Two County Employees Charged After 14 Shelter Cats Found Dead in SC

Marion County Code Enforcement Officer Marion Richardson was fired earlier this month after 14 cats he had taken from the county pound were found dead. Richardson has since been charged with misconduct in office and a violation of the state’s animal euthanasia law. Hank Rogers, the county building code and inspections supervisor, has been charged as well.

The arrest warrants filed by the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) indicate that Richardson and Rogers went to the Marion Co pound and picked up 14 cats, telling the director the cats would be living on a farm and helping to control rodents. The men then drove the cats to the county landfill where Richardson shot them to death. Although SC law does allow for animal “euthanasia” by gunshot under certain conditions, SLED determined that Richardson had failed to meet these conditions when killing the cats. Ya think? So apparently the law doesn’t specifically say, “OK to use cats for target practice at the dump even if you tell a wee fib to get them from the pound.” Which is lucky, I guess.

One local rescuer who volunteers at the pound says the cats were all friendly and that Richardson has taken groups of Marion Co pound cats – you know, to the farm – many times.

Richardson is currently out on $24,000 bond. His attorney has all the excuses:

“Marion thought he was doing his job. He was called by the animal shelter to pick up the cats and dispose of them. That is exactly what he did. Shooting a feral cat in the back of the head is actually a more humane way of killing it than using carbon monoxide. Marion loves animals and has an indoor cat of his own. It is a wonder anyone would want to be a law enforcement officer when we not only fire them, but charge them with a crime for doing their job.”

Just doing his job. Shooting beats gassing. He’s an animal lover and a cat owner!

Welp, I’m convinced.

Also convincing:  Local media, which jumped through the appropriate hoops in order to have their cameras allowed at the bond hearing, was locked out.  Nothing suspicious there.

Richardson is due in court on November 29.  Rogers is out on $7000 bond and no longer works for the county although I don’t know whether he quit or was fired.  Neither man has been charged with animal cruelty.  I wonder if both these guys are laying low until their government cronies can get them back on the payroll doing some other “job”, perhaps on the farm, as it were.

(Thanks Nathan and Clarice.)

Virginia Dog Warden Kills Dog Who Had Adopter Coming

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Sam as pictured on WTVR.

Sam was a 3 year old dog who had been living at the Appomattox Co shelter in Virginia since February. Volunteers who cared for Sam during his stay report that he was a healthy and “extremely gentle” dog. They found an adopter for Sam who had adopted a similar dog from the facility a few years earlier. But when the adopter came to pick Sam up last week, she learned he’d been killed.

Oops. Or not. No one seems to know. But have faith, the county investigated itself:

In a news release Wednesday afternoon, County Attorney J.G. Overstreet said: “it appears that the matter was handled properly and in accordance with state law.”

Because the dog’s holding period had expired. Therefore, kill at will. All legal.  Yay.

Then there’s this, apparently pulled out of someone’s ass:

“From staff’s perspective, you had a dog that was becoming more anti-social over time,” Piney Mountain Supervisor Sara Carter said of Sam […]. “They didn’t know of any adopter … the decision was made to euthanize.”

Becoming more anti-social over time.  Could you please be a little more vague?  The dog lived in a shelter for 7 months.  Was there some expectation that he would grow cheerier over time?  Didn’t know of any adopter.  Did anyone uh, ask?  Because knowledge does not always fall upon you from the sky like you’d hope.

In response to public outcry over Sam’s killing, the county closed the shelter to the public, citing unspecified threats that were not reported to police.  They also tried a different assplanation for the killing:

We apologize for it and we now have got a policy in place to correct it,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman, Sam Carter.

[…]

Carter told ABC 13 that the county is conducting an internal investigation into the matter and that “there will be corrections made.”

As to what those will be, Carter would not comment specifically.

When I put this into my bureaucracy translator, all that comes up is, “Blah, blah, blah.”

More:

Carter also said, that a text sent to one of the shelter staff on September 6th, regarding Sam’s potential adopter coming to get him, was not confirmation of a firm adoption.

So staff got a text saying an adopter was coming to get Sam but staff “didn’t know of any adopter” because a text is not “confirmation”.  Is there a blood ceremony required to confirm an adoption?  What did the text do, just put it in staff’s mind that an adopter was coming for the dog but it wasn’t confirmed therefore, go right ahead and kill?  Dang, I think *I* am becoming more anti-social over time.

The county animal warden, Micki Caifano, on the job since July 1st, reportedly authorized Sam’s killing and took him to a private vet to have it done. The warden has not provided any reason for the killing. Animal advocates want an explanation. And:

[Advocates] are disturbed because they say shelter cameras were turned off at the time and they want proof from the county as to how Sam spent his last hours.

Turning off the security cameras at the time you are taking a dog you know has an adopter out for killing sounds legit. Especially with the NO REASON explanation.

I hope animal advocates in Appomattox keep after these chuckleheads.  They clearly need it.

(Thanks Lisa and Clarice.)

Weekend Jade

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The last meltinghot weekend of 2016, I hope.

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Virginia ACO Charged with Felony Cruelty

Nottoway County, Virginia pays one man to care for the county’s lost and homeless animals.  That man is now on unpaid leave after being charged with two felony counts of animal abuse.  Both charges stem from shelter pets the ACO allegedly left to suffer without veterinary care until they were near death.

In one case, a terrier who was unable to stand was left in a cage without treatment or pain medication for two weeks before a rescuer transported him to a group willing to take the dog to a vet.  A court document indicates the ACO claimed he took the dog to a vet initially, received a $2000 estimate but opted instead to leave the dog at the pound for the five day holding period before killing him.  I wonder if he thinks fulfilling the holding period requirement earns him extra credit on the test.  When the rescuer requested copies of the vet records at the time the dog was being transferred, the ACO reportedly said he had thrown them out since he was just going to kill the dog anyway.  WRIC reports the dog had to be euthanized.

In the second case, a kitten was impounded with serious wounds and injuries which became infected as he sat in a filthy cage at the pound for at least five days without veterinary care.  The ACO reportedly said he had placed, then removed, a splint on the kitten’s leg (playing vet hospital is yay) and that he was holding the kitten while waiting for a feline leukemia test to arrive.  Which you know, testing for FeLV is important but not HOLD IT HOLD EVERYTHING THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD important.  The ACO reportedly told the rescuer not to post the kitten’s photo on social media.  Red flag, anyone?  Sure would be a shame if someone saw what state the kitten was in and offered to take him to a vet and ruin the ACO’s fun, I guess.  When the rescuer finally took the kitten to a vet, it was determined he had a badly infected leg wound, his pelvis was fractured and there was nerve damage to the bladder and rectum.  The kitten was unable to stand or urinate and had to be euthanized.

The Nottoway Co shelter pets are currently being cared for by a neighboring county while the ACO is on leave.  Hopefully the other county has some sort of checks and balances in place so that one horrible person can’t harm animals as the whim strikes him.  Shame on the elected officials of Nottoway Co for having zero interest in what the actual hell was going on in their shelter – which was actual hell, to be accurate.

(Thanks Nathan.)

Beware of Scammy Emergency Vet Clinics

Wendy’s loss has been particularly difficult for several reasons, one of which was a Sunday visit to an emergency vet clinic. I’d taken pets to this clinic before (this was the same place I took Jade after finding her run over by a truck in a parking lot) and, while nothing is the same as taking pets to your own vet, this place was ok. Not this time. I later learned the clinic been recently bought out by a corporation. All I knew at the time of my visit was that the vet, whom I’d never met before, appeared to be entirely focused on profit.

For starters, the vet had an estimate prepared before she ever saw my dog. This is not me making an assumption – she flat out told me she had put together an estimate “based upon what we usually do for renal dogs”. While I understand that treatments may be similar for dogs suffering from kidney failure, I would think there would be significant variations depending upon what stage the patient is in (Wendy was diagnosed as “very early stage” just 3 months prior), what the current blood work shows and other factors which can’t possibly be determined before examining the dog.

Things went downhill from there. Way. The very first words out of the vet’s mouth when she walked in the room were, “So she’s been sick for 5 days already.” I was shocked but managed to explain that no, she was an old dog who had gone off her food for a day, then seemed to rally back and feel much better, then had some vomiting, not eating – off and on, back and forth like this for the past 5 days until finally that Sunday, I considered the situation to be serious enough to warrant a check at the emergency clinic. She saw Wendy’s tongue protruding and “joked” that she was expressing her opinion. The whole visit was awful and I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of this vet treating my beloved pet. At one point, I pulled the young man who was assisting aside and asked him if this vet was ok, because what the hell, and he replied, “If it’s any consolation, I get that A LOT.”

It was no consolation. The estimate, even if I had felt comfortable leaving Wendy there, was well beyond my means. I explained that I had financial limitations, did not want to hospitalize Wendy, and that I had an appointment with my regular vet the morning after Labor Day and would just like to help Wendy feel better until then. The vet was clearly unhappy about this and said several things which did not make sense to me at the time:

  • “You’re going to have to bring her back. We’ll be open tomorrow.”
  • “Her blood levels indicate to me that sub-Q fluids won’t help her.”
  • “Here are two supplements that helped a renal dog I know who was on his way to be euthanized when the owner started these supplements and he lived for another 3 months. They are $50 each.”

I could not process this information. Wendy had gone from very early stage kidney failure to so far gone that sub-Q fluids were useless in 3 months? But I should buy $100 worth of supplements for a dog who wasn’t eating? Why would I bring her back to this place when I’ve already said I didn’t want to hospitalize? None of this was making sense to me. I paid my $350 bill for the blood work, injections and sub-Q fluids, took my pet and left.

I brought Wendy to my regular vet when they reopened on Tuesday morning after the holiday and she immediately noticed Wendy’s protruding tongue was ulcerated. I thought it was just dried out. She explained that in some patients with renal failure, the ulcers extend from the tongue, down the esophagus and through the digestive tract. This explained why Wendy would sometimes seem to want to eat but then the food would just fall out of her mouth as if she was experiencing pain upon swallowing. All the emergency vet had said about her tongue was a snide remark, which was not helpful.

After looking at Wendy and reviewing the blood work from the emergency clinic, my vet gave me the information I needed to make an informed decision: “I don’t want to give you false hope. I can’t fix her. I’m willing to try to help her feel better if that’s what you want me to do but even if we can accomplish that without her succumbing to the inherent risks, she will likely relapse in 48 hours and she still won’t be able to eat due to the ulceration of the tongue and esophagus.”

These words I understood. I believed as I held Wendy in my lap that she was suffering. Billy agreed. There was no hope for recovery. It might be possible to extend her life but that would merely extend her suffering for all intents and purposes. We did not want that. We decided to let her go.

Which is the decision I would have made that Sunday at the emergency clinic had the vet there told me these things. But I guess that wouldn’t have been as profitable for them.

It was my regular vet who told me about the emergency clinic having been bought by a chain. She added that unfortunately, the other emergency clinic she has worked with has also been bought out. Apparently this is the future of emergency veterinary medicine. And it’s a shame.

When a vet hands you a four figure estimate for hospitalization, there comes with it an expectation of hope. That’s what they are selling pet owners: hope. In Wendy’s case, it was fake. I was too scattered to ask the question, “What is the prognosis with and without hospitalization?” Emergency vets have to know that pet owners who come to them are seeking guidance. Instead of preying on our inability to fully process information during a crisis, emergency vets need to support clients by providing information specific to the individual pet’s circumstances in clear terms which allow owners to make informed decisions. The onus should not be on distraught owners to ask the right questions but rather on the vet being paid for an educated opinion to offer realistic information.

In talking to reader Brie Kavanaugh, I found out she too had been through a terrible experience at the end of a dog’s life recently. I asked her to share her story here, in hopes of helping to increase awareness about these types of events:

On July 3rd at about 8:00 p.m., our 16-year old dog had a grand mal seizure. It was terrifying. He had been sleeping near my chair at my feet when he started to convulse. My husband leapt into action to hold Asp still while I began to pray for the soul or our boy, hoping the seizure would not last. He howled. It was over in less than three minutes. We called our vet of 20 years for help. She could not help us and told us to go to the emergency veterinary clinic in Huntsville. We did, having no idea that our lives were about to be forever changed by a business devoid of compassion, sympathy or empathy.

When we arrived at the ER clinic not quite 40 minutes later, the door was locked. We were only allowed to bring our dog inside after having paid a $100 treatment fee to an angry, curt receptionist. We were put into an exam room and stayed there for 2 1/2 hours with no communication and no way to keep our dog comfortable. He would have been better off in our truck until they could see him. When my husband asked the receptionist how much longer the wait would be, we were told people had been waiting longer than us. We were ultimately seen by a veterinarian who ordered tests, told us to wait in the lobby and then told us about 20 minutes later, in that same lobby, that our dog had cancer while trying to show us ultrasound images on his phone. As we struggled to process the information, we were given a prescription for Aspy and told to observe him for 24 hours.

He didn’t make it that long. He had another seizure the following afternoon at about 2:00 p.m. that seemed to last an eternity but really lasted about 40 minutes. I honestly thought he would die on the rug in our living room from the seizure itself. It went on and on as he lost control of his bowels and howled.We tried to reach our veterinarian and could not so we took Aspy, still seizing, back to the same emergency clinic to have him euthanized. He stopped seizing during the drive, but we knew we could not keep him. We were put in a room, told to sign forms and told our dog had to be taken from us to have the IV line put it. We begged for the vet tech to just do it with us present to keep our dog calm. She would not and insisted he had to be taken to another room. He was gone for more than 15 minutes as we heard him barking for us in his confusion and as we anguished over what was happening. When Aspy was finally returned to us, the vet tech told us that he “would not hold still” for her, as if she was speaking about a fully functioning dog. We were incredulous. A veterinarian entered the room to euthanize our dog and it was over in less than a minute. No real chance to say goodbye. No real chance to center ourselves. We were in shock.

We wrote a 3 page complaint letter to the Animal Emergency Clinic of North Alabama about our experiences there. No one could save our dog. But the manner in which we were treated during both of our visits turned a heart breaking loss into a traumatic experience we will never forget. It never even occurred to us to try to find another place to go; we felt we had no other choice.

Those who own, oversee and work in emergency clinics simply cannot think and function like other service industries. I have had better and more compassionate service from the Express Lube where I take my car. And I will never ever go back to that place again. We sought help in what turned out to be the worst 19 hours of our 16 year relationship with our dog and those from who we sought help failed us. And for that, they should be ashamed.

Thank you Brie for sharing your story.  I know how difficult it is.

Anyone who wants to share their own experiences at emergency clinics, good or bad, is welcome to post in the comments – as is anyone who has suggestions on what to do when you have a need for emergency vet services on weekends/holidays but don’t trust your area clinics.

Weekend Jade

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Sometimes in my random snapping as Jade and Newt zoom past, they end up in the frame, mostly.

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Mass Killing at Ohio Pound is Just One of Many Awful Responses to Crisis

The Franklin County dog pound in Ohio received test results positive for distemper on one dog on September 3.  The facility remained open and adopted out 67 dogs before finally closing on September 9.

Franklin Co has since killed 84 dogs due to “distemper concerns” and 6 more dogs “for unrelated reasons”.  Rescue groups who tried to save some of the exposed dogs from being killed, including mama dogs with litters, were turned away despite having appropriate quarantine and medical care arranged.  All while enabling the killing which, you know, is weird:

Misti Martin-Fuller is the executive director of the I Have a Dream Rescue.
[…]
“The staff who are actually having to hold these dogs, walking them down the aisle, and actually administer the drugs? They’re not at fault,” Martin-Fuller said.

The ones doing the actual killing who won’t let us save the dogs? Oh heavens no, not to blame.

Also weird:  Rescue groups went to a county judge to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop the killings.  The judge granted the order but is requiring rescues to post a $100,000 bond which they are unable to do.  The county’s response, natch:  we’ll stop killing if rescues cough up the cash.

Donald Winstel, who just took over as shelter director, wants everyone to know that killing is hard:

For now, he said, counselors have been made available for shelter employees.

“Imagine what it would be like to be the caregivers of these dogs, and then, in some cases, to be involved with the process of euthanizing them,” Winstel said. “We understand those feelings. We’re going through that, too.”

They understand those feelings and they’ve got counselors for themselves but locals who recently adopted dogs are having to find out from the news that their pets might be contagious, might get sick and that if they do, it might be serious:

The shelter is not notifying those who were recently adopted of distemper but they are providing care and consultation at no cost to people concerned.

And I think with that, congratulations are in order:  Well done, Franklin Co.  If only you’d been able to squeeze in a reference to the irresponsible public, you would have had Kill Shelter yahtzee.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Sorry, You Are Out of Refills on Your HeinousStinkingCruelty Prescription

Rebecca Coleman, the shelter vet at the Memphis pound on whose watch numerous dogs have starved to death, including a puppy who was forced to eat his own littermate to survive, and who scrubbed a degloved cat’s wounds without providing pain medication then left him to suffer in a cage for 5 days, and who neglected a puppy with a collar deeply embedded in her neck and many other also horrible things HAS BEEN FIRED.  Or to put it more bureaucratically, she was not re-appointed by the mayor.  Whatever.  Just thank ponies.

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