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Case ID: 19092
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment, Mutilation/Torture, Beating
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Thursday, Dec 8, 2011

County: Calhoun

Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 6 files available

Abuser names unreleased

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Documented, eye-witness videotaped testimony from former employees and volunteers has resulted in indisputable evidence that abhorrent cruelty, bordering on sadistic torture, has occurred in Calhoun County Animal Control Center, (CCACC), Anniston, Alabama.

(Note: Video contains graphic descriptions unsuitable for children. The original video that was presented to Calhoun County Commission on December 8 is over an hour in length. This version was edited for publication.)

Until this week, suspicions and complaints of wrong doing at CCAS had fallen on deaf ears of officials in Calhoun County, and/or eye witnesses feared retribution if they came forward. Calhoun County animal advocates, headed by Anniston resident Millie Harris, Political Liason for Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL), President of S.A.V.E., a spay/neuter advocacy group in Calhoun County pursued and secured evidence, and subsequently, are proceeding through the proper channels Alabama law requires.

Harris says that their group was visibly shaken by the level of abuse revealed in the taped testimony, though they were aware of long suspected maltreatment of impounded animals. Harris, along with the group of supporters, state, in unison, "It's easier to live in our "ivory towers" and pretend that such ghastly behavior doesn't really exist. It's so much easier to "not know.

"In the end, if this goes another step towards ending the horrific suffering here and in other facilities, it will be well worth the struggle."

A formal complaint has been filed with the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners,(ASBVME), the only state board with regulation authority over euthanasia methods within AL animal control facilities. In the coming week, Harris will accompany witnesses to Calhoun Sheriff's Department to file criminal charges against the alleged participants in the crimes listed below:

Intracardiac injection without sedation - William Chapman, Tabitha Barger, and Charles McDonald.

Co-mingling of the bodies of both dead and living animals, which were presumed to be dead. Dogs, which are not yet dead, have been thrown on a truck in bags with dead dogs and have chewed through the plastic bags in an attempt to escape - William Chapman, Tabitha Barger and Charles McDonald.

Delayed care or delayed euthanasia of animals, which has resulted in suffering and amounts to cruelty by the very people entrusted with the care of the animals. One example is a cat with a huge, swollen head that Tabitha Barger refused to euthanized. The next morning, the cat's head had exploded. - William Chapman, Tabitha Barger and Charles McDonald.

Failure to separate dying animals from others. Mother dogs were forced to witness their puppies being heart stuck before they were put down and thrown on the pile with them.

Dogs being killed in the open kennels (see photo) William Chapman, Tabitha Barger and Charles McDonald

Slamming dogs' and cats' heads against the wall, shattering their skulls - William Chapman.

Allowing dogs and cats to suffer during the month of December whenever the money was too scarce for euthanasia drugs - William Chapman.

Shooting dogs - William Chapman

Hitting a dog in the face as it was dying - Tabitha Barger

Starving a horse - Charles McDonald

Threatening employee of arrest for theft who attempted to save the life of a mother and litter of puppies, who had them in foster care, and ready for rescue with completed papers. She was forced to return them, and they were killed. - William Chapman

Knowingly euthanizing a pet that a family had lost. The inmate, Billy Santivasci, alerted Tabitha that the lost dog featured in a "Lost Dog" photograph on the front bulletin board was in the back. She would not allow him to use the phone to notify the family and killed the dog instead. -Tabitha Barger

Failure to provide water (buckets too high for smaller dogs) and heat in the winter. Dogs have frozen to death being kept outside pens with no source of warmth. - William Chapman, Tabitha Barger and Charles McDonald.

Calhoun County animal advocates, who labor daily to save condemned animals in CCACC commented, "The recordings reveal much, much more about the way the animal control center is run. It indicates a culture of tax-funded cruelty."


Case Updates

An investigation into allegations of animal abuse at the Calhoun County Animal Control Center moved forward this week.

A comprehensive report of the investigation's findings was turned over to the district attorney's office Thursday. After review, Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said he will decide whether further investigation is needed in the case.

"We have tried to talk to everybody who has or believes they have information we need to have," said Sheriff Larry Amerson, whose office is investigating the allegations. "Since we have no other people to interview at this time, we're turning over the information that we have."

Amerson said the two investigators assigned to the case interviewed nearly two dozen people since the claims of abuse at the county-operated facility were reported in December at a Calhoun County Commission meeting. There might be more people to talk to, Amerson said.

"That door is still open," he said. "Some of the people who have spoken to us in the investigation have told us that there were more people out there that had information."

The investigation began after two people filed complaints with the Sheriff's Office days after animal rights supporters leveled allegations of animal cruelty against control center employees. According to those who made the allegations, the control center euthanized animals improperly and maintained unkempt kennels.

The director of the control center, Charles McDonald, has said he's never participated in or witnessed any abuse at the center. He said in December that if any abuse was detected, he would "take action."

Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson said he has no reason to believe the investigation will yield criminal charges. He also said the commission is taking proactive steps to ensure no unreported problems occur at the facility in the future.

Two of the steps the commission will consider are creating a five-member board to oversee the control center and adding security cameras in the facility, Henderson said.

Amerson said the investigation was unusual because of the subject matter. Unfamiliar with the animal abuse laws that would be violated if the allegations were accurate, the Sheriff's Office consulted outside sources.

"We have taken this investigation very seriously," Amerson said. "Allegations have been made of torture of animals and abuse of animals, and we wanted to make sure we talked to all parties that may have evidence or information."
Source: annistonstar.com _ Jan 7, 2012
Update posted on Jan 8, 2012 - 9:51AM 
Calhoun County sheriff's deputies will investigate recent allegations of animal cruelty at a county-run animal control center, officials said Monday.

Deputies just need the people making the allegations to file official complaints with the Sheriff's Office, they said.

Chief Deputy Matt Wade of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office said an investigation would likely begin today regarding the recent allegations of animal cruelty at the Calhoun County Animal Control Center. However, he added that no criminal charges had been filed because no one making the allegations had filed a report with the Sheriff's Office.

County officials discussed the investigation Monday during a press conference at the Calhoun County Administration Office.

"There has been no formal report of criminal wrongdoing," Wade said. "We'll do an investigation, but that takes time " it's not something you do in an afternoon. But those people need to come to us. Until we get a report, we can't get subpoena power."

Millie Harris, an Anniston resident and animal rights supporter, said at the meeting that a report would be filed with the Sheriff's Office. At a Calhoun County Commission meeting last week, Harris presented a video in which people who identified themselves as former animal control center employees alleged animal cruelty.

"I can assure you, charges will be filed and these eyewitnesses will come forward," Harris said.

The commission requested the investigation after Harris and other local animal rights supporters presented the claims last week.

"We will investigate any and all claims," said Eli Henderson, chairman of the Calhoun County Commission. "We have nothing to hide."

Henderson said the commission does not tolerate animal abuse of any kind.

"But there has been no substantiation for any of these charges," Henderson said. "To my knowledge, I thought we had one of the top facilities in the state."

The allegations were made by two former animal center employees in a video released last week which has since been posted on the Internet. The people in the video allege that in the past three years, animals at the center have routinely been euthanized with injections to the heart without first being sedated.

The Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners forbids injecting animals in the heart -" a process referred to as intracardiac injection -" without first sedating them. The board is responsible for licensing of veterinarians and for certifications to perform animal euthanasia in Alabama.

According to Rule 930-X-1-.35 of the board's Alabama Veterinary Practice Act and Administrative Code, "intracardiac injections are acceptable but can only be used on unconscious animals."

The policy further stipulates that anyone who violates euthanasia procedure can face disciplinary action from the board.

Whether performing the procedure without sedation constitutes animal cruelty under Alabama law and therefore requires criminal prosecution, is unclear, Wade said.

"We just learned about these allegations (Monday)" Wade said. "Is doing euthanasia against policy a crime or is it civil? We're not sure yet. Right now we don't even have a complaint."

Tom Nelson, veterinarian and co-owner of the Animal Medical Center in Anniston, said intracardiac injection is the fastest way to euthanize an animal if it is performed properly. Nelson said the proper way to perform the procedure is by sedating the animal first. He added, however, that the procedure is typically performed on gravely injured animals.

Nelson said he found the allegations surprising, given his familiarity with the Animal Control Center. The center sometimes brings wild animals to Nelson, who is also a wildlife rehabilitator. The center's employees also sometimes bring him injured animals that they didn't want to put to sleep because there was a question whether the animals had owners.

"Every time I've dealt with them, they've been conscientious and had care for the animals," Nelson said.

Henderson said the center was doing the best it could under current economic situations. Due to the sluggish economy, the commission had to cut the budgets of all county agencies by 2 percent in the current fiscal year. He added that the center is usually overwhelmed with animals, between 300 and 400 animals per month.

"That's tough on us," Henderson said. "And there is not nearly enough" interest in adoption among the public, he said.

Nelson said the stray animal population is a serious problem in the county.

"The whole nation has a problem with it, but it's more of a problem in the South than in the North," Nelson said.

Harris, who is president of a local spay-and-neuter advocacy group, agreed that overpopulation of animals must be addressed.

"It's a terrible problem," Harris said. "And once they get to the center, very little effort is made to get them adopted."

Still, to Harris, nothing can excuse the treatment of animals at the center that some have alleged.

"It's a tax-funded slaughterhouse," she said.
Source: annistonstar.com - Dec 13, 2011
Update posted on Jan 8, 2012 - 9:48AM 

References

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