Chesterfield News for March 10

Various news bits on the alleged shooting of 22 shelter dogs in Chesterfield Co, SC.  I will update the post if anything new comes up today.

First, a website for the shelter lists the ACOs at Chesterfield as Sgt. Brian Burch, Officer Tim Hunt, Officer Frank Laney and Officer Kip Gulledge.  At the bottom of each page on the site, it says “Created by Nicole Gulledge” and indicates it was last updated in 2009.  The information appears to be out of date as a current TV news piece has the ACOs listed as “Brian Burch, Kip Gulledge, Eric Donahue and Lee Carnes”.  That article indicates that “Burch has a criminal past” which may impact his legal right to own a gun.  This could be significant if it is determined that he shot shelter dogs.  And:

[Sheriff Sam Parker] says Gulledge and Carnes have clean backgrounds and that Donahue’s background check is in process.

How long does it take a sheriff’s office to run a background check?

The piece ends with this bombshell:

The sheriff also told us that preliminary necropsy reports have come back on three dogs from the landfill but he didn’t have time to read the files yet.

Oh hullo, what?  How long does it take to read “Dog #1 – Shot.  Dog #2 – Shot.”?

Next up, the shelter’s budget.  It looks weird to me:

The budget allotted by Chesterfield County for the current year gave the shelter $162,970 in funds. Of that, $108,037 went toward employee salaries, $41,933 went to fringe benefits such as workers’ compensation and only about 9 percent of the total budget, or about $13,000, remained for any other expenses including food for the animals, vehicles, vehicle repairs and expenses, utilities and emergencies incurred during the year.

The same article says that the “shelter houses 60 to 70 animals each month”.  I’m assuming these are monthly intake figures – in other words the shelter takes in about 65 new pets each month.  65 pets a month X 12 months = 780 pets a year.  Broken down the other direction, 65 pets a month divided by 22 working days each month works out to about 3 pets each working day.  These pets may be owner surrenders or stray pickups.  Inmates perform the cleaning and feeding.  Volunteers also provide hands-on care and network for adoptions, transports and rescues.  “A large portion” of the shelter’s pets are killed according to the article – not for space but “because there is not enough money to feed and care for them”.

What I’m trying to work out here (assuming the article’s figures are accurate), is why the county is paying four ACO salaries at a shelter which takes in about 3 pets a day, has free labor for the feeding/care/adoption of the pets but then says they have to kill most of the pets in their care because they can’t afford to feed them.  It’s true that the ACOs also work as Litter Control Officers but unless the county is some sort of haven for serial mass litterers, I’m still not getting it.

What say you, budget minded folks?

***

AddedNew story from WSOC tonight:

Eyewitness News learned Thursday that SLED, the state law enforcement division, now has the case and should finish its review as soon as Friday. If no more investigation is needed, then the attorney general will get the case and determine if criminal charges are necessary.

SLED got the case today and may be finished with it tomorrow?  Gee, I hope they have got a 20 man task force assigned to the case and they’re pulling an all nighter.  Otherwise, I’m not too hopeful on a thorough investigation.  Come on SLED, prove me wrong.  Please.

 

Open Letter to SLED Regarding the Chesterfield Shelter Investigation

Now that SLED has opened an investigation into the alleged shootings at the Chesterfield Co shelter, here is what I’d like to see happen:

In addition to the 3 dogs whose bodies have already been sent for necropsy, I hope SLED will exhume some older remains at the landfill as well.  From my understanding, this is not a landfill where trash is dumped but is used exclusively for disposal of shelter pets.  It should be easy to find some older carcasses, especially since visitors to the site indicate many bodies are partially visible.  I think it would be worthwhile, and key to the investigation, to determine if shelter pets have been “euthanized” by shooting before last Friday’s alleged incident.

The purchase orders for Fatal Plus are a matter of public record, as is the shelter’s drug log.  I hope SLED will look at the purchase orders and the drug log to determine how many pets may have been killed via injection since the shelter got rid of its gas chamber last fall.  By comparing the amount of Fatal Plus purchased with the amount currently on hand and cross referencing that information with the shelter’s records of total pets killed and the drug log, we should be able to draw some relevant conclusions about the shelter’s post-gas chamber kill methods.

Lastly, my understanding is that the shelter has video surveillance of the parking lot.  I hope SLED will review this footage, going back to the day the shelter stopped gassing, to verify whether live animals were routinely loaded off the AC trucks upon return to the shelter after stray pick up calls.  The footage should also reveal how many live pets were loaded on to the trucks and whether those trucks then returned empty during that period.  And the footage for Friday, March 4 will reveal how many live pets were loaded on to the trucks and how many, if any, returned.  That should clear up the confusion about the total number of pets allegedly killed on that day.

Anyone wanting to copy this blog post in order to send a letter to SLED regarding the investigation is welcome to do so.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

Fax:   (803) 896-7588

Chesterfield Co Developments for March 8

This is the latest on developments surrounding the alleged shooting of shelter dogs in Chesterfield Co, SC.  This post will be updated if new information emerges today.

Last night, I was mocking something the Sheriff of Chesterfield Co said in an interview regarding the prospect of the shelter closing:

“The citizens of Chesterfield County will once again have animals running wild.”

But today I came across this article which says:

According to shelter records, six animals were killed and 12 others were released elsewhere.

Whoa.  I’m trying to figure out what that means exactly.  Released to rescue?  Released to another shelter?  Released to a research facility?  Released as in “Run, frolic and be free, you wascals!”?  I fear it’s the latter.  In which case, it would seem that the Sheriff’s warning may have been based on the actions of his own ACOs.  Dang, this thing just keeps getting uglier.

One bit of good news.  I just got off the phone with the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.  They are saying the investigation has been turned over to the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED).  SLED will determine if any criminal actions will be brought and if so, the state AG will prosecute.  This is progress.  I think all the phone calls and letters are having an impact.

The Solicitor’s office is preparing a press release, probably for the end of the week.

Updated: Chesterfield Co Developments for March 7

This is the latest on developments surrounding the alleged shooting of shelter dogs in Chesterfield Co, SC.  It will be updated if new information emerges today.

It seems as if what we’ve heard from the Sheriff so far indicates a position of shooting-shelter-pets-is-legal-so-yay.  Let’s go over the applicable state law with a flea comb.

SC law states that shelter pets may be killed via injection, gas or:

(3) Shooting:

Shooting may be used as a means of euthanasia only in an emergency situation to prevent extreme suffering or in which the safety of people or other animal life is threatened or where it is considered necessary by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to eliminate or control the population of feral animals.

(B) In any of the previously listed methods, an animal may not be left unattended between the time euthanasia procedures have commenced and the time death occurs, and the animal’s body may not be disposed of until death is confirmed by a certified euthanasia technician.

Shooting may be used as a means of euthanasia only in an emergency situation – Only in an emergency – and not just any old situation that an ACO deems an emergency.  The situation must meet certain criteria.

to prevent extreme suffering – For example, an ACO comes across a mangled cat lying in the road at midnight.  The cat appears to be medically hopeless and suffering.  Although the ACO is a certified euthanasia tech, he doesn’t have any Fatal Plus on him and is unable to reach any ACOs or vets who can get there in less than an hour.  The ACO deems that it would be cruel to allow the cat to suffer for another hour and decides to shoot the cat as an emergency means of preventing extreme suffering.

or in which the safety of people or other animal life is threatened – Cujo is running down Main St, biting people or stalking the perimeter of Farmer Dan’s field where his sheep are grazing.

or where it is considered necessary by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to eliminate or control the population of feral animals – The SC Dept. of Natural Resources is unlikely to be involved with making emergency decisions on the disposition of shelter dogs and if it was, the dogs would have to be feral in order to qualify under the law as candidates for emergency shooting.

As I interpret the law, if shelter dogs are shot to death under circumstances which fail to meet any of the above criteria, the killings can not be considered lawful.  I am not an attorney but the law does seem pretty clear.  Furthermore:

(B) In any of the previously listed methods, an animal may not be left unattended between the time euthanasia procedures have commenced and the time death occurs, and the animal’s body may not be disposed of until death is confirmed by a certified euthanasia technician. – If an ACO deems any particular situation to qualify for emergency shooting as provided within the law, he must stay with the animal he’s shot until he has confirmed death – assuming the ACO is a certified euthanasia tech.  If the ACO performing the emergency shooting is not a certified euthanasia tech, he still must stay with the animal until he verifies death and then either call a tech out to the scene for verification before disposal or bring the remains back to the shelter where a tech can verify death before disposal.

If the Sheriff’s office investigation results in a finding of no wrongdoing because shooting is a legal method of killing shelter pets, I sincerely hope they plan to back up that claim with details of exactly how this situation qualified as an emergency, which emergency criteria it met, and who the certified euthanasia technician was on hand to confirm death before disposal.

In addition, people who have contacted the various authorities are reporting back that everyone is trying to pass the buck.  Do not be deterred. Continue to reach out via letters, faxes, phone calls and e-mails.  If they fail to silence us with their “not my problem” responses, they will be forced to come up with an alternative action.  Maybe even doing their jobs.

Please contact, using polite and respectful language, the following entities to request an immediate and transparent investigation of the case and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law:

Chesterfield County government officials contact info here.

An outside agency to conduct the investigation – South Carolina Law Enforcement Division:

Fax:   (803) 896-7588

INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS – KATHRYN RICHARDSON, Coordinator (803) 896-7156

According to SC law, it is the state AG who would “bring an action to enjoin a violation” of the law pertaining to methods of shelter pet killings:

The Honorable Alan Wilson
P.O. Box 11549
Columbia, S.C. 29211

803-734-3970

There is also an online contact form at the above link.

The governor of the state of SC is Nikki Haley:

Governor Nikki Haley
Office of the Governor
1205 Pendleton Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Fax: 803-734-5167

You may also contact the Governor’s Office at 803-734-2100.

There is also an online contact form at the above link.

Added:  I called Gov. Haley’s office and expressed my concerns, specifically about the need for an independent investigation, the “not my problem” syndrome that seems to be going around certain government authorities, and the fact that shooting shelter dogs is NOT a lawful means of “euthanasia” except in certain emergency cases – of which this does not appear to qualify.  I was advised the Governor is very aware of the situation in Chesterfield and a statement will be issued (unknown when but it’s being worked on this afternoon).  The Governor’s office is taking down names and phone numbers of people who call about the alleged killings and that list is “very long”.  Call and add your name!

Added #2:  New information from tonight’s news coverage:

On Sunday night, Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker shut down the county animal shelter and put all four animal control officers on leave.

Deputies and volunteers are stopping by throughout the day to care for the animals, but the gate is closed and all animal complaints are now being handled by sheriff’s deputies.
[…]

On Monday, Eyewitness News learned that sheriff’s investigators found the remains of six dogs that had been shot. Three of them have been sent to Columbia for autopsies. Parker said he hopes the autopsy will determine how they died, if they had been sick and, if the bullets can be recovered, who shot them.

Because that’s all a huge mystery right now.  A real headscratcher, that one.

Parker said if the investigation turns up evidence that shooting the dogs was a criminal act, his office will not investigate any further because of a conflict of interest.

But if they clear themselves of any criminal wrongdoing – well of course THAT’S not a conflict of interest.  That’s just solid police work.  [fistbump]

Parker said if worse comes to worse; the shelter could close down for good. Ongoing funding woes and controversy could leave the county without a shelter or animal control officers.

“The citizens of Chesterfield County will once again have animals running wild. It’s an option we have to look at, that this shelter may go away,” he said.

*sniff*

Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home! [/Eric Cartman voice]

Oh, also:  Animals running wild!  ZOMG!  Everyone to your bunkers!  Buy gold!

***
Sheriff’s deputies dig through landfill for slaughtered dogs

Updated: Allegation of Mass Shooting of Shelter Dogs in SC

Bullet casings allegedly found at the Chesterfield Co landfill, alongside shelter dogs who had been shot to death.

The so-called animal shelter in Chesterfield Co, SC was, until late last year, a gassing facility.  Some of you may remember when they gassed Bessie – a Black and Tan Coonhound slated for rescue – after she was reportedly mauled by other dogs at the shelter.  At that time, the county Sheriff Sam Parker told the media that the shelter couldn’t afford to buy Fatal-Plus so they’d just have to keep gassing pets to death unless more money came into the budget.  However, the gas chamber was removed shortly thereafter and the shelter reportedly switched to euthanasia by injection.

This afternoon, I received some tips about the alleged shooting of 22 Chesterfield Co shelter dogs at the local landfill.  There is some information about these allegations (including a graphic photo) on the Paws N Claws Facebook page.  (Paws N Claws is the volunteer group who works to save pets at this shelter.)

SC law states that shelter pets may be killed via injection, gas or:

(3) Shooting:

Shooting may be used as a means of euthanasia only in an emergency situation to prevent extreme suffering or in which the safety of people or other animal life is threatened or where it is considered necessary by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to eliminate or control the population of feral animals.

(B) In any of the previously listed methods, an animal may not be left unattended between the time euthanasia procedures have commenced and the time death occurs, and the animal’s body may not be disposed of until death is confirmed by a certified euthanasia technician.

There were apparently 8 dogs on the shelter’s kill list last night.  It is unknown why 22 dogs may have been shot.  Both adult dogs and puppies are believed to have been shot and buried at the landfill.

I tried calling the shelter regarding the story but was told they were not allowed to comment.  I was given the phone number for the sheriff’s office.  Sheriff Parker told me he has seen the photos and heard the allegations this afternoon.  His office has just opened an investigation at the shelter.

“It stuns me as much as it does anyone else,” said Sheriff Parker regarding the allegations.

The shelter’s protocol is euthanasia by injection – not shooting.  Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the sheriff’s office will pursue it as either a criminal or an administrative matter.

Sheriff Parker described the shelter as being in “limbo” right now.  When I asked whether there was a hold on euthanasias at the shelter, Sheriff Parker said,  “No animal will be put down by gunshot.”  When I pressed further on the issue of any more euthanasias being carried out, the sheriff said that he would place a hold on euthanasias “until this investigation is complete”.

Returning to SC law:

§ 47-3-440. Penalties; injunction.

No person may kill any animal impounded or quarantined in an animal shelter by any means except as provided by this article. Any person who violates the provisions of this article is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is subject to the penalty provisions in Chapter 1, Title 47 for each animal killed. The Attorney General of South Carolina may bring an action to enjoin a violation of this article.

[…]

§ 47-3-630. Penalties. A person who violates any of the provisions of this article […] is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not less than thirty days nor more than six months, or both.

Since the Chesterfield Co AC unit is part of the sheriff’s office, I’m not sure exactly how the investigation will be handled.  Can the sheriff’s office investigate themselves?  It sounds like the person to contact might the state AG. Here is that info:

The Honorable Alan Wilson
P.O. Box 11549
Columbia, S.C. 29211

803-734-3970

There is also an online contact form at the above link.  A timely, transparent investigation is essential.  If the investigation determines a crime may have been committed, the AG must pursue the case and see that anyone convicted is sentenced to the fullest extent allowed by law.

I have included the photo of the bullet casing from the landfill but am not posting the one of the dog who appears to have been shot in the head.  It is online if you wish to look but be warned, it is disturbing.

I will update this post if I receive any additional information.  A number of news outlets have been at the animal shelter this afternoon so there may be some reports posted on news sites tonight.

Update, March 5:  I am pulling out a few FB posts from Paws n Claws that I think will be of interest:

Where Hope Lives – Paws n Claws
MARK YOUR CALENDARS – NEXT MEETING THIS THURSDAY There are six Council Members and a Mayor who are elected to four year terms. Regular Town Council meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month at 5:30 PM at Town Hall, 112 Main Street in Olde Towne Centre. The public is encouraged to attend council meetings

Where Hope Lives – Paws n Claws
Attention all animal lovers in Chesterfield SC and surrounding areas… there will be a news conference today at Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter..12:00 sharp… please come out at give voice to the 22 dogs that were shot and killed by ACO yesterday…. 467 Goodale Road Chesterfield, SC 29709 We need to demand Justice for the 22 dogs and puppies that were killed bullet to the head

Where Hope Lives – Paws n Claws Also we are depserate to get all the animals out of the shelter in case we are kicked out on monday please reach out to any local rescues that can come by monday and get these animals out

Where Hope Lives – Paws n Claws Anyone that can help with moving these dogs and puppies this weekend please contact wherehopelives@gmail.com

A few links to WSOC TV coverage of the alleged killings:

Sheriff’s Office Investigates After Dead Dogs Found

Animal Rescuer Arrives To Look Into Report Of Dogs Shot At Landfill

RAW INTERVIEW: Animal Rights Activist Talks About Finding Dead Dogs In Landfill (video)