Animal Abuse Allegations Draw Concerned Crowd

2 02 2011

Cumberland County Residents: We were alerted to this story and thought it would be interesting to you. If you can get involved – we encourage it – for Bruno’s sake!

By CookevilleTimes

Story Published: Feb 2, 2011 at 12:23 AM CST

Story Updated: Feb 2, 2011 at 12:23 AM CST

The crowd of over 100 people in the Cumberland County Courthouse last Thursday were hoping for change, or, at least an opportunity to talk about change.   But the committee chairman of the building and grounds committee, Mike Harvel (7th District Commissioner), told the assembled crowd that discussion of officers, shootings or investigations were not appropriate to the Thursday meeting and encouraged the crowd to focus on policy and procedures at Cumberland County’s Animal Control facility.

The assembled citizens, carrying signs that sad “Shame On You” were present as a result of two weeks of petitions and discussions related to the alledged abusive behavior of Animal Control Officers in Cumberland County. 

The allegations as discussions crossed in email over the past two weeks spurred an investigative reporting piece on Knoxville’s WATE station.  Photographs of a blood-spattered dog pen and a blood-soaked snow path were chilling as volunteers told reporters about “Brutus,”  a dog that had been scheduled for rescue the day after he was shot in his kennel.   Volunteers believe that the dog was eating and that he was shot in the top of his head, and state that the claim that he was viscious and charging the officer is not credible. 

Animal Control Officer behavior has been under fire as these volunteers and others have exchanged information over the past two weeks.  Allegations include the shooting of a schnauzer type dog fleeing capture, who was hiding under a car, rough handling, and gross neglect of animals in need of urgent medical care.

According to the leadership Thursday night, county attorney Randal Boston is reviewing state policies and will make recommendations following his investigation of the matter.

Asked to review the current policies of the facility, Harvel said that there was no policy in place today, but that state law regulations were followed.  Those regulations state that animals will be held from three to five days before they are euthanized. 

One woman in the meeting quesitoned the need for Animal Control Officers to carry guns, suggesting that they should carry tranquilizer guns instead.  When several people began to shout and cheer, Harvel said “We’re not going to get into that tonight.” 

After some discussion about the liabilities should a volunteer be bitten (a matter raised by the commissioners, not by the crowd), a motion was made by Commissioner Presley to ban volunteers from working at the county animal shelter.  Commissioner Seiber supported the motion, which prompted an eruption by the crowd holding the “shame on you” signs.

The motion failed, though Presley and Seiber continued to support it.  Voting against that motion were Commissioners Safdie, Carter, Harvel, Rimmer and Lynch.

Harvel indicated that the matter would be on the agenda next month, when an update from the attorney would be expected.

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