WV Animal Control Officer Violates Law in Dog Killing, Will Keep Job

A Fayette County dog bit a child on March 11, 2014 and stitches were required as a result of the injury. Fayette Co ACO Russell Parker seized the dog and was advised by the owner that the dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner stated the dog had attacked another person in past and agreed to have the dog euthanized.

The Fayette Co animal control director is the only person licensed to euthanize animals for the county and she works at a veterinary clinic. When ACO Russell was advised by the county health department on March 12 that the dog’s head needed to be sent to a lab for rabies testing ASAP, the individual licensed to perform euthanasia was contacted. She stated she would come to the county facility after her shift ended at the clinic that afternoon to perform the euthanasia. The dog’s owner had already paid the vet clinic for the euthanasia.

ACO Russell decided the euthanasia could not be delayed and opted to shoot the dog to death with a small caliber rifle. He did not inform the animal control director of his intentions.  Nor did he exercise the most obvious option of immediately transporting the dog to the vet clinic for the euthanasia. After killing the dog, he reportedly used some sort of tool to remove the head and sent it to a lab for testing.

West Virginia code allows for the shooting of dogs under limited circumstances and there are specific protocols which must be followed:

(c) In an emergency or in a situation in which a dog cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, a dog may be destroyed by shooting if:

(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and

(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the dog’s suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

The animal control director filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office regarding the killing. The sheriff’s investigator determined that ACO Parker was in violation of the law as he did not use a firearm capable of killing the dog with one shot. In fact, ACO Parker shot the dog three times before he finally died, causing needless pain and suffering.

Fayette Co sheriff Steve Kessler concluded that despite the violation of the law which resulted in the dog’s agonizing death, there were no grounds to fire ACO Parker. His reasoning:

  • ACO Parker was trying to to get the dog’s head to the lab as quickly as possible for the sake of the bitten child and thought this was the only way to do it.
  • Using a weapon of insufficient caliber to kill the pet with a single shot as required by law is exactly the same as when a technician tries to euthanize a pet by injection, misses the vein and must re-insert the needle.
  • Serving as an ACO is a “dirty, nasty” job which pays slightly more than minimum wage.

As to the first point, it does not seem credible to me that ACO Parker thought shooting the dog to death was the only way to get the head submitted for testing right away. He didn’t even explore the alternatives such as driving the dog to the clinic himself or requesting the services of another clinic. Regarding the second point, a missed venipuncture with a small needle is in no way, shape or form the equivalent of a small caliber rifle shot. One does not cause the same pain and suffering as the other, as posited by Sheriff Kessler in his press release.  And lastly, whether or not the sheriff thinks sheltering animals is a “dirty, nasty” job is irrelevant, as is the pay.  The sheriff is sworn to uphold the law which in this case, was violated.

Local animal advocates had been calling for ACO Parker’s termination.  Sheriff Kessler stated that ACO Parker has been disciplined but refused to elaborate.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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15 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  April 15, 2014

    You know…the “it’s a dirty job that no one wants to do anyway” justification for unprofessional/cruel/abusive/lazy behavior is one that I’ve seen here, too. To which I say, “Bullshit.” That’s like saying that you don’t have to be a decent parent because nobody wants to change dirty diapers. It’s part of the job, period. I have a guy who comes to pump my septic tank – is it a fun job? No, it’s not. But he does it efficiently and professionally every time.

    This guy CLEARLY violated the law – how does anyone justify no cruelty charges against him? And if sending the dog’s head in for testing was so time-sensitive, why not take the dog TO THE VET? It sounds an awful lot like he just wanted to shoot this dog and chop his head off (with God knows what – did he have a machete in his truck or something?). And three shots…inexcusable.

    But you know, if this ACO stole some money from the county, his ass would be fired immediately. But torture a dog? Well…no one wants to clean kennels anyway, right?

    Reply
  2. KateH

     /  April 15, 2014

    Even if the dog had never been vaccinated against rabies, the chance that it was rabid was so frickin’ small, and there was NO reason that the testing would have happened any quicker by killing the dog immediately. First, the head has to be packaged in plastic, and put in the shipping container. The a-hole probably had a plastic bag, but did he have the shipping container handy? Then there’s the dry ice to pack it with, or at least multiple gel-ice packs that are fully frozen (oh, and plastic bags for them too!) – were those items right at hand? Then there’s the trip to FedEx – oh, but wait, did this jerk have the address of where it was being sent for testing, or did he need to get that from the director who wasn’t there? Did he call to ask for it and let her know he was trying to speed things up for the kid’s safety – I highly doubt it! Was he able to just stop doing whatever else he should have been doing to drive to FedEx so they could get the package on a truck the instant it came in, or would it have sat in their warehouse for the next outgoing collection? Obviously the idiot didn’t think of that. And what about the testing lab? Did the fool call to tell them there was a package on its way and they should be standing at the doors with the bone saw, ready to receive it so they could drop everything else and check the brain tissues. ‘Cause if he had called them, I’m sure they would have told him they would prefer to have the head arrive with the least amount of blood, which is WHY an IV dose of FatalPlus should be used, and that the sawn-off head be allowed to drain – which takes TIME.

    Yeah, rabies is a dangerous disease, but that stupid twit wasn’t helping ANYONE with his disgusting, brutal killing of the dog (who should have been allowed to be quarantined to show it didn’t have rabies – hell, the person who it bit before the kid didn’t get rabies, so think about that). Well, he was helping himself live out a sick thrill, and that alone should be a reason to fire his ass.

    Reply
  3. KarenJ

     /  April 15, 2014

    I am so damned tired of these ignorant AC staff people. First of all – Rabies is one of the slowest replicating infections. Then, as I was trained by the TN State Vet and my brother, an epidemiologist, the most sure way to know about Rabies in an animal is to monitor it in closed quarantine for 10 days after a bite. THIS is about 85% accurate. Killing an animal and cutting off it’s head is only 70% accurate…or so…. AC staff push citizens to kill a bite dog by making them fearful. And this ACO is still working? Same thing happens here regularly in Tennessee with the good ole boy departments who are issues small caliber rifles or shot guns to kill companion animals. UGH.

    Reply
  4. Andrea Cox

     /  April 15, 2014

    The first question to cross my mind: when is the last time a dog that has bitten has also been rabies positive? Come on. There was no rush.

    Reply
  5. Paula Lee

     /  April 16, 2014

    rat bstds!!!!!!!

    Reply
  6. Why should the ACO get special treatment! The dog was let down by the owner and the ACO. The ACO WAS JUDGE AND JURY AND KILLED THE DOG WITHOUT CONFIRMATION THAT THE DOG HAD RABIES! THE OWNER SHOULD BE TAKEN TO COURT AND CHARGED WITH FAILING TO GIVE THE DOG THE RABIES VACCINE. ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT, THE DOG WAS ABUSED!

    Reply
  7. Jom

     /  April 16, 2014

    so I assume the dog did NOT have rabies, that’s conveniently not mentioned

    Reply
  8. Anne Thomas

     /  April 17, 2014

    If they had quarantined the dog, could they have vaccinated him so he wouldn’t have developed rabies even if he had been exposed? This seems like the way to ensure the best outcome for the dog.

    Reply
  9. Details below. This is from the Fayette County Animal Shelter. They are a good bunch of people who do NOT agree with the ACO or the Sheriff. They want ACO fired. He has a history of being inhumane towards animals but none of the locals will come forward. Small town politics- ACO is most likely buddies with the sheriff and deputies and if you speak out- you get targeted. I live in WV, I know how things work here.
    This post is from their facebook page:

    Fayette County Animal Control Center
    In response to allegations of wrong-doing by Russell Parker, FCACO, and in response to the press release by Sheriff Steve Kessler & Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris:

    On March 11, 2014, a 13 year old boy was bitten by a dog. Contrary to the previous press release, the dog weighed about 75 lbs. and was friendly with staff. Mr. Parker captured the dog and brought it in to the Fayette County Animal Control Center (FCACC) at about 10:00 P.M. It is unknown what conversation the dog’s owner may have had with Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker carries paperwork to sign dogs over to the FCACC, but paperwork signed by owner was not obtained or provided. The Fayette County Health Department informed Carrie Carr, director FCACC, that the dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The health department spoke with Mrs. Carr at 9:45 A.M. Wednesday morning and it was mutually decided that the dog would need to be euthanized and the head removed for testing so that the boy wouldn’t have to undergo rabies vaccinations. The health department sent the owner to the animal hospital, where Mrs. Carr works, to sign the dog over and pay for euthanasia & head removal services. The owner went to the animal hospital at 10:30 A.M. on March 12. Mrs. Carr immediately called the FCACC to have the animal brought to the animal hospital, at which time she was informed that Mr. Parker had just shot and killed the dog. It is important to note that Mr. Parker made no attempt to contact Mrs. Carr or the FCACC prior to killing the dog, and as such, no statement was made by Mrs. Carr that she would be unable to euthanize until late that afternoon.

    When Mr. Parker brings an animal to the FCACC, FCACC assumes “the care, maintenance, control or destruction of dogs & cats” (WV Code 19-20-6a) by contract with Fayette County Commission. FCACC can only euthanize an animal in a bite case, after 10 days of quarantine, by court order or by owner relinquishing to FCACC. On March 12, without any of these and for the purpose of killing the animal, Mr. Parker entered the premises, removed the dog from a locked cage, placed a restraining pole with the choke cable tightened to the point the dog was gasping for air, and dragged it about 35 feet outside of the building. With assistance he demanded from an FCACC employee, who held dog by use of the restraining pole, Mr. Parker proceeded, with the employee about 4 feet away, to shoot the dog in the chest. Then, when the dog, who was in pain, grabbed the muzzle of the gun, Mr. Parker shot the dog in the mouth. He proceeded to shoot the dog 2 more times in the chest before the dog appeared to die. Mr. Parker retrieved a scalpel from his vehicle, then cut and ripped the dog’s head off. Mr. Parker put rabies testing of the dog and the child’s health at risk by shooting it in the mouth, and by improper removal of the head.

    WV Code 19-20-8 (b) (1) The term “humanely destroyed” as used in this section means: (A) Humane euthanasia of an animal by hypodermic injection by a licensed veterinarian or by an animal euthanasia technician certified in accordance with the provisions of article ten-a, chapter thirty of this code: or (B) Any other humane euthanasia procedure approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States or the American Humane Association”

    WV Code 19-20-8 (2) (c) In an emergency or in a situation in which a dog cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, a dog may be destroyed by shooting if: (1) the shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and (2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the dog’s suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

    FCACC/NRHS, Inc. agrees that the animal needed to be humanely euthanized in an expeditious manner for the health and safety of the child. However, shooting a dog 4 times is not humane, nor is it euthanasia, which means “good death.” This was not more expeditious than would have occurred if FCACC had been allowed to euthanize the dog and remove the head properly as planned. Mr. Parker demonstrated that he did not have sufficient knowledge of firearms to shoot and kill the dog. As per the previously mentioned statute, this was not an emergency, the dog could’ve been humanely destroyed, and he did not use a firearm or ammunition suitable to kill the animal with one shot. The press release by Sheriff Kessler and Prosecutor Harris states that “there was no evidence to suggest that Animal Control Officer Parker acted in a malicious manner or intended to cause pain and suffering for this animal.” The fact that Mr. Parker made no attempt to contact Mrs. Carr or FCACC, and that he used a gun and ammunition insufficient with one shot, puts this into question. It is ludicrous to suggest that a medical professional missing a vein is comparable to shooting a dog four times.

    While no previous formal complaints have been made, numerous informal complaints regarding Mr. Parker’s actions towards animals have been made to FCACC, NRHS and other individuals. People are unwilling to file formal complaints because they are unwilling to have their names used.

    We are concerned, and disturbed, by the fact that Mr. Parker shot within 35 feet of the building, within 4 feet of an employee, and within full view of employees working at the FCACC that day. We are also concerned that if he does this in front of witnesses, what does he do when there are no witnesses?

    The FCACC has not been made aware of any policies regarding the animal control officer, or of any changes in these policies. Sheriff Kessler states that Mr. Parker would be fired if something like this occurs in the future. It should not require another animal to be inhumanely shot and killed for the Sheriff to take the action of terminating Mr. Parker’s employment. For the health and safety of the boy, the dog needed to be euthanized, but not by Mr. Parker, and not in such an inhumane manner.

    Reply
  10. Kittypurr

     /  April 24, 2014

    Parker obviously wasn’t tested for any intelligence or thought capability. I realize that there are quotas for hiring the mentally challenged but allowing them to have a gun is irresponsible.

    Reply
  11. Anne Thomas

     /  April 24, 2014

    That poor dog. The kid should have had his shots–how hubristic and horrible to believe that someone should die just so someone else can avoid getting anti-rabies shots–this species is so selfish and uncaring that I am ashamed to be a member of it.

    Reply
  12. dannaspetservice@yahoo.com

     /  August 11, 2014

    what a complete and utter ass! If this dog could not have been tested imagine what that child would have to deal with, further more when a euthanasia must be done there is a humane way to deal with it not this cruel and painful and cruel thing to do. I find it hard to believe this person kept his job, I also find it hard to believe he works in any capacity with animals.

    Reply
  13. I can’t imagine imposing such a cruel death on an animal! Does this bastard have no common sense or judgement! He should have been fired! There’s no way to stop him from doing this again!

    Reply
  14. I can’t imagine imposing such a cruel death on an animal! Does this bastard have no common sense or judgement! He should have been fired! There’s no way to stop him from doing this again! What if the dog didn’t have rabies? I don’t know but can’t the dog be tested while alive? There are other options for the dog!

    Reply

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