The Yellowstone Co Sheriff’s Office in Montana supervises the animal control division for the county – which is not something I’d disclose on a resume or while being waterboarded, even. Yellowstone Co’s AC is a putrid pile of slack-ass fraud designed to kill animals while putting forth the least possible amount of effort – all on the taxpayer’s dime.
John Fleming, the county ACO, picks up lost and homeless animals – that is, when he’s working, which is just 7am – 2pm Monday through Friday. People looking for their lost pets or needing help with animals at any other hour are referred to the sheriff’s office. This is the scam that the county has been running, reportedly for years:
Dogs are picked up by the ACO and taken to a local vet/grooming/boarding facility. The ACO fills out some sort of DIY spreadsheet with info on each dog (where found, gender, whether the dog was killed or adopted, etc.) that possibly no one else knows how to read. Oh and this is when he gets around to it, which might be several days after impound or after he’s already killed the dog. And the spreadsheet is full of holes where he fails to document basic information such as whether the dog was wearing a collar and what exactly happened to the pet. Photos are not taken, nor are animals networked online, despite having volunteers with a proven record of success willing to perform these tasks. ACO Fleming said in an interview:
“I think it would be more of a hindrance to put dogs online… . We don’t run a humane society or an adoption agency.”
Aaaaanyway, when owners call the sheriff’s office to ask if their lost dog has been picked up, they are generally told no since the documentation is either non-existent or contains erroneous and missing data on the spreadsheet (which it’s unclear if anyone can read). Owners may know that impounded dogs are taken to the local vet facility but the vet there, who gets paid $17,000 a year by the county for use of his facility, won’t allow people to come in and look for their lost pets because he’s running a business and they are not paying customers. But if an owner is willing to pay an “estimated boarding fee” at the sheriff’s office, they could take the receipt to the vet facility, be allowed to look at the impounded dogs and if their pet was not among them, drive back to the sheriff’s office for a refund.
That’s the thumbnail version of the fraud being perpetrated by the county with regard to dogs. Who are lucky when compared to the hundreds of cats picked up in Yellowstone Co every year:
Fleming, in an interview with Last Best News, said there was no county ordinance on cats, and that “we don’t allow impoundment of cats.”
“They’re treated no differently from skunks, raccoons, coyotes—a nuisance animal,” Fleming said. With rare exceptions, he said, when he picked cats up they were taken to a small shed behind the county shops, just west of the jail, where he would euthanize them.
Even cats whom rescue groups offered to take were reportedly killed instead of live released.
Although Fleming may have been certified to kill animals at some time in the past, he is not now and, after being questioned by the local news about it, reportedly stopped killing animals in January. Apparently that took all the fun out of it because after 24 years as an ACO, Fleming put in for a transfer within the sheriff’s office and will be working as a process server as soon as the county hires a new ACO.
Animal advocates say they met with County Commissioner John Ostlund 3 years ago to discuss their many concerns over the needless killing of owned and homeless pets by Fleming. Changes were promised but never materialized. After the recent local investigative reporting on Fleming’s abuse of power went public, Ostlund claimed he was shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear such things:
“I have been under the impression that he (Fleming) is doing a bang-up job,” Ostlund said. He said he hadn’t heard any new complaints about the division, and “complaints and compliments are the only way we have of getting a grip on what’s going on.”
Right. Because it would be completely impossible for anyone to actually check. Like, look at the county records or ask some questions or something, especially after complaints were recorded. Nope, the default position is apparently assumed excellence. Nice work, if you can get it.
Yellowstone Co is paying a guy who for 24 years was picking up cats and literally taking them to the woodshed for killing. He’s been impounding dogs, leaving a paper trail that any 3rd grader would be embarrassed to turn in, stashing them in a vet’s office under some kind of pay-to-play scheme then killing them based upon his unqualified behavioral assessments while lacking the appropriate certification. The county pays a vet $17,000 a year to house lost and homeless dogs while allowing the vet to turn away anyone and everyone who might be interested in getting the dogs out alive, including their owners. The county commissioner, who has known about the problems for years, now says he assumed everything was pie in the sky because hey, everybody likes pie.
Taxpayers in Yellowstone Co deserve better and so do their pets. They need to stand up and demand it, publicly and loudly and immediately.
(Thanks to the reader who sent me this link.)