Rowan Co ACO Accused of Abusing Then Gassing Injured Pet

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

On January 9, a Good Samaritan in NC came across a dog who had been severely injured after being hit by a car and called 911.  Dispatchers called an ACO from the Rowan Co pet killing facility.  By the time the ACO arrived on scene, owner Jennifer Ridgell had been located and was crying over her dying pet who had accidentally escaped from the house earlier that day.  Bandit had been rescued 6 years ago and was a beloved family member.  But the Rowan Co ACO treated the badly injured dog like he was highway trash:

“He went to his truck, got a pole that had what looked like noose on the end of it, put it around his neck, jerked Bandit up — he was yelping — and threw him in the back of the truck,” Ridgell said. “There was no compassion.”

In addition to the cruel treatment Bandit received as he lay dying, the ACO further tortured the pet by placing him in the gas chamber after returning to the pound.  NC state law specifically prohibits the gassing of animals who are near death.

The Good Sam, Keisha Woodward, complained to Rowan Co officials by sending this letter:

To whom it my concern:
I have a Rowan County Animal Shelter complaint. I tried to leave a message for Officer Staton but he has yet to return my call.
January 9th, 2014 around 7:30 or 8 on 52 in Granite Quarry near Sides Auto I stopped to help a medium sized black/white male dog that had been hit by a car. He was partially laying in the road so I turned around, blocked him from oncoming traffic and applied my flashers. A passerby stopped to help me as I looked for the owners in the surrounding houses. In the mean time I called 911, they called animal control and he then called me to find out my location. The only thing he did right was show up promptly nothing else from that point was ok in my opinion!
The dog was unable to move his back end, the right eye was hanging out of the socket and he had blood coming out of his mouth but still seem to be calm. I petted him and talked to him until his owners could come down. When they arrived I told them I had called animal control and he was on the way. I assured them if they did not feel like they would be able to care for the dog that the officer would put him down.
The lady was pretty shaken up after seeing the condition of the dog. Shortly the officer pulled up. The only thing he said is are y’all the owners? They replied. He said do you want the dog or not? No more than she got out of her mouth I don’t think there is anything that can be done for him, the officer took that pole with the loop and yanked that poor dog up off the asphalt and slung him into the cage! The dog was hollering, the lady started screaming and crying, her husband was trying to get her turned around to get her in the truck so she didn’t have to witness anything further. The Officer acted as if was doing them a favor by not charging them to put the dog down… Are you kidding me!!
When he arrived and seen the condition of the dog and with their consent that poor animal should have been euthanized on the spot with an injection!!
I was completely traumatized by what I had just witnessed. He gave them no warning as to you may not want to watch this or anything! I can guarantee if they had known that was going to take place they would have taken him home and took care of it themselves and I can tell you if I would have known that was going to take place I would have called someone with a gun and would have taken care of it right then and there!
NO one should have to watch their animal be treated in this manner and that was NO way to handle and already traumatized, mangled animal that was in pain!
This has haunted my mind since January 9th and I think something should be done about this so it’s not to happen to another poor helpless animal nor and animal owner. There needs to be an injection taken and the animal needs to be put down on the spot in such cases as this.
If you’d like to contact me please do so.
Thank you,
Keisha Woodward

When contacted by the media about the incident, a county commissioner appears to acknowledge that Bandit was abused by the ACO:

“We’re sorry the family had to witness their animal suffering like that,” said Rowan County Commission vice chair Craig Pierce.

But when confronted about the apparent illegality of gassing a pet who was near death, Mr. Pierce offered:

“We are aware of it,” Pierce said.

Advocates say animal control should have used euthanasia by injection. Rowan County doesn’t have it yet, but Pierce said they soon will.

“If we have that on site, then we’re going to be able to give that animal a more humane ending,” he said.
[…]
The commission says they hope to transition to euthanasia by injection this year.

Rowan Co in fact does have euthanasia by injection on site, and has for some time as illustrated by county records (partially redacted by me) showing kittens who were killed via injection last year:

rowan co kitten
rowan co kitten 2
rowan co kitten 3

Jane Felts of the shelter pet advocacy group Fix Rowan followed up with her own complaint to county officials, demanding the termination of the ACO:

To Whom It May Concern,

I have reviewed the letter below from Keisha Woodward and frankly I am disgusted by her description of this incident. Actions such as those by Animal Control Officer Yaninas are unconscionable and in my opinion (and will be in the opinion of every other animal lover in Rowan County) not repairable by any disciplinary action less than termination. Incidents such as these cause people in the county to not call animal control in situations of neglect and cruelty where they need to be notified. THIS is a situation of cruelty perpetrated by a county employee. What she and this dog’s owners witnessed will stay in their minds forever. As if it were not bad enough to see their dog in such a bad state after being hit by a car what ACO Yaninas did to further this animal’s suffering and that of his owners is truly horrible. Is this the type of person that you want working for Rowan County? Frankly, I believe he should be prosecuted for what he did. This is also, sadly, not the first time that I have heard of such actions by this officer.

Further, Ms. Dee Lazenby was told by your ACO Thomas Staton that this animal had to be put in the gas chamber because you only had one employee available. Please explain that in light of the following section of the NC Animal Welfare Code which states that you must have two adults present to use the gas chamber:

02 NCAC 52J .0609 PERSONS REQUIRED TO BE PRESENT
A euthanasia chamber in a certified facility shall not be operated unless a Certified Euthanasia Technician or a veterinarian licensed in North Carolina and one other adult are present at the time of its use.

If this employee is not removed from his duties as an Animal Control Officer for the County of Rowan, what is now a private incident will quickly become public. Ms. Woodward and this animal’s owners are both willing to come forward and the media will be contacted.

I expect to receive a copy of the letter that is required to be sent to the state of NC when a certified euthanasia technician is terminated by next Friday, January 31st, 2014. This type of callous action towards animals should not and will not be tolerated. And if it is tolerated by the County of Rowan, then all citizens deserve to know that information.

02 NCAC 52J .0415 NOTICE OF TERMINATION
A certified facility shall notify the Animal Welfare Section in writing, no later than 10 days from the date of the termination of a Certified Euthanasia Technician’s employment or volunteer status at that certified facility.

Sincerely,
Jane Felts

If you want to contact Rowan Co commissioners regarding Bandit, please remember that respectful letters are far more effective at forcing transparency and reform. Threats of any kind are never acceptable.

I’m sorry our broken shelter system failed you Bandit. We need systemic reform now.

(Thanks Jane for sending me info and docs on this story.)

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27 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  February 6, 2014

    This is horrific. That poor dog. Those poor people.

    That ACO needs to be fired YESTERDAY.

    Sending a letter.

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  February 6, 2014

      When you go to the link, you can click on each of the Commissioners’ names – the email contact link is under their photo (it took me a minute to see it).

      Reply
    • Thank you for sending a letter. When I set aside the suffering of the dog and the horror experienced by the owner and Good Sam, I am left feeling shocked by this response from the county commish:

      “We are aware of it,” Pierce said.

      It’s absolutely stunning in its callousness.

      Reply
  2. Oh dear lord…I’ve read so many sad, horrific stories here, but this one is actually making me feel nauseous and just sick inside. The complete lack of compassion and empathy required to sling around a dying dog…

    We once had a pug get hit by a car just down the street from the animal hospital where I worked and someone came running to our door to ask for help. They were so upset that their description was really confused, so we just grabbed anything we thought we might need, including a stretcher designed for big dogs. At the scene it was immediately obvious the dog had suffered a non-survivable head injury (rigid posture, eyes fixed and dilated, etc.) There was quite a crowd by that point, including the person who hit the dog, the owners, and neighbors. While the dog was still alive, he was past feeling anything at that point, including pain. Even so, we still very gently wrapped him in blankets and used the stretcher to transport him, simply because the owners deserved to see their dying pet treated with respect and kindness.

    That ACO is an actual monster. No one with a single ounce of decency compounds a tragic, traumatic situation further by acting like a complete asshole. Even if you can’t gather up some sympathy for an injured animal (and if you can’t, ACO is not a position you should ever have!!), you should at the very LEAST be able to find sympathy for your fellow humans. As for the gas chamber…one of the reasons it isn’t meant to be used on severely wounded animals is because they breath more shallowly and circulation is affected, so it can take them longer to die. So not only was this poor animal slung around like literal garbage, he also likely felt himself slowly suffocating. If any owner treated an animal so badly, they would surely be charged with cruelty.

    Reply
    • Just to add…

      They mention euthanizing on site. In this situation, with the owner right there and able to give permission, I don’t think there’s any question that it would be a kind act and morally justified. But I know some animal control units can euthanize ‘stray’ animals in the field if they are injured, and that really concerns me. There’s no guaranteed way to tell an owned animal from a stray, and there’s also no way to guarantee an injury isn’t survivable in many cases. I just think that if one of my cats somehow got out and was hit by a car, and suffered a shattered pelvis…that can be survivable, and it’s something I would absolutely pay to treat. But in the field the difference between a shattered pelvis and broken spine isn’t always obvious, so the idea of someone else making that call for my pet on the assumption he’s a stray…

      Really, even a broken spine can be survivable. I don’t have an answer (I guess I’m just musing), because on one hand, I don’t want an animal to suffer if the owner isn’t present. On the other hand, I want every chance possible to save my pet’s life if he ever winds up hurt outside the home. I’ve seen situations myself where the call to euthanize on the spot seemed very sound (for example, a feral that got caught in a fan belt and suffered three broken legs and a major degloving injury.) But we KNEW that cat was a feral because she was part of a managed colony…if she had had an owner somewhere, even that could have potentially been treatable. But on the other, other hand…how do you justify letting a very badly injured animal suffer while you search for the owners? You can give them pain medication, but none of it is 100% effective, so they’re inevitably going to hurt while you wait.

      (Just to note, my cats are chipped, but that doesn’t mean the ACO will have the right scanner, that my injured pet will let themselves to safely scanned, or that the chip won’t have migrated.)

      Reply
      • mikken

         /  February 6, 2014

        Even with the owners present, (humane and immediate) transportation to an emergency vet should be presented as an option.

        Because you’re right, Tired, these guys aren’t medical professionals and they aren’t capable of making informed medical decisions.

        All I want from my ACOs is that they act AT LEAST as compassionately and competently as I would in any given situation. These people are supposed to be trained professionals and experts in their field. Unfortunately, many of them seem to be yahoos with psychological shortcomings. And why is that? Because kill shelters ENDORSE and REINFORCE this behavior. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – kill shelters are bad for PEOPLE. They are bad for communities, bad for individuals, bad for everyone.

  3. I am forwarding this column to my friend who is a news manager at WRAL, a CBS affiliate in Raleigh-Durham. The station is also covering Michael Vick’s unfortunate appearance at a Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce event.

    Reply
  4. sorrom

     /  February 6, 2014

    That “officer” and I hesitate to use that word as it gives him far too much importance…. should be fired. No question. I fail to understand why Rowan is one of the worst counties as far as animal treatment goes…. but I have stopped shopping in their nice little downtown section, I cannot support a county that does not stop this abuse !

    Reply
  5. Robin Gafford

     /  February 6, 2014

    Anyone outside of the “ACO” would have had charges brought upon them, been fined and possibly had jail time to serve for causing the same horror and pain to the poor dog. These people hide behind their title and commit crimes. I only hope it does require incidents that make it to the public eye to cause termination to employees that cause additional pain and suffering to animals left at this place.

    Reply
  6. WOW!!!! I am sitting here shocked – that ACO should be fired asap!

    Reply
  7. Phyllis

     /  February 6, 2014

    Install cameras as we did in Dekalb County GA. Shelter. All were fired and new management by Lifeline and good volunteers in place. Get the bastards on film. It works. One picture worth thousands of words and you have proof.

    Reply
  8. mary frances

     /  February 6, 2014

    Tragic…a bully with some power and cruel beyond cruel…. I’m so sorry for this, I am so sorry for dear little Bandit, the owners and the people who try to help – for us all really. Animal Control nationwide needs major exposure and change. Animal Control, seems to be so often, a tax supported breeder of these type of monsters.

    What makes a monster like this guy do this….I do not know and will never understand but it has to stop. Demands for NO KILL Shelters will help weed out these monsters among us.
    I’ll write letters to those addresses provided.

    Reply
  9. Andrea

     /  February 6, 2014

    This was hard to read. I can’t imagine having to witness any of it.

    Reply
  10. this is heartbreaking and horrendous – I am in tears just reading about it

    Reply
  11. I bet they re-assign this subhuman ACO.

    Reply
  12. George Preston Link

     /  February 7, 2014

    This is completely appalling! As an Animal Lover that resides in Rowan County, I would expect or accept no less (and I am certain that many others will agree with me) than this Animal Control Officer not only be terminated from his position with Rowan County, but that this officer also be brought up on Felony Abuse charges also with the stipulation that he never holds a position with city, county or state government. On behalf of all animals and animal lovers, Bandit and Bandit’s owners deserve justice!

    Reply
  13. George, as a county resident and taxpayer, please speak before the governing board(s) about your concerns during the Citizens to be Heard or Public Forum agenda item. Hopefully an official complaint has also been filed! This ACO’s actions were horrific.

    Reply
  14. db

     /  February 7, 2014

    To all Rowan County residents – please, if you don’t like what’s happening – do something to let those in power know that. And then don’t stop until things have changed for the better. This is horrific and abusive and sick!
    RIP sweet pup – I’m sorry that your last hours were such torture for you.
    My sympathy to those who had to witness it.

    Reply
  15. spaycritter

     /  February 7, 2014

    email sent

    Reply
  16. Melinda Lanier

     /  February 7, 2014

    I would have been put in jail if this happened to my dog. So damn terrible, the torture that dog had to go through.

    Reply
  17. Patty Woodward

     /  February 7, 2014

    Just like Social Services are the last chance of protection for children being abused and neglected; Rowan County Animal Control is the only people who are standing up for animals and the only hope of those who are abused and abandoned. Most of the time they are the last encounter these animals have with human beings. I can only imagine the terror that Bandit felt, the pain in his poor mangled body that was callously tossed into that cage. It makes me sick to think what he endured and what his final hours were like. Nothing deserves to end that way.

    Reply
  18. Thank you for covering this story. Bandit will never be forgotten and we will do everything we can to make sure this never happens again.

    Reply
  19. james basinger

     /  February 8, 2014

    when ever hearing or seeing an incidence like this (lost for words) ASININE manner of “just doing my job” and “a favor, by not charging you” OF HANDLING THAT HELPLESS, AND SUFFERING ANIMAL, A MEMBER OF THAT FAMILY!!!!! AND IN THEIR PRESENCE!!!! instills in me feelings of intense anger and sadness… as if I have and intense desire to personally hurt the person responsible (the afformentioned employee of Rowan County Animal Control….. let me make known THIS IS NOT A THREAT!!! only describing the feelings that arrise from within ME after hearing of such shallow, heartless, NO RESPECT NOR COMPASSION for other living creatures MUCH LESS FOR THE FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS THAT ARE MOURNING THE LOSS AND WITNESSING THE PASSING OF THEIR BELOVED MEMBER OF THEIR FAMILY!! as you so heartlessly treat the poor animal as if it were just a piece of litter being removed from the highway AND ALSO BREAKING RULES AND REGULATIONS SET BY THE BOARD OR OFFICE OF THAT DEPARTMENT!!! after your act of unkindness in the pressence of the family… ARE YOU EVEN A HUMAN BEING?? furthermore I am saddened to know that THERE ARE PEOPLE OF YOUR DEMEANOR LIVING RIGHT HERE IN ROWAN COUNTY …and this is what you do for a living….. I WILL NEVER HAVE TO RELY ON THE ASSISTENCE OF THE ROW. COUNTY ACO!!!!!! WHAT WILL OR HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT THIS???? WILL THESE COMMENTS EVEN BE READ BY THE ACO OR JUST BY THE OTHERS WHO HAVE RESPONDED WITH COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR INCONSIDERATE STUPIDITY!!! thank you and good day

    Reply
  20. Jean Dixon

     /  April 21, 2014

    Any updates?

    Reply

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