TN ACO Impounds Beloved 16 Year Old Pet; Appears to Violate Stray Holding Period Law

This is one of those stories that was too sad to write about immediately after reading.  I had to wait a couple of days and come back to it.  Like many of you, I especially love old dogs.  Thank you to everyone who sent me this story.  It deserves to be told.

Toby, as pictured on the Manchester Times website.

Manchester, TNToby’s owner took him in as a stray 13 years ago when he was about 3.  Like most dogs lucky enough to make it to 16, Toby had some of the typical physical problems you’d expect in a Lab:  his vision and hearing were compromised and he had arthritis which his owner managed with medicine.  One of Toby’s favorite things was laying out in the rain.  This is not unusual for a dog bred to retrieve on water.  He also liked to visit the home next door.  When new neighbors moved into that home recently and saw Toby lying on the sidewalk in the rain, they didn’t realize he lived next door.  They thought he might be in need of help so they called animal control to pick him up.  This was on Monday.  Unable to find his dog, Toby’s owner searched for him all night Monday.  The search came to an end the following morning.

When the Coffee Co ACO picked up Toby, he should have taken him to the pound and held him for at least 3 days so his owner could reclaim him, according to county rules.  What he apparently did instead was take Toby to the pound, shoot him in the head and toss him in the dumpster along with other pet carcasses.  The ACO explained that the dog “looked like it had been hit by a car.”  His owner picked up his body and took it to his vet.  The vet determined Toby was in good health for a 16 year old dog.

Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves said a report has been filed and that an investigation has been opened.

Meanwhile The Manchester Times filed FOIA requests and found that AC’s claims that they lack funds for training staff (presumably in following their own laws) or caring for injured pets are both false.  The funds are there, designated for training and vet care, but the training funds were spent on a truck motor and a good chunk of the vet care funds are sitting in the bank, along with a reserve fund.

Protesters carried signs and chanted in front of Coffee Co AC today in support of Toby.

43 thoughts on “TN ACO Impounds Beloved 16 Year Old Pet; Appears to Violate Stray Holding Period Law

  1. OMG! My heart just broke for Toby and his family. Why does this have to keep happening? I’m having my own issues with what I got on my own Records Request that broke my heart. It has to change, it just has too. My prayers to Toby’s family. My tears are for Toby and the dogs on the records I have. They didn’t need to be killed either.

  2. Another out-of-control animal control officer. My heart breaks for Toby and his family, who clearly loved him very much. No living creature deserves to die like that. I hope that the responsible person is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This “defense” of “we didn’t know” is nothing more than horse pucky!

  3. I am so sad for the owners for the loss of their beloved pet! I am also worried for my older dogs as it appears they have no chance of living if they would be picked up as strays in many communities!

    Is it legal in TN for animal control to shoot dogs? I thought gas chambers were bad but shooting them in the head and dumping them in a dumpster is disgusting. Does the ACO even verify that the dog is deceased before dumping them in the dumpster? I am sure this is not the first time.

  4. I used to live in TN for about a decade – a lot of the ACO’s are what my Tn hubby called ‘rednecks with guns’. And so many are. Also, look up how many ‘sherriffs’ in those areas are found to be having sex with minors, etc. Quite abysmal. Can we just neuter them all?

  5. What kind of cruel, miserable, sick individuals work at these places anyway? Every day the stories get worse…

  6. I wonder if a big fat lawsuit would help change things… if you find that Toby’s owner decides to file suit and needs help gathering legal fees, let us know. I would donate to that for sure! If this was my dog, that whole darn AC dept would be a smoking hole in the ground by the time I got done with them…

    1. “The sheriff’s department handed the case to District Attorney Mickey Lane He says criminal charges won’t be filed in the case because dog owner Brian Pennington does not want to press charges.”

  7. This brought me to tears- my dog turned 15 today and can’t imagine her in a shelter… So very very sad!!!!

  8. I’ve read story after story like this. They always claim the dog was suffering, stumbling, vomiting blood, sick, dying, etc., when in fact the dog was fine, maybe old, but fine. It happens in New York City, it happens on the West Coast, it happens everywhere. These places are all the same. Animals are better off on the street.

    And can you imagine how the new neighbors feel? Welcome to our community, where no good deed goes unpunished.

    1. Good job by that reporter, at least. He cared enough to get the right information, and was clear and thorough in his treatment of the story.

  9. My own 15, maybe 16 year old dog is snoozing here at my feet. I would be a raving lunatic if something like that happened to her. We are fully prepared to let her go when it’s her time…as many people who have the privilege of living with old dogs are.

    But a bullet?! What a heart-breaking tragedy. My heart goes out to Toby’s owners.

  10. IF that had been my dog, it would have been a case of who could shoot first, me or the effing ACO. And I would hope it would be the ACO, because if I was the on left standing, I’d brutalize that effer out of anger and grief. Sad to say, but that’s the way it is. I stand between my dogs and all the devils in hell.

  11. PS: I don’t mean for this to be offensive, although I am sure it will be, but here’s the question: Why do most of the horror stories come out of TN?? Is this kind of cruelty endemic in the state? And does it extend to human-to-human cruelty as well?

    1. Sad to say it isn’t much better human to human. Read the papers there. Listen to the news stations. It does seem to be epidemic there.

    2. Morgana = Tennessee has been the number one ranked state for cruelty, neglect and animal issues for the past 3 years !!! Not something you’d think a state would want to have around it’s neck. Something you’d think a state would want to change – BUT – not so. Precious little is changing here at all for Animal Welfare. In fact – our a hardcore group of our legislators are even trying to get Horse Slaugher back into our state! Attrocious. I’m an Animal Control Director in the State of Tennessee – I lobby, I meet the media, I reach out everyday to educate. It’s VERY tough here. Look at “The East Tennessee Fighting Cocks” sport team! They wear cock fighting like a badge of armor!

  12. Morgana I live in TN and I could tell you about a million horror stories in SC, CA, NY, Alabama- EVERYWHERE! It is not just TN. Unfortunately horror stories and abused animals are in every every city everyday. OH and St louis has some of the worst abuse in our entire country…. Stray rescue of St. louis has 3 shelters to try and help all the strays who are SHOT, strangled, axed, legs sawed off and hung outside windows DAILY! NO JOKE! There are not horror stories like St Louis horror stories. And while this thing does happen a lot in the DEEP south where there is hunting, people who have been there for generations does happen in big cities too where the law does not care.
    And also in SC many shelters are allowed by law to SHOOT animals for euthanasia! Sickening but TRUE! Chestefield SC shelter also did it and it was not allowed there. Look up stray rescue and you will see. There are also so many cities and county, AC’s who are not even online and they are so out in the middle of nowhere with hardly or zero animal advocates that we never know what goes on..While some in Ohio and other states have AC’s that allow NO adoptions or rescues. Or no public viewing. YEP! Our country should be FAR beyond this third world behavior but sadly in EVERY state there are abusive AC officers, police officers and shelters. Sickening.
    And Patrick also was in NY. They EXTREMELY abused dog who was thrown away. And everyday there are cases like his were pitbulls especially are starved in NY :(

  13. Are all the Animal Control Officers pricks? They should be fired. So sorry for this precious dog and his family.

    1. There are education requirements in the State of Tennessee for Animal Control Officers OR in most states! Just like there are NO reporting requirements on euthanasia, adoptions, rescues, etc. NO TRACKING of the animals.

  14. Wow! This is awful enough, but shot in the head?! WTF? Is this the 1800s?! Also, wouldnt this dog have a collar, so the new neighbors would know he belonged to someone?

  15. This is a devastating story. I like to think and am probably correct that most dogs especially larger dogs who are over the age of 12 are owned by loving owners who go the extra mile for them. Older dogs who end up lost in shelters should have people who go the extra mile to find the owner. I’m sorry for Toby and his owner.

    I have to give a shout out to the Cheltenham police department in PA. Rosco was 16 years old when he wandered alittle to close to the street while a police officer was driving by. This dog was amazing and in his whole life never went into the street. I’ve seen him chase a squirrel right to the curb and stop. However the officer was worried about him being so close to the road (the owner was in the backyard hanging up laundry) and put him in the car. He got an emergency call right after that and drove to it but as soon as he was done called the number on the tag. He brought Rosco back to his home and thanked the owner for allowing him to have a buddy to keep him company. The Officer never thought about shooting or hurting the dog in any way. He just wanted to make sure he was safe and sound.

    That was two weeks ago and about 12 hours ago Roscoe was put to sleep. He hadn’t gone to the bathroom in two days and when my ex woke up that morning the poor boy couldn’t walk. (The ex and I remained on good terms after our break up and we both babysit each others dogs when one goes away.) The vet allowed the entire family including the dogs to be in the room when he took his final breathe.Rosco you were an awesome dog and I miss you.

  16. I’m sorry that you had to say good-bye to Roscoe, but it sounds as if he was much loved and well cared for, as all dogs should be.

    Kudos to the officer who did such a kind and thoughtful thing in rescuing Roscoe from possible harm, then keeping him safe until he could get him home. This is the kind of behavior we’d hope to see from all police and animal caretakers (whether they be shelter workers or animal control officers).

    Thanks for sharing such good news. We hear so much bad, it’s refreshing to know there are such good people out there.

  17. I can hardly see through my tears. I am a realistic person, don’t do a lot of hand wringing about sad shelter stories, really a kind of self protection. (I have to read a lot of these stories, I’d have to shoot myself if I let them all get to me.) But this one is just too close to home. I have a 16 year old dog. He is a retired Human Remains Detector dog, with an amazing resume, has given families their loved ones back in desperate situations. He is more precious than gold. He staggers a little now, with a weak rear, he is getting skinny, is blind with cataracts, mostly deaf, which would make him seem confused and ‘hit by car’ (?) to some ignorant fool with a 12 hour course in ‘dog catching’ and the ability to carry a gun. My beloved old man could possibly escape the yard if someone left the gate open, not a likely scenario, but possible. His time is short now, but what we have left together belongs to US, not to some heartless animal control officer.

  18. Toby’s story broke my heart and made me so angry. I’m a citizen of Coffee County but happen to live in another small town within the county.

    If Toby had been found on a sidewalk in the rain just a few miles west he’d been given a ride home by our local Animal Control (I’ve seen them do it multiple times). Or, if he’d arrived at the Shelter he would have stayed there until his owner was found or was adopted out – that’s right – our small, city funded shelter in Tullahoma is NO-KILL and has been for years.

    That sweet old dog deserved better.

  19. What a terrible cold and cruel heartless ACO
    I can only pray he find himself out alone in the rain after he loses everything and he has nightmares about his executing a dearly loved pet. Sometimes we have difficult decisions to make as part of our jobs but this executioner just decided to end this pets life. SHAME ON YOU !!!!!

    1. The ACO was interviewed on TV news. There are so many things wrong with this scenario that aren’t even being said. A 16 year old dog at large ? Against Code. No rabies tag ? Against Code. No collar and no chip – poor ownership. No reflectors on a black dog at night? Poor ownership. The whole sceario is an accident waiting to happen. Because the owner is related to the Mayor of the County – it’s automatically someone else’s fault. Comments about there still being budget left to spend are off point. Have any idea how difficult it is to spend your County Allocated Budget? And what about the County policies on handling injured dogs? Let’s look into those as well before you string someone up and roast them. NO ONE likes a dog being lost to an owner – BUT owner’s need to obey the laws. They simply DON’T in Tennessee.

      1. Karen,

        No one said the owner was in line for an ownership award although clearly, he is doing something right in taking in a stray dog and keeping him alive to the age of 16. I have never put reflectors on my black dogs at night nor do I leave collars/tags on them due to risk of accidental death. Would it be my fault if some ACO shoots my dog in the head one day? By the way, I’m not in TN. So apparently owners who don’t meet your standards are outside the state as well.

        The reason the funds were mentioned was being AC attempted to use that as an excuse for the killing. They said they don’t have the funds to take an injured dog (which Toby was not the ACO diagnosed him as being hit by car) for vet care.

      2. An animal without a tag or a collar is against the law in many states and counties. Accidental death due to wearing a collar or tag is very slim.

  20. After losing my Lab at 14 to a long illness, I cannot even imagine tobys ownner not being with him at the end of his life, which shouldnt have even happened, to comfort him and that animal control needs to be held accountable and face criminal charges. So sick of the dogs suffering at human hands and when a human hurts a dog ithey get off so easy. Animal control…You are lucky that wasnt MY dog!

  21. There’s more to this story…and I hope it will come out. To say the least – Animal Welfare in the State of Tennessee is in the dark ages, and Animal Law is sparse to non-existent. YES it is legal to shoot companion animals in Tennessee. In fact – many of the counties issue the officers guns to do just that. Believe it or not – shooting an animal is better than letting them suffer in some instances. I don’t like it – but it’s true in some cases. Budgets are low and animals are not a priority in Tennessee. There are many of us who are trying very hard to make changes – to be heard – to lead awareness…but it’s not welcome here. As Director of Montgomery County Animal Control in Clarksville, Tennessee – I know only too well how difficult animal welfare is in this state.

    1. I see a new claim being made – that the ACO sedated Toby before shooting him. My question would be, if he had the supplies and skill set to sedate him, why use shooting as the method of killing? An overdose of the drug used to sedate is considered standard in the industry.

      1. You know that he did not sedate that dog. People who are willing to shoot dogs in the head, but not take them to the vet are not the sort to consider the dog’s well-being, first.

  22. We don’t know that he didn’t sedate the animal. These drugs are heavily regulated and tracked and the records will be scrutinized. The new article says the dog was 12 – the original article said the dog was 16. In general, Animal Control Officers do not have authority or budget to take animal to a vet for injuries becasue they cannot incur ANY financial liabilities outside of the budget.
    There are very few Animal Control Departments who are budgeted
    to buy medications for any kind of treatment – and even fewer who have Vet’s on staff or on contract to consult! In most AC departments the choices go something like this: Diagnose the animal to your best ability (experience – NO training). If you feel it is suffering what you believe to be life threatening injuries or horrible pain from an injury that will take surgery or vet care to repair (broken leg, etc), take detailed pictures – and euthanize the animal OR you could let it suffer without treatment until you can make dozens of phone calls to see if anyone on your good samaritan list will step up to pay for the Vet bill. If you can – then find a Vet that will meet you at night and treat the animals…in most rural areas there is not a Vet to do this.The burden of these decisions rest on the shoulders of the Director in most facilities – or the ACO in many facilities. I have to make these decisions everyday – sometimes hourly. To make decisions about an animal’s “well being.” Thankfully I do have a vet that will work with me…and I do have a small list of good samaritans to call…but it doens’t always work out well anyway. The article states that the policy on using a gun to shoot animals in Coffee County “is unclear.”

    1. Also – the laws are very strict on euthanasia procedures. For example…in my county…we give a sedative dose. All certified ACO staff can do this and have access to this drug. BUT the lethal dose is a different drug. This comes from a cabinet that only the Director has access to Make sense? NO. So there is a distinct possiblity that this Coffee County ACO had access to the tranq but not the lethal drug. AND we are not allowed to Overdose an animal on the tranq. So this ACO was issued a county gun for this purpose. Make sense? NO.

      1. I don’t think it’s been established what the laws are regarding animal killing at shelters in Coffee Co so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. If anyone has a link to the applicable laws, please share.

      2. Tennessee State Codes are here. Coffee County Resolutions are not posted online anywhere that I can find. Therefore – they would have to be requested from their County Mayor’s Office here:
        Mayor’s Office
        David Pennington
        Coffee County Mayor

        Mayor’s Office
        1327 McArthur Street
        Manchester, TN 37355

        Office Hours:
        Monday – Friday
        8:00AM – 5:00PM

        Contact Information:
        (931) 723-5100 Phone
        (931) 723-5152 Fax

  23. Since I live in Tennessee I’ve been trying to follow this story. Sadly – there is so much apathy in County Government here as far as Animal Welfare that things keep happening and nothing gets changed. Even the citizens who get involved here in Tennessee get shut down by the small minded polititicans who’s families simply run this state. It IS legal to shoot an animal if you feel it’s suffering and there is not budget or not vet treatment for same. Here’s a petition that was posted to change this Resolution in Coffee county and TN State Legislature – it received a paltry 84 signatures…
    Here’s a link to the meeting that was held by the Coffee County Commission to investigate the case and make decisions. Toby was owned by the Mayor’s son. TN State Law requires ALL owned animals to be wearing a collar with Rabies Tag and owned animals CANNOT be Running at Large (off owner’s property). In the end – ALL laws are equal – and BOTH the owner AND the ACO policy are wrong.
    Toby’s loss of life is a multi-layered tragedy. A tragedy that the State of Tennessee and Tennessee County Governments are NOT willing to change.

    1. This is very sad.. for Toby and his family. I signed the petition.
      Personally.. I would not have shook the hand of the person that murdered my dog.
      I am so sick of these kinds of stories. I wish I could be one of those people who puts their head in the sand.. but I just can’t

      I just starting talking to a person that wants to get them self into my local shelter and do whatever it takes to get the current director out.. So.. I’m going to hang in there..bookmarking any and all useful tools and information I can get my hands one.
      Thanks to this site…I may be able to help somehow… Thanks Shirley and all that share here.

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