Storm over dogs & cats in the Carolinas

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2004:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.–Hurricanes
often hit the Carolinas, raining dogs and cats.
But they rarely blow so far inland and never rage
so long as the storms over animal control policy
underway for almost a year now, driven by fatal
maulings, dogfighting incidents, and rising
awareness that the region has one of the highest
rates of shelter killing in the U.S.–and the
world, since despite recent progress in reducing
the numbers, the U.S. stills kills more dogs and
cats per 1,000 residents than most other nations.
A federal grand jury on April 27, 2004
indicted pit bull terrier owner Roddie Philip
Dumas, 29, of Charlotte, North Carolina, for
possessing crack cocaine with intent to sell,
using and carrying a firearm during a drug
trafficking offense, being a convicted felon in
possession of firearms and ammunition, and
intimidating and interfering with a U.S. mail
carrier, reported Charlotte Observer staff
writer Gary L. Wright.

Responding with a neighbor from across
the street to the screams of eight-year-old
Roddie Philip Dumas Jr., the 48-year-old mail
carrier threw down his pouch, pulled up a fence
post, and used it to try to beat the elder
Dumas’ four pit bulls away from the boy,
witnesses said. The elder Dumas and his
girlfriend did not come outside until after his
son was fatally injured, said the witnesses.
The elder Dumas then allegedly threatened to kill the mail carrier.
The charges against the elder Dumas carry
penalties ranging from five years to life in
prison. State charges possibly including child
neglect and negligent homicide may be pending,
Wright wrote. The elder Dumas was jailed in lieu
of $230,000 bond.
The attack was the second fatal pit bull
attack on a child in North Carolina this year.
Christina Jewel Gambill, 24, was on February 25
charged with misdemeanor child abuse for
allegedly allowing her son, Nathan Roy Hill, 3,
to wander outside unsupervised. Hill on January
13 entered neighbor Veronica Copley’s yard and
was fatally mauled by a chained pit bull.
“Gambill reported her son missing about
two hours after he walked away, investigators
said,” according to Associated Press. Harnett
County Sheriff Larry Rollins said a deputy shot
the pit bull in order to retrieve the boy’s body,
after trying unsuccessfully to drive the dog back
with pepper spray.
The two fatal attacks in North Carolina
followed the October 1, 2003 killing of Makayla
“Booter” Paige Sinclair, 2, in Spartanburg,
South Carolina, by one of neighbor Pat Hancock’s
nine Great Danes. Eight of the dogs were
chained. The ninth apparently broke loose,
seized the child when she approached, and
dragged her to the rest.
Crystal Sinclair, her mother, told
ANIMAL PEOPLE by e-mail that their family had
recently been obliged by their landlord to give
away a chow who was Makayla’s constant companion.
She said Makayla had only been briefly out of her
sight while she did housework.
“No dogs should be chained. It makes
them mean. Now my baby is gone and I live a life
of hell,” Crystal Sinclair said.
Together, the trio of fatalities
included all of the usual elements in such cases,
including dog guardians who simultaneously warned
that their dogs were dangerous and denied that
they were badly behaved.
The three cases also furnished ammunition
to either side of the heated national debate over
how best to legislate against fatal and
life-threatening dog attacks. The dogs in one
case may have been trained to be dangerous; in
two cases, they were apparently just chained
outside for protection by women who lived alone.
The dogs in the Dumas and Hill cases were pit
bulls; in the Sinclair case they were a breed
involved in only one other fatal attack in 20
years.
All three human victims were in custody
of single parents. Roddie Dumas Jr. and Nathan
Roy Hill may have been neglected, but
acquaintances of the Sinclair family agreed that
Makayla Sinclair was much loved and closely
supervised by both her mother and her grandfather.

Dogfighting

All three dog attacks produced
hue-and-cry to try to prevent such incidents by
more vigorously prosecuting dogfighters,
reinforcing anti-dogfighting legislation,
prohibiting prolonged chaining, holding both
legal owners and other guardians of dogs legally
responsible for all attacks, regulating
possession of pit bull terriers, and cracking
down on backyard dog breeding.
While dogfighting was not directly
involved in the circumstances leading toward any
of the recent child fatalities, the risk to the
public created by breeders and trainers of
fighting dogs was illustrated especially vividly
on April 7, 2004 in the Rantowles-Red Top
district of Charleston County, South Carolina,
when surveyor’s assistant Steven Baker, 23, of
Lincolnville, approached the edge of an 11-acre
property owned by David Tant, 57, of North
Charleston, to investigate what he thought was a
pack of baying hunting hounds in pursuit of an
animal. Baker stepped on a trip-wire and was
shot in the chest by 24 birdshot pellets fired
from an eight-inch pipe mounted about 60 feet
away, Charleston County Sheriff’s Department
bomb squad commander Stafford Melerine testified.
“Tant now faces some 68 criminal charges
ranging from animal fighting and cruelty to
assault and battery with intent to kill and
possession of destructive devices,” wrote Ron
Menchaca of the Charleston Post & Courier.
Charleston County Magistrate David Coker on April
21 awarded the sheriff’s department custody of 47
pit bulls seized from Tant after the shooting,
along with three puppies born to one of the pit
bulls afterward. The dogs will not be killed
until after Tant has exhausted appeals for their
possession.
“Tant testified as a government witness
before a federal grand jury in 2001 in exchange
for immunity from prosecution for any previous
involvement in dog fighting, his attorney Dale
Du Tremble said,” according to Menchaca.
Tant claimed to have been strictly a breeder since the grand jury hearing.
“In addition to the dogs, investigators
seized caged treadmills, cattle prods, assorted
shotguns and hunting rifles, small explosive
devices, and a bear trap,” wrote Glenn Smith
and Phillip Caston of the Post & Courier. County
prosecutor Tom Lynn brought to the hearing about
custody of the dogs several chains allegedly used
to hold them, said to weigh nearly 30 pounds
each.
The Tant case developed less than three
weeks after South Carolina attorney general Henry
McMaster announced the formation of a state
dogfighting task force.
“The attorney general’s office will team
up with the State Law enforcement Division and
several state humane groups to staff and fund the
task force,” reported Clay Barbour and Glenn
Smith of the Post & Courier. Task force members
include one full-time law enforcement agency and
“an assistant attorney general dedicated to
investigating and prosecuting dogfighting cases,”
Barbour and Smith wrote.
Charleston attorney Sandra Senn, a board
member of the John Ancrum SPCA in Charleston,
said she had already raised $45,000 of the
estimated $110,000 three-year task force budget.
The need for the task force was
demonstrated by a series of February 2004
dogfighting arrests in North Carolina.
Clifton Paul Ellis, 20, and Paul
Dupree, 40, were charged with two counts each
of felony cruelty after 13 emaciated pit bulls
and five dead pit bulls were found at an
abandoned farmhouse in Wilson County on February
10.
More than 30 pit bulls were seized on
February 23 in Edgecombe County, along with “a
large cache of cocaine, cash, and stolen
weapons including handguns, rifles, and
shotguns,” Associated Press reported. Arrested
on multiple drug charges were Joseph Donnelle
Hussey, 18, Roy Junior Tillery, 47, and Troy
L. Murphy, 30, all of Rocky Mount, and Melanie
Beth Waring, 24, of Nashville.

Have-A-Heart

The killings by dogs, dogfighting, and
drug abuse connections underscored many of the
longtime contentions of Carolinian animal
advocates about the consequences of inadequate
humane law enforcement and underfunded animal
care and control services, but none rejoiced.
Pet Helpers Rescue & Adoption Shelter
president Carol Linville of Charleston, Joy
Davis of Low Country Animal Rescue, the Doc
Williams SPCA, Cat Nip Cottage, and Feral
Friends were all busy looking after nearly 200
animals they accepted after the April 1 closure
of the Have-A-Heart Animal Shelter in Walterboro,
South Carolina.
“Have-A-Heart founder Dorothy
Aschenbrenner truly cared and wanted to help
animals, especially cats,” Linville told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, “but typical of many one-person
rescuers, she did not have the ability to say no
when full, nor the financial resources,
appropriate space, or help to care for 250-plus
pets. Other rescuers referred people to her,
thereby increasing the pressure.”
Have-A-Heart was closed due to complaints
from neighbors about odors, noise, and repeated
animal escapes. The animals were seized by the
Colleton County animal control department,
assisted by Charleston County animal control and
the John Ancrum SPCA. Thirty-two cats and 24
dogs were killed, Linville said, chiefly
because they could not be handled.
One-person pet rescues like Have-A-Heart
exist, Linville pointed out, because most of
the region lacks access to low-cost pet
sterilization and established no-kill shelters
that guarantee healthy animals a home. Because
much of the public will not surrender pets they
cannot or do not want to keep to a shelter that
may kill them, the animals are dumped instead on
people like Aschenbrenner who lack the means to
build and operate high-volume adoption centers
that can compete with pet stores, and lack the
contacts to relay animals to northern shelters
where younger and smaller dogs, especially, are
much more likely to be adopted. Larger shelters
also can offer free sterilization of the mothers
of litters surrendered to them. Rescuers barely
able to feed the animals in their care cannot.

Sex therapists vs. vets

Realizing the need to reduce pet
overpopulation by sterilization as a first
priority, after converting a second home on
their 79-acre property into a rescue shelter,
sex therapists Max and Della Fitz-Gerald of
Wilson County, North Carolina, built a $200,000
private clinic.
“The Fitz-Geralds did not come to Wilson
County to galvanize dog lovers,” wrote Martha
Quillin of the Raleigh News & Observer. “They
were simply returning home. Max, 61, is a
Wilson native, and Della, 57, was born in
Goldsboro. They left the state years ago to
pursue careers in deaf education and lived in
Florida and Washington D.C. Eventually they
specialized in sex education for the deaf, and
later became sex therapists. They established a
foundation to support their shelter and clinic,
For The Love Of Dogs, Inc., and got it
tax-exempt status. But the clinic had only been
open a couple of weekends when a photo of a vet
working on a dog appeared in the Wilson Daily
Times.”
North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board
executive director Thomas M. Mickey sent a
retired Ashville-area police officer, the
officer’s wife, and a borrowed puppy to the
clinic on a sting.
The clinic veterinarian was not there when they arrived.
“They said they were new to town, and
were down on their luck,” Della Fitz-Gerald told
Quillin. “They had this puppy, and couldn’t
afford to get her vaccinated or dewormed.”
Della Fitz-Gerald gave the puppy the
de-wormer, Max Fitz-Gerald administered the
first vaccination and instructions on follow-up,
and both were accused of practicing veterinary
medicine without a licence.
Ernie Josephs, senior assistant district
attorney for Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson
counties, on March 8 dropped the charges. But
the clinic was still out of business until and
unless the Fitz-Geralds can find a veterinarian
to run it for them as a lessor.

No hush in Charlotte

The techniques needed to end dog and cat
overpopulation are not unknown in the Carolinas.
John Freed pioneered the
surrender-a-litter-and-we’ll-fix-the-mother-free
deal more than 15 years ago at the Greenville
Humane Society, with grant support from the
North Shore Animal League. Freed and North Shore
also pioneered adoption transfer.
Founded by Patti Lewis in 1978, the
Humane Society of Charlotte in 1982 opened the
first low-cost dog and cat sterilization clinic
between New Jersey and Florida, and has since
altered more than 110,000 animals.
North Carolina shelters were killing 230 dogs and
cats per 1,000 human residents of the state as
recently as 1985, according to data gathered in
1985 by Justice for Animals founder Nancy Rich:
twice as many as the highest known figure for the
U.S. as a whole, reached circa 1970.
In 2003 North Carolina shelters killed
32.4 dogs and cats per 1,000 humans, but the
U.S. norm is now 14.8. Charlotte-area shelters
killed between 17.5 and 19, according to varying
but similar estimates by different investigators.
That did not bring Lewis much praise in a
three-part Charlotte Observer investigative
series about pet overpopulation that started on
June 29, 2003, and has often been followed up.
Entitled “Death at the pound,” the
Observer series amplified activist criticism of
Lewis’ recent leadership, especially of a
six-week wait for sterilization appointments that
has developed because the demand for the service
has outgrown the capacity of the humane society
to provide it. The humane society added a mobile
clinic to increase sterilization capacity several
years ago, but has had the budget to use it just
once a month.
Lewis eventually announced her intent to
retire, touching off a board-level battle royal
over selection of her successor.
Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge David
Cayer on April 20 issued an emergency restraining
order that removed Lewis from direction of the
Charlotte Humane Society and put Tyler 2
Construction company president Katie Tyler in
charge until further notice. Cayer authorized
Tyler to appoint a new board. The four-member
board has been split between two Lewis supporters
and two Lewis foes, who for months had fought
over who should fill the empty tie-breaking seat.
While the Humane Society of Charlotte
dispute simmered, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal
Control captain Tammy Williams on March 3 won
preliminary approval from a city council
committee for a plan to build a $282,000
sterilization clinic, with a $77,000 annual
operating budget, and an additional budget of up
to $38,000 per year to use the humane society
mobile clinic two days a month. The city would
also spend $385,000 to add 40 new dog runs to the
community shelter.
Within a week the plan was obscured by a
flap over the failure of the animal control
department to bill 18,000 residents for their pet
license fees in 2003, costing the city an
estimated $200,000. The 2003 invoices were
finally mailed in February 2004. About 14% of
Charlotte-Mecklenburg dogs and 6% of cats are
licensed, according to an estimating formula
based on American Veterinary Medical Association
data on household rates of petkeeping.
In nearby Union County, former city
shelter director Susan Marsh is awaiting trial
for allegedly embezzling $65,000 in adoption fees
during the five years preceding her October 2003
dismissal.

Local storms

Charlotte was scarcely the only North
Carolina community whose shelters were embroiled
in controversy.
In Concord, the Cabarrus County
Sheriff’s Office on April 17 charged Tailwaggers
Rescue & Retreat employees Gary L. Stroup, 44,
of Albemarle, and Jeffrey Dwayne Thomas, 17,
of Stanfield, with allegedly beating, kicking,
and burying alive a sick puppy.
Kelli Allen, who founded Tailwaggers in
March 2003, told Barbara Jones of Media General
News Service that the allegation originated with
a former employee who was fired for cause, but
sheriff’s lieutenant David Taylor said the
employee was fired only after the case was
reported.
Allen also claimed that neighbors and
animal control were trying to close Tailwaggers,
cited three times in June 2003 for allowing
animals to run at large and in April 2004 for
creating a public nuisance with excessive barking
and offensive odor.
“Since the organization opened,” Jones
wrote, “animal control officers have been called
11 times about barking dogs, three times about
dogs barking, and twice about dog bites.”
In Chapel Hill, the Animal Protection
Society of Orange County in March 2004 hired Joe
Pulcinella, 53, to succeed former executive
director Laura Walters, who resigned in October
2003. A 34-year veteran of shelter work,
Pulcinalla previously was shelter manager for the
Delaware County SPCA in Pennsylvania.
Despite the transition, the Orange
County commissioners opted to dismiss the Animal
Protection Society from management of the county
shelter, effective on June 30, and to create a
county animal control department instead,
despite warnings from many directions that so
doing will cost far more money than continuing
the former arrangement.
The county commissioners believe they can
hold costs down by attracting volunteers to do
much of the day-to-day work, but animal control
departments typically attract much less volunteer
support than humane societies, because few
volunteers care to risk bonding with animals who
may soon be killed.
The Animal Protection Society plans to
open its own shelter in nearby Mebane.

Tax pet food?

The most noteworthy effect of the
Charlotte Observer “Death at the pound” series
may in the long run be the August 2003
appointment of a 28-member special committee to
draft anti-pet overpopulation legislation for the
North Carolina House of Representatives.
Hearings held throughout the fall and
winter became a running battle for influence
among animal advocates, animal control agencies,
breeders, and pack hunters.
“In most North Carolina communities,
animal welfare is a concept rooted in 19th
century practices and programs,” summarized
Observer editorial page editor Tim White. “It
goes like this: let them breed, scoop up the
strays, cage them in foul, unhealthy kennels,
and then kill them.
“Ironically,” White continued, “the
state has offered help for low-cost spaying and
neutering programs for years. Most communities,
including ours, ignored it. After a winter of
hearings, a House study committee has proposed
some advances into the 21st century, key among
them a well-financed spay/neuter program.
“The money would come from a small tax on
animal food. The plan would add 10¢ to the price
of a 20-pound bag of dry food, and 2¢ to every
can. In my household, with two largish dogs and
one slightly plump cat, that might amount to an
extra buck a month, at most. Those pennies
would add up to an $8 million-a-year fund that
would help animal shelters meet the new law’s
requirement,” consistent with laws already in
effect in many states, “that dogs and cats
released from shelters must first be sterilized.”
North Carolina Coon Hunters Association
representative David Gardin alleged that the bill
would cost a farmer with two collies $200 a year.
White pointed out that this would require feeding
the collies 110 pounds of food per day.
The North Carolina Sport-ing Dog
Association also opposes the bill, along with
the Pet Food Institute, which has historically
opposed all efforts to tax pet food.
More surprisingly, the bill is opposed
by Humane Society of the U.S. representative Phil
Snyder.
“The bill is not perfect, and
compromises were made in order to create a bill
that will be passed,” responded Humane Society
of Eastern North Carolina president Peter
MacQueen III. “Does a difference of opinion on a
few issues warrant withholding support for the
bill? Have they polled members of humane
societies across the state to see what we want?
They are operating in a paternalistic vacuum.”

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