venette

    1. Thanks, Theresa. Those of us who have actually worked at a shelter know that euthanasia is the worst job in the world. Congratulations on getting the adoption rate up. I have to believe that is partly due to the spay-neuter program. I hope half of the people who criticize without “walking in your shoes” will see fit to either (a) volunteer, (b) donate, (c) adopt, (d) have their pets neutered, or (e) all of the above.

      1. jp – It’s the worst job in the world that gets defended by killing apologists like it’s the best job in the world. Sorry, we don’t play the “walking in your shoes” card around here. Nobody here just talks. Except you, who comes in as a new guest and starts putting people down. It’s rude. Please consider this a one time warning to straighten up and fly right.

      2. Just to let everyone know, Theresa Venette is now the current manager of this shelter. I personally believe that the shelter should have honored the 5 day hold and given the owners a chance to find their pet. The ONLY way I could see putting that dog down within that hold period was if the dog was in extreme pain and going to die, within that period, anyway. Such as having extreme wounds, losing a lot of blood, broken spine, major severe seizures, heart failure.

    2. Theresa,

      You say not to blame those who are doing the best they can in a bad situation – but the “best they can” = killing pets. You want us to blame someone else because these people are needlessly killing pets?

      1. Hey YesBiscuit,

        I’m sorry if you perceived I was looking for a fight or putting anyone down. I just thought I might be able to offer insight that others on this board might not have (since other people have never been to the Southern Pines Animal Shelter.) I’m actually a friendly and kind person, and I volunteer at the shelter to try to help save any lives I can (I fostered about twenty cats last year at my house who would have otherwise been put-down. All of those cats are in new adoptive families!) I also am a brand new board member, I donate supplies and money to the shelter, I donate household items to our new thrift store, I manage the Cat Pals program at our local PetSmart (this program I have improved to the point where HALF of the cats we adopt out through the shelter are adopted out through this program.) I really do walk and talk the walk! :)

        The amount of animal drop-offs we get far outweigh those brought in by animal control…and the community here has done a terrible job keeping its pets spayed and neutered. If anyone has an idea (and I’m not being sarcastic here) what the shelter can do with four thousand more animals per year than we have room or resources for, please let me know. And please know the shelter and its staff and volunteers do the absolute best they can. They do not take any pleasure in euthanizing animals.

        Theresa Venette

      2. Thanks, that’s very helpful. Our shelter has gone from a 79% kill rate to a 40% kill rate in just a little over half a year — I think that’s phenomenal. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to be a no-kill shelter (some of the animals we get in are very, very ill, or have been trained as attack dogs. There is a lot of dog fighting in this area, sadly.) But we are definitely making strides in the right decision. Our Spay & Neuter Clinic has done over 6,000 surgeries in its first year and a half, so think of how many un-wanted puppies and kittens that has prevented. Maybe some day, we won’t have such a flood of drop-offs.

        Please, everyone, know that we are trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The shelter has opened a low-cost spay and neuter clinic and a brand new thrift store to help with expenses, we work with area breed-specific rescue groups now (that’s something new this last year), we have a good and growing foster program, we screen adopters and educate them about responsible pet ownership, we do a lot with public relations (including a Pet of the Week spot on the local news program, participation in community events, adoption events, off-site gatherings, local parades, a pet photography project that has an almost 100% adoption record and much more). We also have lots of smart and helpful volunteers, a caring and dedicated staff and a well-educated, articulate and caring director.

        Keep your good thoughts and prayers with the SPAS — we hope to continue to make improvements in the way the shelter operates and helps the community (and most importantly…the animals!)

        Theresa Venette

  9. Here’s why South Pines needs to take a play from the ASPCA Oops Book:
    *The owners were advised JoJo was there, was in fine shape and they could pick her up the next day. At the time of that call however, JoJo had already been killed by Southern Pines Animal Shelter.*

    WHY would the person on the phone say the dog was there, alive, and okay (and tell the people they could come get her later) if it was not true?!

    Perhaps because the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing? Or, perhaps the phone person was correct, and Jojo was still alive?

    I can logically see how/why pound personnel would choose to euthanize an aged chow. (Someone above mentioned the breed-specific bias, others note the bias against older animals, and, well, add a heavy coat, perceived lameness, lack of ID, and for those in a hurry—death is a no brainer.)

    And that’s the rub. It’s *easy* to justify death if you’ve lost your appreciation for LIFE. The reason this place has such an abysmal RTO (return to owner) rate is because they’re killing animals before an owner even notices them missing, let alone has time to rush down there to stay the execution.

    The manager/vet killed the dog. Now we’re in a he-said/she-said vet war, and those simply aren’t winnable. But you know what? I betcha the gal who answers the phone is in REALLY hot water. Dang, and she probably really liked her job…

    1. This true. I have been there and everyone seemed to be in a fog. They couldn’t even keep up with which animals were there and which ones weren’t. The animal we went to get and see wasn’t even there no more and it was still listed on their website.

  10. It’s easy to say this is a “he said she said situation”. But couldn’t the shelter manager have at least given the dog the required 5 day hold… with some pain medication? Also, how do you know a dog won’t open its moutth or use it’s back legs (so they say)because it is in pain—- could fear be another reason? Shouldn’t the manager get a vet’s opinion before making such a dire decision?
    it’s easy to improve a dismal shelter performce by 40%….. just kill any dog or cat that has even the slightest strike against it ie. age, breed, shyness, poor socialization ….
    And just what was the shelter manager’s history before coming into Southern Pines. Who was her prior employer? Did she make the same “progress” there?

    1. Pete, it hasn’t been “easy” to improve the shelter’s performance by 40%. It’s involved a lot of work by shelter workers, management, the board and volunteers.

      In the past year and a half, we’ve opened a thrift store, a low-cost Spay & Neuter Clinic, and the clinic is expanding into a new space (being built by volunteers and local businesses, many of whom are donating their time and materials.) This new clinic will offer on-site adoptions as well. The shelter grounds have been given a complete over-haul (a new walking path, new ramps and walkways, a garden, improved fencing, etc.) We’ve renovated the cat cottage and opened a kitten cottage where the cats can roam free (in a daycare type setting); this was done to reduce the amount of upper respiratory infections and stress on the cats. We’ve won grants, solicited donations to keep operating (no easy task with an operating budget of half a million dollars). The clinic raised funds for a van to do outreach into surrounding communities. Volunteer professional photographers take pictures of animals to post online/on Facebook, and this same group put together a very nice calendar that helped us raise $5,000. I could go on, but I hope you get the picture.

      This is a city with about 22,000 households, but we take in 10,000 animals a year. That means, in order to find homes for all of the animals, every household in Hattiesburg would need to adopt a pet every other year. It’s not possible to find them all homes. Working with area breed-specific rescues for dogs and increasing our catch/neuter/release program for cats has helped. But we’re not going to be able to stop euthanizing so many pets until the deluge of unwanted animals slows. This is a tricky prospect in a community with 32% of its population living in poverty and an almost 10% unemployment rate. We do not have a city pound. And citizens here have a hard time paying for pet care as well as wrong ideas about what spaying and neutering does to your pets (they believe a cat or dog will be a better pet if you allow it to have a litter or two, that fixing your dog takes its manhood away, etc.) We also have year-round warm weather, which means our stray cat population is out of control (a cat can have three litters a year.)

      I doubt there’s really anything I can say to convince any of you that we are a kind-hearted and hard-working organization heading, finally, in a good direction. I know what I know about the shelter, because I’m a loyal volunteer there and have had direct contact with its staff and other volunteers. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers for success in curbing this community’s pet overpopulation problem.

      Theresa Venette

      1. As soon as you get rid of your negative mantras (kill them with fire!) about how it’s not possible to find them all homes and pet overpopulation, you’ll be free to embrace the reality of no kill. It’s real. It’s happening. Check out Reno, Nevada as an example. They too face great challenges in their community but they don’t make excuses – they save pets’ lives.

      2. “Kill them with fire!”? I don’t understand.

        Honestly, SPAS is working to save lives, not make excuses. If anyone has practical advice, it would be very appreciated!

  11. Every Shelter should follow the policy of The S.P.C.A. Of North Brevard in Florida, they are a TRUE No-Kill Shelter. You can look them up online. They have even rescued animals from other county shelters that were going to be put down. The rehabilate and then keep them until they find forever homes. I’m up here working in Hattiesburg and it makes me sad to think that animals are being put down for no reason. I personally raise thousands of dollars for the S.P.C.A. of North Brevard in Florida because people know they are a NO KILL shelter and want to give even more. Maybe Southern Pines should look at their policy. They could save more helpless animals who cannot speak for themselves.

  12. Southern Pines is known for its less than stellar policies. A few years ago I adopted a puppy from their shelter. I left her there a few days for her to be spayed and then picked her up. Days after bringing her home she became very fatigued and seemed to be in pain. Less than a day after those symptoms started she began vomiting. I took her to my family veterinarian and he discovered that a six inch piece of gauze had been left inside of her when she was spayed. Her stomach, liver, and pancreas had grown into the gauze and she was hemorrhaging under her stitches. They did all they could for her but she died a few days later, still under the care of the vet. Our vet later told us that he spent more time fixing animals that the shelter had hurt than treating sick animals some months. I called the shelter, in hopes that whoever had performed the surgery on my puppy would be checked into. Their only response was to tell me that things happen and if I brought the body of my puppy back they would give me a new one for free. I was appalled that an organization supposedly dedicated to animals could be so callous about an unnecessary death of an innocent animal that was caused by their carelessness. After my experiences with this shelter, this story does not surprise me at all.

    1. So sad but true! I told them that I would have my vet perform all of the rest of the shots and the spaying and would have him fax them the papers. They got so pissed at me and said that was not in their policy. I told them I am paying for it and I want my vet who I know will do an accurate job to do the work. We will see how it works out!

  13. This is a volunteer shelter people. I can understand where spacing becomes an issue. I love animals and I wish i could take them all home but realistically we can’t. So why are we bashing an organization that is doing this out of the kindness of their hearts? Keep your pet on a leash, behind a fence, or in the house. It is the owners fault that their pets go missing. If people would take care of their own animals and were more attentive of them, there would be a lot fewer animals roaming the streets. I visit Southern Pines Animal Shelter and I see them doing their best with what is donated to them.

  14. You strike me as a person of conscience. By that rationale, this blog should be beneath you.

    The wifey-chan and I happened to visit Southern Pines today. She’s thinking about volunteering. (shudder Better her than me.) I used the opportunity to look around, size up the place and the people, that kind of thing. And then returning home, I googled up references to the place, hence my exposure to the above.

    As I noodled about that place, I saw no sign of evil — or even the weary callousness that can drive people to unthinkingly cruel decisions. Hell, if what I witnessed is any indication, those people *love* the animals that are their chosen stewardship. Little notes of that affection abounded, be it the “don’t even think of transporting one of these animals home in the trunk of your vehicle” sign on one wall, or the explanation of why they would auction off some of the purer breeds (so that the proceeds could go toward waiving the fees for the less adoptable animals, thus increasing their hope of being spared euthanization). Whole lotta “and so forth.”

    Is it a perfect operation? Doubtful. Did the woman who ordered the dog’s death make a mistake? Possibly. Did she invent a bunch of “well, it was really sick, too” bulldada in an effort to cover herself when angry people came looking for satisfaction? Based upon my observations of human behavior, I’d call that one VERY possible.

    And if so, then it can be seen as saddening from more than one angle. Perhaps saddening that she lacked the integrity to explain herself honestly and plainly. Or just as possibly saddening that, recognizing a rather vicious social system of penalizing its citizens over any call that can be painted as “imperfect,” she felt the need to protect herself and her organization.

    This choice of rationales being relevant, understand, only IF she was blowing smoke in the first place.

    So many maybes, weighed against the concrete evidence that I witnessed firsthand at that place today.

    Before we left, the wifey-chan and I witnessed some of the staff leaving on an animal rescue. I wasn’t nearly as curious as was my love, but still got the gist that some person out there was hoarding dogs, offering them a squalid “shelter” substitute wherein they were literally feeding off of one another.

    I’ve heard of “no-kill shelters,” and I’ve no doubt that such places offer better fates than those awaiting many of the animals that wind up at Southern Pines. That’s sad for Southern Pines, for its staff, that despite so obviously loving these creatures they feel it necessary to kill so many of them. I’d bet a shiny penny, though, that this perception isn’t based upon some measure of ignorance — they appeared to know what they were about — but rather was the product of simple, practical necessity.

    Lookit… you’re probably hurt by the death of that beloved pet. You’re clearly angered by it. Check. And especially given that the death appears to have been needless, your anger is compounded by a sense that they might be indulging in gratuitous cruelty over there.

    But I humbly offer the suggestion that your perceptions on the matter might be inaccurate, a product of insufficient data or unfortunate filters. THIS is cruelty:

    > Look, 6000 pets a year aren’t just going to kill themselves you know. The Southern Pines Animal Shelter “has to” kill all these pets and to make things worse, it’s not even fun!

    That is a lashing out at your fellow human beings, who did something you didn’t like very much, but whose reasoning — though almost certainly imperfect at times — appears to be grounded in a love for the creatures they work with.

    Does that make you a “bad person”…? Hardly. Ah, to have a dollar for every head that I’ve unfairly bitten off. We’re people. We do these things, whether proudly or just in anger.

    Luckily, we also have the capacity — however rarely utilized among our pathetic kind — to step back from such choices, to rethink, and (rarely, when we’re at our very very best) to say “my bad.” No excuses. No justifications. Just “my bad.”

    Ah, to live in a world wherein such a thing were far more popular than it in fact is.

    Can you do it? Can you reenvision that place as something other than the laboratory of horrors that you paint above? Dare you volunteer there for one… ONE full workday, and REALLY research the place from a hands-on perspective, learning far more about these people whom you’ve so roughly lashed, if only to gather sufficient data to follow up your blog?

    If I’m wrong about them, what excellent fodder for an “I KNEW IT” follow-up blog! An expose’! REALLY nail those cats!

    Or if my own perceptions are true, then how fine a chance to say “my bad.”

    If I’m a pot calling a kettle “black”… if I’m judging the above blog erroneously, based upon the limitations on my own data, then my own bad. I apologize.

    But only if so. Otherwise, pray consider this response a challenge, not a chastisement. Gently offered. Please, come on… don’t be that guy.



    Cheers! =)

    1. You strike me as a person who hasn’t read the blog before and is perhaps commenting out of ignorance. Forgivable. You also strike me as a person who repeatedly refers to your life partner as “the wifey-chan”.

  15. That’s why is you leave your pet outside, have proper ID on him or her, so you can get notified immediately. My chihuahua got out last year and he was having seizures. They carried him to the Pet ER clinic and were treating him. In my personal experience they care about their jobs and animals and try their best. But they deal with thousands of animals a year. Sometimes bad calls will be made. But the worst call a pet owner can make is to leave their pet outside without proper ID on them so that they could be notified immediately. This sounds like as much the owner’s fault as the shelter’s.

    Just my two cents.

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