State of NC Revokes Certifications from Two ACOs

The NC Department of Agriculture received a complaint from a citizen in June regarding improper pet killings at the Stokes Co pound.  On July 2, the department revoked the euthanasia technician certifications from two ACOs at the facility. An investigation conducted by a state inspector found that Phillip Handy, then director of the Stokes Co pound:

  • killed animals before the required 72 hour holding period expired
  • improperly killed at least one animal in May 2015 “which involved the cruel and inhumane treatment of the animal”
  • “performed, participated in and/or witnessed” the inhumane killing of multiple animals
  • treated multiple animals cruelly and inhumanely causing them pain and suffering
  • shot an animal as “euthanasia” and failed to report it
  • failed to cooperate with the state during the investigation

The state further found that ACO Darryl Sheppard:

  • killed animals before the required 72 hour holding period expired
  • witnessed at least one inhumane pet killing incident in May 2015 and failed to report it
  • “performed, participated in and/or witnessed” the inhumane killing of multiple animals
  • shot or had knowledge of the shooting of an animal as “euthanasia” and failed to report it
  • failed to cooperate with the state during the investigation

Neither Sheppard nor Handy has been charged with any crime in connection with the department’s findings but the State Bureau of Investigation is investigating both men.  They no longer work for Stokes Co.  The facility failed its most recent inspection in late August.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Georgia ACO Lets Friendly Dog Suffer and Die in Vehicle

Brad Pitt, as shown on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

Brad Pitt, as shown on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

When a 17 month old dog called Brad Pitt got lost in Georgia last month, owner Holly Roth and her family began looking for him.  They searched for him physically, put up fliers around the neighborhood, and reported him missing to Cobb Co AC.  The family kept checking in with AC to see if their pet had been picked up but they were repeatedly told no.  Then a neighbor called the Roths and said he had seen a Cobb Co ACO pick up Brad Pitt.

Oh, THAT dog.  Well, ok.  He was picked up but he was dead after having been hit by a car. It says so right here in the ACO’s notes.

Really?  Because the neighbor said:

“He (was) just a friendly dog. (The animal control officer) just put a leash on it (and) put him in the side of the truck and then drove away,” [David] Spontak said.

Oh, THAT that dog.  Well, ok.  He was perfectly fine when he was loaded onto the truck by the ACO but he was left in the metal box all day to suffer a horrible death from heat stroke.  So, still dead.

Gee, I’m afraid we’ll have to charge someone for that.  But don’t worry, just misdemeanor animal cruelty and misdemeanor obstruction for the attempted cover up.

The ACO, Matthew Cory Dodson, quit his job, was arrested and spent an hour in jail before being released on his own recognizance.

“Cobb County authorities want to reassure our citizens that this type of behavior will never be condoned and that the safety of any animal while in our custody (or otherwise) is paramount. We have met with the owner of the dog, advised them of the results of our investigation and are working with them regarding this tragic situation,” Cobb police said in a news release Monday.

I, for one, am so totally reassured.  It’s vewy sewious.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

CA ACO Stands By While Dog Suffers and Dies

A tethered dog in need of help, as pictured on the ABC30 website.

A tethered dog in need of help, as pictured on the ABC30 website.

The Central California SPCA (CCSPCA) is contracted by the city of Fresno for animal control services.  On July 7, a concerned citizen took a photo of a tethered dog standing atop a fence – clearly a dangerous situation – and sent it to the CCSPCA and the police department along with a complaint.  The next day, an ACO from the CCSPCA went to the home where another dog had been seized on July 6 after the owners failed to respond to a citation left by AC.

Upon arrival, the ACO found the dog hanging from his tether with his feet touching the ground but unable to move.  He was being strangled to death.  The ACO reportedly called the police for back up and waited for several minutes for officers to arrive.  During that time, the dog died.

Neighbors say the animal control officer did nothing but wait until FPD arrived.

The CCSPCA was ready with excuses when the local news came knocking:

The CCSPCA says it has authority to enter a property to seize a dog only 48 hours after it’s cited the owner.


Animal control can step in if there is immediate danger. “There is protocol that we have to follow and authorization and approvals,” [CCSPCA spokesman Walter] Salvari said. “We’re still waiting to see if that’s what the officer was waiting for instead of stepping in and saving the animal’s life.”

Protocol.  Turns out, it’s actually not proper protocol for an ACO to stand around while a dog hangs itself to death.  Who knew, right?  And straight from The Handbook, here’s your spoonful of reassurance:

The SPCA said that “appropriate disciplinary actions” have been taken with the animal control officer responsible, and that “proper procedural training will be reinforced with all animal control staff to help prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”

The owner who left the dog in that dangerous situation may be charged with animal abuse.  But the ACO who could have saved the dog but chose not to –  appropriate disciplinary actions, yeah. And no doubt residents will find it comforting to know that the ACOs in Fresno have to be reminded that when dispatched on a cruelty call, you don’t actually contribute to the cruelty.  If the animal is alive when you get there, your job is to keep him alive, not wait while he dies.

Prevention of cruelty to animals:  you’re doing it wrong.

(Thanks Bonnie for sending me this story.)

Texas ACO Leaves Cats to Suffer and Die in Truck

Michael Arista, an ACO in Big Spring, Texas, reportedly picked up “numerous” cats at some unknown time last week and put them in the metal boxes on his ACO vehicle which he left in a police station parking lot in 95 degree heat.  A police officer noticed the vehicle on Saturday morning and contacted the on-call ACO.  When that ACO arrived and opened up the metal boxes, it was discovered that 4 of the cats had died.

A local news reporter contacted ACO Arista who reportedly characterized the incident as a mistake and complained that the ACOs in Big Springs are overworked.  And just in case that doesn’t shut you up:

Arista added that the cats were feral, very sick and would likely be euthanized.

See.  They were just gonna be killed anyway so what’s all the fuss about?

Cue the local enablers:

“People like to vilify and put the blame on the Animal Control officers and it really comes down to the system as a whole and the changes that need to be made,” said Alison Herm, Volunteer with Relocation Rescue.


“Unfortunately, there are so many feral cats that if Animal Control traps them, they are so feral that there is nothing they can do for them but to euthanize them,” said Herm.

So many, so feral.  *shrug*  I guess it’s just off to Killville.  Never mind all the communities doing TNR for their feral cats.  They probably don’t have so many, so feral.  Big Spring is unique!

Photo by Casey Post

This is the cat I’d like to feed enablers to.  (Photo by Casey Post)

ACO Arista has been placed on administrative leave while the city investigates itself in the matter.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Dog Runs Home After Being Shot by ACO 5 Times, ACO Hunts Him Down

Max with family, as shown on the WVVA website.

Max with family, as shown on the WVVA website.

West Virginia – On April 21, Tamara Curry’s dogs Max and Tyson accidentally escaped the family’s fenced yard and were roaming the neighborhood.  Someone called Greenbrier Co ACO Robert McClung about the dogs.  ACO McClung loaded Tyson into his vehicle but says Max was growling, showing his teeth and coming towards him so he shot the dog 5 times.  The wounded pet went to his bed on his porch to lay down.  ACO McClung says he then dragged Max off the porch.

Ms. Curry, who had been asleep inside the house with her children but was awakened by the gun shots, heard ACO McClung tell Max, “That’s what you get for being stupid.” She then heard more gunshots and the sound of a vehicle driving away. Curry, who had not come outside during the incident because she did not know who the lunatic with the gun was or what he might do next, found a note slipped under her door by ACO McClung which read “We have removed 2 dogs from your property.”

Ms. Curry is heartbroken because Max was family.  She says he was never aggressive and was a good dog.  She doesn’t believe McClung should stay employed as an ACO because he’s not doing his job:

“I feel that there should have been some other step done first. I don’t feel he’s compassionate. I will quote his business card. It says serving and protecting man’s best friend. I don’t feel he did that. I don’t feel he did the steps to protect my dog.”

I would agree that an ACO whose one and only tool in the toolbox for dealing with growling dogs is GUN should not be on the job.

McClung tells WVVA that there was nothing he could have done differently, especially with Max coming at him. While some outraged citizens worry he isn’t trained, McClung says he is only one of 100 people nationwide that has the level of training he does from the National Animal Control Association.

What special NACA training is he referring to?  And where are the other 99 bozos we have to protect our pets from?

Greenbrier Co has fined the Curry family for having dogs off leash and for expired licenses and rabies tags.  There are still blood stains on their porch.

Concerned citizens are expected to attend tonight’s county commissioners’ meeting to demand that McClung be fired.  McClung is confident that won’t happen and in fact, isn’t even bothering to attend the meeting.

(Thanks Julie and Clarice for sending me this story.)

Yellowstone Co AC in Need of Reform by Way of Gasoline and a Match

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.)

Anderson Co ACOs “Rescue” Dogs from Rescue

In 2014, authorities seized 92 dogs and 28 cats from Golden S Rescue in Anderson Co, SC.  Charges brought against the rescue’s owner were dropped in exchange for surrendering the animals and an agreement to allow random inspections on the property in future.  Last month, Anderson Co ACOs were conducting such an inspection when they discovered 53 dogs and 7 cats allegedly being cared for improperly.  The rescue’s owner has been charged with 60 counts of ill treatment of animals, 54 counts of failing to provide proof of rabies vaccination and a charge relating to the possession of methamphetamine. Let the uh, rescuing begin:

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog in this photo circulated on social media.

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog in this photo circulated on social media.

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog (who looks pregnant) in this photo circulated on social media.

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog (who looks pregnant) in this photo circulated on social media.

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog in this photo circulated on social media.

Anderson Co ACOs appear to be mishandling a dog in this photo circulated on social media.

After seeing the photos online, many people contacted the Anderson Co sheriff’s office to request an investigation into the handling of the dogs by ACOs.  But it doesn’t sound like that will be happening:

Lt. Sheila Cole, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said she thinks people react to the photos without knowing anything about the case. “I think once we have explained to people that our officers were dealing with aggressive, unvaccinated dogs, they have been understanding of why they handled them the way they did,” Cole said in an interview.

If these ACOs received official training that instructed them to handle unvaccinated, aggressive dogs as is depicted in these photos, I’ll eat my hat.  I don’t need to know anything about the case to know that what’s happening in those photos is wrong.  The fact that it isn’t obvious to Anderson Co authorities is troubling. (Thank you to everyone who sent me links on this story.)

Case Update: Disturbing Details in Investigation of Oklahoma ACO Who Lied to Owner about Pet’s Death

Many readers probably remember the story of Major, the German shorthaired pointer who got lost in December in Elgin, OK.  When the owner asked the city’s ACO about her dog, he offered up assorted lies, making her suspicious.  The owner ultimately went into a pit of dead animals she found at the shelter and discovered the bloody remains of her pet, whose ears were missing.  The city closed the pound and put ACO Daniel Linthicum’s contract on hold while the matter was investigated.

This week, there are some updates and ain’t none of them good.  Major’s owners took his remains, as well as those of the dog whom Linthicum ultimately claimed had killed Major, to the state university for necropsies:

[D]octors could neither confirm nor deny the actual cause of Major’s death. But, they did determine Major had cancer in both lungs and was in bad health. They also determined the other dog had a whole ear and a piece of an ear in his stomach.

The attacking dog ate the ears?  I’m no expert but that doesn’t sound like any dog fight I’ve ever seen.

Linthicum told investigators that when he found Major, he was still alive but barely.  He gassed Major and the attacking dog to death using the exhaust from his truck.  And if this sounds like some kind of rogue operation, you got that right:

During the investigation, it was discovered that neither the City of Elgin nor [Daniel] Linthicum had a shelter license through the state. A shelter license is required for any place housing 10 or more animals.

But it’s all good:

The findings of the investigation were presented to an assistant district attorney twice, who declined to file charges.

Gassing of animals in some sort of Rube Goldberg device using truck exhaust is horrifying.  But to make matters worse, Major was severely compromised, clinging to life and likely gasping for air with cancerous lungs at the time he was gassed making it probable that he suffered even more than the typical victim of such a barbaric killing method would.  I don’t know what sort of shape the other dog was in at the time but if a private citizen committed these acts there would be criminal charges.

And despite the city promising it would hire a new ACO, Linthicum is back on the job picking up animals, focusing mainly on wildlife and only handling pets in emergency situations.  Because he’s demonstrated he handles those really well.

The next city council meeting in Elgin is February 10.  Please for the love of popsicles let someone show up to talk some sense into the asshats paying this guy.  There is something so obviously wrong here that Scooby Doo could solve the case all by himself.  Taxpayers deserve better.  They need to stand up and demand it.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Rhode Island Pound Closed, ACOs Suspended Amidst Police Investigation

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island police department is in charge of supervising the local pound.  On Tuesday the pound was closed indefinitely and its two ACOs suspended without pay pending a police investigation:

City solicitor Michael Marcello told NBC 10 an anonymous tip in November prompted Woonsocket police to launch an investigation into allegations that food and other donated supplies were being transported out of the Woonsocket shelter to a location in Burrillville.

The “location in Burrillville” was where one of the ACOs was living.  If the city solicitor phrased it to the media as a “location”, making it seem like some mysterious place, that sounds like cover up to me.  Then there’s this, from Dr. Ernest Finocchio, president of the RISPCA:

“I guess the good news is that this has nothing do [sic] do with animal cruelty.”

And this, from Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt:

Baldelli-Hunt noted there was no abuse of animals and that the animals were cared for properly.

Yeah – about that.

There were eleven dogs and no cats at the pound at the time it was ordered closed.  Eight dogs were transferred to other facilities.  Two were killed for behavior after being housed in the cinderblock structure for up to two years.  Another dog required emergency vet care.  The police guarded the facility during the removal of the dogs and wouldn’t allow the media inside, which is always reassuring.  But yay, no animal cruelty.  No transparency either, or adequate supervision apparently, but hey, it’s all good.  Cops sitting in unmarked cars outside the pound to prevent the press from reporting the truth is a hallmark of community trust.

Remind me again how southern shelters are run by good ol’ boys who don’t take proper care of pets while shelters up north are all shining beacons of progress where all the pets are saved.  I have trouble keeping my stereotypes straight sometimes.  I’m sure the many people shipping shelter dogs up north will be interested to know ignore what’s been happening in Woonsocket.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

UPDATED: Oklahoma ACO Lies to Owner about Fate of Missing Dog

Major, as shown on the KSWO website.

Major, as shown on the KSWO website.

A 10 year old German shorthaired pointer got lost in Elgin, OK last month.  While searching for her pet, owner Teri Bartosovsky received a response via social media from someone who said she had found Major and taken him to the local ACO’s home.  Ms. Bartosovsky contacted the ACO, Daniel Linthicum, about getting her dog back:

When first confronted by the dog’s owner, the animal control officer said he never had the dog. After being pressed further, he admitted the dog was taken to the shelter, but that he had escaped or was stolen. It turns out that was a lie too.

Ms. Bartosovsky grew suspicious at the changing stories and felt the ACO knew where Major was but was keeping that information from her.

“I told him if my dog was dead, he needed to tell me that,” said Bartosovsky.

She says Linthicum told her that her dog Major wasn’t dead, and that he was making it a priority to find him.

Ms. Bartosovsky decided to go the Elgin pound herself on Christmas Eve.  Outside, she found a pit filled with dead squirrels and other animals, empty kibble bags and a number of black plastic trash bags.  It disturbed her and she couldn’t stop thinking about the pit, even while on her family’s vacation.  The family decided to come home early in order to look inside the trash bags in the pit.  That’s when they discovered the remains of their pet, covered in bloody wounds.

The ACO then came up with another story:  that Major had been brought to the shelter too weak to walk, left in a kennel, and found dead the next day – the victim of an attack by a pitbull.  The ACO says he lied to the owner in order to spare her the knowledge of her pet’s violent end.

The story didn’t add up to Ms. Bartosovsky.  Although Major’s body was torn up, he had no wounds on his neck and his ears appeared to have been cut off, not torn as if by an attacking dog.  She has sent Major’s remains to a vet school for a necropsy, hoping to get more information.

For the time being, Bartosovsky says Linthicum’s lies are inexcusable and that he needs to be removed from his position, and may get her wish. Linthicum says after this incident, he plans to step down from the job after he was made out to be a monster.

A couple of basic questions I think need to be answered are whether the finder who took Major to the ACO verifies that the dog was too weak to walk and how the alleged attacking dog was able to access a dog in such a state at the pound.  If the ACO isn’t taking reasonable steps to at least protect defenseless dogs from further harm while at the pound, what other basic protections might he be neglecting?  How many other owners of lost pets have been lied to in order to spare their feelings?  Is the case being investigated for possible criminal wrongdoing?  Because it’s incredibly hard to imagine a private citizen offering up these various lies over a dead dog covered in blood and being allowed to walk away.

KSWO reports that the ACO has not resigned but is not currently working.  The next city hall meeting is scheduled for January 13 and the pound is on the agenda.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

UPDATE, added January 7:  The city of Elgin has closed the pound.  The Department of Environmental Quality has ordered the dead animal/trash pit to be emptied and not used again.  The city is going to look for a new ACO.  The current ACO’s contract is “on hold”.  The pitbull who allegedly attacked and killed Major got in through a hole in the fence.  The article references “broken fencing surrounding each kennel” which is to be repaired.  There are still 3 dogs at the pound but the city is working on getting them into homes.  No more animals will be brought in until the city gets the situation sorted.  Zero on the criminal investigation front.  Because I guess you know, it’s just a pit of dead animals, a rogue mystery pitbull who specializes in sneak attacks under cover of darkness, a lying city employee and whatever.  Prolly everything’s fine legal-wise.

I love that no one in the city was aware of what the hell was going on at this place until a citizen dove into the pit to find her lost pet and the news did a story on it.  Well done, Elgin.

(Thanks Clarice for the update link.)