Exposé leads to exit of Atlanta shelter director

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:
ATLANTA–Fulton County Animal Control
director Jere Alexander resigned on November 3,
2008 after an exposé of shelter conditions by
Randy Travis of Fox 5 TV. She was succeeded on
an interim basis by 30-year county shelter worker
Herman Swann.
“Alexander worked for Barking Hound
Village, the company that last March acquired
the $2.1 million contract to manage the shelter,”
reported Jeffry Scott of the Atlanta

“Barking Hound, an offshoot of a
successful dog day care chain,” won the contract
although the Southern Hope Humane Society, the
contract holder since 2003, “was picked by a
selection committee as being more qualified.
Bark-ing Hound, however, offered to run the
shelter for $300,000 a year less than Southern
Hope was receiving,” said Bill Torpy and Sandra
Eckstein in a Journal-Constitution follow-up.
Travis and the Journal-Constitution
quoted longtime shelter manager Myles Swain,
whom Alexander fired in July 2008. Co-worker
Shelton Robinson alleged to the Georgia
Department of Agricul-ture that Swain euthanized
“as many American pit bull terriers as possible
to prevent fighting in the kennels and make
excessive room for daily intake,” but Swain told
Torpy and Eckstein that the allegation was added
to his personnel file after he was fired “to make
me look like a disgruntled employee.”
Swain clashed with Alex-ander “almost
immediately,” he acknowledged in an open e-mail,
“because Jere would not allow us to euthanize pit
bulls, and even placed them in cages with other
dogs. In addition,” Swain said, “the previous
management normally kept the shelter population
under 400 animals. Under Barking Hound we
eventually kept between 450-525 animals. We went
from having almost no dog fights to having
serious dog fights every day.”
Swain said Alexander prevented him from
euthanizing pit bulls who killed smaller dogs
they were housed with, including a sheltie and a
rat terrier.
Vet tech Valencia Pullin told Torpy and
Eckstein that one evening she saw Jere Alexander
and her husband Rocky Alexander carrying 19 caged
feral cats out of the shelter, saying they were
going to a rescue group. “Swain said he
confronted Alexander the next morning and she
filled out a form saying the rescue organization
was called Nine Lives,” Torpy and Eckstein
wrote. “Over four months, Nine Lives took 83
cats from the shelter. Groups that take animals
from shelters must be licensed by the state
Department of Agriculture, but officials found
no such records. A department investigation
found that Jere Alexander ran the rescue group.
But it could not determine what happened to the
cats. Charles Woody, listed on the form as a
vet who neutered cats for Nine Lives, said that
he never heard of the group.”
Pullin also told Torpy and Eckstein that
the Alexanders took home a pit bull named Beast
who was held as evidence in a criminal
dogfighting case, and later said they euthanized
him due to pneumonia.
Veterinarian Danielle LaMarr “produced an
e-mail from Alexander,” Torpy and Eckstein
wrote, “saying she had attended dogfights
because she was writing a dissertation on an
‘ethnographic study of dogfighting, pit bulls,
and pit bull people.'”
Said Alexander in the e-mail, “I have
worked with dogfighters to learn about this
practice and culture. Of course I don’t condone
dogfighting, and my research was very traumatic
at times.”
Torpy and Eckstein identified Jere
Alexander as “a Notre Dame-educated lawyer,” who
“founded a web site, since taken down, that was
‘dedicated to preserving and reimagining the
American pit bull terrier through the creation of
an online museum.'”
Torpy and Eckstein also found a web site,
they said, where Rocky Alexander described
himself as “‘a professional canine behaviorist,
trainer, handler, historian and conditioner’
who grew up in an area where ‘a professional
dogfight was as normal as a baseball game.'”
One of Jere Alexander’s first hires at
the shelter, Torpy and Eckstein noted, “was a
vet tech named Sherri Shelf,” president of the
Georgia American Pit Bull Terrier Association,
whose husband Tony on November 13, 2008 pleaded
guilty in Illinois to a felony charge of
transporting dogs for fighting and was sentenced
to a year in prison, Cook County prosecutor Bob
Schwarz told them.

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