The Rest of the Country Disdains the South Because of Places Like Union Co, NC

Wanda Sue Larson, a Union Co Department of Social Services child-protection investigations supervisor, and Dorian Lee Harper, an emergency room nurse, had 4 adopted children and a foster child living at their North Carolina home:

[Union Co] Sheriff Cathey said all five children in the home slept on the floor in a single bedroom, where the foster child was regularly handcuffed to a piece of railroad to keep him from running away.

But the foster child, a boy, escaped in December 2012 and ran to a neighbor’s home, begging for food and claiming he did not know where he lived.  The neighbor called 911 and the deputy responding to the call filed a complaint with DSS:

Less than a week later, the deputy received a letter from DSS investigator Lisa Kawyn, saying that the deputy’s complaint “does not meet statutory definition of abuse, neglect or dependency,” and the matter was closed, the sheriff said.

In mid-November 2013, a neighbor called animal control, run by the Union Co sheriff’s office, regarding a missing pig being sought by one of the children at the home.  When the deputy arrived, he found the shivering 11 year old foster child handcuffed to the front porch rail by the ankle with a dead chicken tied around his neck with twine.  Authorities removed all 5 children from the home as well as 103 animals, who were described as living in deplorable conditions:

Here’s the breakdown: 56 chickens and turkeys, 10 ducks, 10 dogs, eight geese, four donkeys, three horses, three guinea hens, two llamas, two cats, two finches, one cockatiel, one peacock and a pot-bellied pig named “Wilbur.”

Rescue groups, neighbors and area farmers took in the livestock.  Nine dogs were taken to the Union Co pound where workers quickly stuffed five of them into the gas chamber.  Three were gassed because they were old and two because they were aggressive.

Age is not an excuse to kill a pet and there is no possible way any gas chamber enthusiasts could determine a dog was so dangerous he required killing within a matter of days.  But then, this is what Union Co does.  Despite operating expenses of more than $1.2 million in 2012, Union Co killed more than 75% of the dogs and cats in its care.

But you know, they’re not monsters.

[Lt. Michelle Starnes, who oversees pound operations for the Union Co sheriff’s office] said the smallest dog, a terrier mix named “Max,” was returned to the children who lived at the Austin Road home because he was their favorite.

Union County, you blew it when you let one of your own child-protection investigations supervisors abuse children at her home.  She was clearly not held to the same standards and protocols as other parents who adopt and foster kids in your county.  You bombed again in December 2012 when you failed to investigate in any way the matter of a starving, abused child who escaped his captors and cried out to you for help.  When this month’s incident forced you to stop looking the other way, you sick degenerates pulled old and malnourished dogs from the home and tortured them to death in your barbaric gas chamber.  And finally, you twisted smackoffs forced a Sophie’s Choice upon the child victims you failed in this case by having them pick a “favorite” dog to save from your pet killing facility.

Mercifully, Larson and Harper have finally been “charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and animal cruelty, because of the conditions of animals found at the home.” No word on charges against any of the good ol’ boys in the Union Co sheriff’s office or DSS, nor do I expect any.  Inflicting misery on sentient beings seems to be the job description for Union Co officials – and they’re very good at what they do.  We should probably bring them cupcakes.

(Thanks Lisa for sending me this story.)

11 thoughts on “The Rest of the Country Disdains the South Because of Places Like Union Co, NC

  1. I am speechless… I hope none of the children ever have to go back there.. I’m praying, since they have been charged they are in jail and can’t make bond

  2. The evil that they inflicted. And then to have the police *enable* it. And then further victimize the animals…what happens when those children learn what became of those pets? What will that *do* to them? It’s not only abusive to the animals, it’s abusive to the children when they read one day that the old dog they perhaps turned to for solace during the worst of times was stuffed in a gas chamber? When killing is easy, the consequences get overlooked…

  3. Two young children died in Smyrna, Tennessee. DCS had been in their home TWICE and apparently didn’t see a problem at all. None of the news reports mentions the family dogs that were living in the backyard – I’m only aware of them through FB and the rescues that were networking them.

    How on earth do these people see situations like this, think there is NOTHING wrong and still sleep at night?

  4. Just an FYI: Lt Michelle Starnes has been requested over & over & over to get rid of the gas chamber. She will NOT let it go.

    It’s anybody’s guess what rescue took the dogs because I don’t know of any rescue that works with that shelter. Why? Because It’s not a rescue friendly shelter! Any rescue that takes dogs from there has to adopt them off the adoption floor and pay the full adoption rate. I’m not kidding. This shelter only has 11 kennels for adoptable dogs and the place is huge and I mean huge.

    Should you ever come this way, go to the Union County shelter and try to get in the back rooms. Ha! You will NOT get back there into their inner sanctums. This shelter is lorded over by………..Lt Michelle Starnes. Kindness is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of her. The little terrier that made it back to the kids; a miracle!

    The cats at this shelter fare far worse than the dogs. Over 90% are killed.

  5. I am so angry with the so called “officials”. Why were there no fail-safes in place to protect children such of these. The “mother” (and I use this term only for a means of identity) as I understand it is a nurse??? What harm has she inflicted upon patients in her care? It seems to me that she was enabled by those in charge and thus they are every bit as guilty of all charges! I suspect that those in charge knew what was going on concerning not only the animals but the children alike!These people who work in the so called “animal SHELTER” should loose their jobs too! It is clear in my mind that it is the salaries that were important NOT the animals. While one person who commented about not wanting to put to death any animals, and may be true that most do not want to put these pets to death, BUT these were not given a chance, nor was there an effort to place them in homes. Is that not part of their jobs? As for the children, they should be liable for the many years of therapy they may well need! It seems to me that the only thing that UNION CO.( being in positions of trust and in public service) has is that they are all derelicts and should under go investigation and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  6. Unfortunately things like this happen all over the country and it’s truly heartbreaking. Union County just happens to be in the spotlight at the moment. It’s horrible that any of this could ever occur anywhere in the world. People can be mean and heartless but you can’t stereotype the south… it’s everywhere!

  7. I agree with CatsRule about Union Co Shelter! They have a nice BIG facility and a damn Gas Chamber that is used way to much with animals that never get a chance! Only 11 kennels and the other animals are kept in the back so no one can see them and they die!!! This shelter is not a rescue friendly shelter. I am ashamed of Union County Animal Shelter. I have heard one lady say that Michelle Starnes does care about the animals. She has a terrible way of showing it! No she doesn’t! Ughhh. Such a shame. Oh one girl that was working at the shelter asked to take pictures so she could crosspost the animals so they would have a chance to get loving homes. They would not let her take pictures. Really??? Union CO officials in the shelter do not need to be working there!

  8. There is a new organization going after the Gas Chamber issue in union county. Check it out, Change for Union County North Carolina Animal Rights. They should have a petition up by next week.

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