ACO Accuses TN Shelter of Acting as “A Puppy Mill for Rescue Groups”

A friend of Cheatham Co ACO Darrell Hooper reportedly tried to adopt a stray Doberman at the pound but was turned away.  The potential adopter was told the dog was being held for a rescue group.  A Doberman rescue in Knoxville is said to have pulled the dog from the pound for free and sold her for $300.

ACO Hooper says this isn’t an isolated incident, especially when it comes to purebreds and puppies, and that he’s brought his concerns to the mayor several times but nothing has changed.  After his friend was prevented from adopting the Doberman, ACO Hooper angrily confronted the pound director in the parking lot:

“I questioned him. I said, ‘So we’re just a puppy mill for rescue groups? Are we just providing them products to sell?'” Hooper said. “He shook his head yes in the affirmative and again he stated to me, ‘You don’t understand the political ramifications of this.'”

The heated argument ended with ACO Hooper punching the director.  He has since resigned and publicly apologized.  But he still wants the county to change its protocols regarding rescue groups.

The local news contacted the director who declined to be interviewed.  They also contacted the rescue group and a representative told them they would have been happy to pay the $50 fee Cheatham Co normally charges to adopters but nobody asked them for any money.

On the one hand, breed rescues offer a valuable service.  They understand the breeds they rescue better than most and that may help them to make more successful matches between dogs and adopters.  A breed rescue would be better equipped to handle special needs cases of their given breed since they have the expertise and resources and ideally might be more motivated to make the investment.

On the other hand, it’s hard to justify a stray dog being left to sit in a pound while an adopter is turned away.  Assuming the dog faced no extreme challenges (e.g. a legally designated “dangerous dog”) and the adopter was just as qualified as the average adopter at the pound, why leave the dog in the cage to take up space needed by other homeless pets and to potentially get sick?

Cheatham Co AC’s website says:

Cheatham County Animal Control is a county government run facility that receives nearly 2200 animals a year with room to house only 50 at a time. Only four staff members clean, feed, treat, bathe, intake, answer phone, and make onsite calls for: at large, cruelty, neglect, and all other issues. The staff also works to save every animal possible with limited resources. Cheatham County is over 360 square miles and is filled with unwanted animals. Our county compliance on vaccinations, spay/neuter, and safety of animals is low. We are leading our staff and our community toward a culture change – which will take time…time our animals do not always have on their side.

It sounds like the Cheatham Co pound could use all the empty cages it can get, like most municipal facilities.  But if ACO Hooper’s allegations are accurate, the pound may be keeping cages filled unnecessarily with “high value” dogs and puppies by holding them for rescues.  Are other pets, particularly those whom no group could expect to sell for $300, being killed by Cheatham Co in order to make space for the white-and-fluffies being held for rescue groups?

All shelter pets have the right to live, regardless of their resale value.  Is anyone in Cheatham Co advocating for the right of all the animals in the shelter to live, political ramifications be damned?  There seems to be a need.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

13 thoughts on “ACO Accuses TN Shelter of Acting as “A Puppy Mill for Rescue Groups”

  1. I would like to point out a couple of things that are missing from this account. Dobermans are sometimes difficult to place appropriately due to their size and temperament, a breed specific rescue is a good place for them. What was not stated was what the rescue had to pay for her vet work, spay, vaccinations, heartworm testing, etc. as most municipal shelters do not perform these other than rabies vaccination. So, if the rescue paid for all these things to be done for the dog, the sale price of $300 may not even cover their vet expenses. I know a lot about this because my breed specific rescue routinely takes our breed from shelters in 15 states. With a shelter, we also have a deadline for pulling the dog as they do need to free up space for the next one, so we always work quickly. We do pay a pull fee if requested and we also voluntarily reimburse the shelter if they have incurred additional vet expenses for a dog. If the shelter has interested parties they either give that party our contact information or they give it to us and we then work with that adopter to see if it is a good match. Our breed is not for everyone, just like a dobe, rott, or similar breeds are not for everyone. In order to do what is best for the dog AND the adopting family a breed rescue needs to make sure that the adoptive home is right for that breed of dog. Overburdened municipal shelters rarely have the staff to do a good interview to make sure the dog is right for that home. Our rescue will also help a shelter that does not wish to relinquish the dog. We offer to assist in finding an appropriate home or give the shelter tips on the quirks of our breed so they know how to place the dog properly. We also will take the dog at any time should it be returned to the shelter. This should be about shelters and breed rescues working together to do what is best for the dogs.

    1. I don’t know about other shelters, but Austin Animal Center does s/n, rabies, DAPP, and bordetella vax as well as hw testing. If most municipal shelters aren’t doing those vaccinations, then it’s a wonder we don’t see more disease outbreaks. As far as your statement that “our breed is not for everyone,” that could be said of any breed or for that matter any individual animal. Are you really meaning to say that most municipal shelters aren’t capable of matching adopters and pets, period, or only for those specific breeds that in your mind are in some way special?

  2. Hm. Yeah, I can see the concern, but if the breed rescue is altering the dogs and the shelter isn’t, then I can see where the cost is for the rescue group. A large breed spay here can easily run you $300 (and more) if you don’t go to a discounted clinic.

    I have to wonder how long they’ll hold a dog for rescue though, while others are being cycled through and killed for space because that cage is taken up with a dog waiting for a rescue group? If it’s 24 hours, that’s fair. If they’ll hold a dog for a week, killing for space the whole time and denying adopters, not cool.

  3. The Cheatham Co Petfinder site states they vax/neuter their animals. IDK if they do different for animals being held for rescue. Regardless, it is long past time rescues moved away from the “recoup our expenses” adoption fee model. To my mind, fundraising should be conducted to cover expenses, just like every other non-profit does, and adoption fees should be kept as low as possible in order to get pets into homes.

    1. This is exactly how I see it. I often wonder why so many rescues are trying to use a retail model for setting their adoption fees when they’re non-profits.

    2. You’re right about the adoption fees. But a lot of shelters have no pull fee for rescue groups – which seems to be the guy’s main gripe.

      His primary concern should be getting dogs out alive, whether through adoption or rescue groups.

  4. I agree with Michele from the rescue perspective. Often our shelter has a dog that is purebred and there are so many people wanting that dog, it’s best to send the dog to rescue and let the rescue do the screening. From the shelter side it frees up staff to focus on dogs that need extra help finding a home. Also, the rescue then takes on the responsibility of the costs of spay/neuter (we already vacc/worm on intake), and any other medical care the dog needs, again freeing up resources for our shelter to care for other dogs. I would not agree if the shelter is holding dogs for a rescue group while killing other dogs, especially if there is an adopter for the dog being held for rescue. The rescues we work with come rather quickly, and we don’t euthanized for space, so that is not an issue for us. And I also agree with YesBiscuit that rescues, and might I add, some humane societies, get away from the “recoup our expenses” adoption fees and do fundraising to fill in the gaps. At our (Municipal) shelter, the costs of vaccs and worming as well as emergency care, comes out of the government pot, but things like spay/neuter, heart-worm testing and treatment, and any medical treatments come from donations. This keeps our adoption fees very low.

  5. Unless there is a medical of behavioral reason for an animal to be withheld from the public, “normal” adopters should always have priority.

    Most ACs work like that now. If an application from a private citizen any rescue hold is removed. There are two reason for this. First, rescue is for animals with no where else to go, period. Sending animals to a rescue when someone is waiting to adopting directly defeats the purpose and only ends in more animals killed. Second, the private citizens are the ones who pay the taxes that keep the facility up and running. Their duty is to them before any rescue.

    1. IDK about that. Where I live, private adopters are the reason the shelter is absolutely packed. The prevailing mentality is “animals as property,” disposable and replaceable. Do these shelters qualify private adopters? My local shelter has adopted a litter of pit puppies to known fighters and adopted a mom and her litter of newborn kittens to a person whose home, according to her FB page, is full of large snakes. Both of these adoptions cost $30 plus $6 for the adult’s rabies shot.

      1. The public is not a monolith. Sure there are irresponsible pet owners in your area, just like there are everywhere else. That does not mean that all or even a majority of potential adopters in your area are going to be terrible pet owners. Nor can you accurately extrapolate your local shelter’s poor interviewing and matching process to all shelters.

  6. I’m the previous Director of Cheatham County AC – and I live in Cheatham County. CCAC does Vax and S/N the animals. They are wormed and have a fecal done as well. Depending on budget many also get heartworm tested…all things I started when I took over the department in 2010. There are also a couple dozen people who volunteer and will do home checks if AC wants them done. Due to the fighting issues in TN and in our county I always personally went on the home visits on Bully adoptions – on my own time. I also hired TJ Jordi (current Director) as an AC Officer when I was Director.

    My good friend – who is also a past County Commissioner who wanted Belle the Dobe in question here. She’s had Dobes her whole life. AC told me the same thing – Belle was being held for a rescue. I have never done that at either AC that I was Director of. I do not support holding dogs for rescue when an adopter is available. I did not do that in either of the AC’s I was Director in. A safe home is much better than a wait in a rescue or foster home and then another move to an adopter’s home.

    I’ve met Darrell Hooper – I don’t know him – but I felt quite good about him being an ACO. He’s compassionate and he also believes in government transparency. I don’t know the day to day inner workings of our County AC any longer. There is no operation manual or policy manual. Much is left to the decision of the Director.

    We do have a State provision to have an adjunct Citizen committee for every Commissioner Committee that exists in a county. It has to be chaired by a Commissioner and then Citizens are members and give their input. There are Commissioner Committees in our county for everything EXCEPT Animal Control. I tried to get that done but did not succeed. The Mayor vetoed it in our staff meetings and I was his direct report.

    After leaving CCAC – anything I have tried to work on regarding animals in our county has been met with a heavy hand and a “you left – we got this” response from the powers that be. Perhaps Darrell Hooper could get this requested…

  7. Also – regarding Rescues having no pull fee…While I was Director – in TWO TN counties – I was forbidden to give reduced rates on adoption fees, have any specials, or reduced rates to rescues. Why? Because AC is considered a Profit Center by the State of TN – therefore the “income” is part of the projected budget each year. The “goal” is to have AC be a self funded department. That – from the Comptroller’s office! Laughable really. The state has never understood AC departments…period. There are ways to get around this – such as I had people and rescue groups pay adoption feeds or sponsor the fees on an animal. Even then the State Comptroller’s office balked. The adoption fees we charged always had to cover the entire expense of getting the animals vaxed, rabies shot and S/N.

  8. WOW, I live in Hamblen co, Tn, I have been watching rescues in Tn. for 4 yrs now,and if a city and county run shelter here in Tn, tries to charge any amount to the rescues here, they get put on public blast, and get death threats, and horrible publicity. I myself, have found out how political animal rescue has became especially here in Tn, Why do you think the news story, was wiped from the internet, I mean the video one??????FBI, needs to start doing an investigation, especially here in Tn., In case no one else has picked this up yet, there are FBI level computer scientists usually very connected with these popular animal rescues or the leaders and owners of the transports up north!!!!!!!Anyone will to speak up and take a firm stand on this, feel free to call me 423-353-4027. I have evidence galore!!!!! A news station needs to stand up and speak out for all the poor tax payers in Tn. paying for all of this High profit being made by some of these rescues that have politically taken over most shelters in Tn!!!!!

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