Today we said goodbye to a dog we knew only a short time. We knew going into it we would not have long with him. Yet we wanted to bring him some relief and allow him to enjoy the few days we could help. He could enjoy time inside a loving home. He could take walks in the woods with young boys. Loving fosters showing him how life should be. He would have medical care to support his heart and give him comfort. Here’s part of his story.
On Sunday May 9th, a concerned citizen first brought attention to a dog needing help. From the picture they sent to an Animal Control Advisory Board Member, it obviously needed help. The ACA Board Member contacted Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC).
When she followed up the next day, she was told by the interim division manager:
“Officer **** went to investigate this compliant on Sunday, May 9, 2021 at approximately 3:10 p.m. Officer **** observed 1 gray/white bulldog with long pointy ears and collar. The dog was present on the property in a shaded area on the side of house with water and food bowls present. The dog appeared healthy. No violations were observed.”
The ACA Board Member then contacted the department director and a council member with the information and asked “ to see if maybe something else could be done to help the dog. Offer assistance or something bc this dog is not healthy at all. It is a male so not pregnant. Possibly advanced stage heartworms which is a horrible death.”
The director’s reply that same morning was “Another officer has been dispatched to check on the dog again. As of yesterday afternoon he was fine. Incidentally my Jack Russell Terrier lays in that same position on my deck every day. I would trade with him at any time!”
It is really concerning that “professionals” who are responsible for holding our citizens to a minimum standard of care do not recognize the signs of heart failure or other possible serious health concerns and make light of a defenseless animal suffering. Yes, my dogs enjoy sunning on my driveway also. They don’t have bellies so extended it is extremely difficult for them to move. This dog was not fine and no assistance was offered.
Finally on the morning of Friday the 14th CACC did take possession of the dog. It is not known what happened over the weekend. The ACA Board Member was updated by the council member on Monday (17th) morning saying the interim division manager was trying to get a rescue to take the dog.
As of that time none of the local rescues had been contacted. Three full days after they had taken in the dog.
Shortly after one that afternoon, a local veterinarian (who was supposed to be on vacation) emailed the department director her concerns about the dog urging him to get immediate help. His prompt reply was “I have copied the actions to date that have occurred regarding this dog. I certainly appreciate your concern and bringing this to my attention.” We are not sure why he did not acknowledge he was already aware of this case.
The documentation he presented her did indeed show multiple daily attempts to contact the owner at home. It also directly conflicted with the statement given by him and the interim division manager in earlier emails. “Initial Call 05-09-2011 No one home left door hanger. I did not see or hear any dog outside the house or hear any dog inside the house. I did not see any food or water bowls. I will do a follow-up.... According to this documentation, the dog was not even seen by a field officer until the afternoon of the 12th. We also learned the center’s veterinarian recommended euthansia due to the dog’s congestive heart failure on Friday. It was now Monday afternoon and the dog was still suffering. More than a full week since they were first contacted, three days after their veterinarian’s recommendation.
Animal SOS was not contacted until 5:02 p.m. Monday. We were told we would not be allowed to promote him until Wednesday when his stray hold would be up even though he was not taken in as a stray, knowing we depend on telling the public about our work to be able to raise the funds needed to treat any of our medical cases. In 2020, we spent $57,000 in our CACC Med fund, all from community support. Just wanting to get this dog some relief, we stopped what we were doing and picked him up. Unable to walk, he was carried in a blanket.
Arriving at the emergency veterinarian clinic, their initial thought was he would not live a week but we would try to bring him comfort. That night more than eight liters of fluid were drained from his belly. As we suspected, heart failure due to advanced heartworm disease. He also suffers from anemia, hookworms, infections, and early kidney failure. The vet at his follow up appointment on Thursday gave him a body score of 2 out of 10.
Animal SOS has been providing medical care to dogs in need at CACC for going on six years. Paws Humane and Animal Ark also take on medical cases. When dogs are given to us as earlier medical releases, we know if an owner is found they can claim him and we have to return them. We have returned dogs to owners after providing medical care. Some later were then surrendered back to us. It doesn’t matter. A dog should not suffer because of some technicality.
How can anyone work at a place where it is allowed for an animal to needlessly suffer for days? Why does it take four days to reach out to get help? We probably will never know that answer. It is obvious from the communications between the staff that you cannot trust answers from them.
At Animal SOS we treasure transparency. Actually it’s a lesson learned from my momma. It’s just easier to keep the story straight if you tell the truth from the start. A part of being transparent is sharing when things do not go well or when humans make a mistake, which everyone does. We do not hold anyone to be perfect. Yet it’s how you respond to your mistake that speaks to your character.
Our intent in revealing this case, believing it’s not the first time when a dog went too long for help, is so our citizens can make sure city officials, both staff and elected, understand our community will not tolerate a helpless being suffering without assistance. When the “professionals” charged with seeing companion animals do not suffer because they have lousy owners, lack the training or just refuse to take reasonable steps to help an animal when multiple resources are available, changes need to happen. To not recognize the link between animal care and human care, where there is neglect/abuse with animals, neglect/abuse will be found in the family, reveals an attitude that is not acceptable in our community.
This is not even a case where we are pleading for charges to be brought. We are pleading for a comprehensive, immediate plan that brings some care as promised in the name, Columbus Animal Care and Control.
Ten and a half years ago I started my journey into animal welfare. The topic of No Kill was just coming to Columbus. The first year I educated myself by volunteering at Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC) talking to different people who had been in the field. After Animal SOS was started, we collaborated with them on many things like the start of the Community Cat Program, mass adoption events with other area rescues and medical care of the impounded animals.
I also served on the Animal Control Advisory Board for two terms and still attend their meetings. During that time, I never saw an appeal of a dangerous dog classification like the one I witnessed on the 10th of this month.
When CACC issues a charge of a dangerous dog, the owner either agrees to strict restrictions to keep their dog, euthanizes the animal, or appeals. For my first term on this board, basically hearing appeals was all we did. In none of the cases before this one have I heard charges about one bite/snap, two punctures instead of multiple. Never had I heard a case where the bite occurred in a private residence. Never had I heard a case where one bite resulted in 43 charges. (Neither had a court clerk with 19 years experience) Never had I heard a case where the citing field officer did not speak. Never had I heard a case where the board members were not allowed to keep the evidence presented to them. Never had I attended a meeting when there was a deputy sheriff present.
I take dog aggression very seriously. While we at Animal SOS try to save them all, we recognize that it’s not always possible and have euthanized dogs for aggression. Yet if every dog that bit was classified as dangerous, we wouldn’t have a dog over population problem in Columbus and you would not be able to find a chihuahua. Under the right circumstances, any dog might bite.
So why was this dog treated differently? Perhaps it was because his owner is the director of the organization who was making a proposal to the city in an effort to privatize operations of animal control. (The proposal has been submitted and we are awaiting the city’s response.) She was pressured by CACC staff to euthanize the dog, before her court date, before the hearing. She was told her dog would have to be muzzled ANYTIME when he was outside her home, even though he has no history of biting outside. The bite victim’s story changed in less than a week between the court date (where the owner took full responsibility for the bite as she has from the beginning) and the Advisory Board hearing. At least four people outside of the two parties directly involved know that to be true, two are CACC employees.
This treatment is an acceleration of the past harassment one of Animal SOS’ staff received earlier this year. Before we received our rescue license, we adopted the animals we were saving. On January 6th of this year, the same CACC field officer goes to a staff member's home (she has a Ring camera) in the middle of the day for proof of the spay/neuter of “the dogs” she adopted. As a side note, they couldn’t harass the other staff member because she does not live in Muscogee County. They cannot enforce spay/neuter vouchers which is why Animal SOS is spending literally thousands of dollars each month to fix CACC impounded dogs and cats before they leave the building. This visit occurred more than five months after her last adoption, not the 30 day follow up they say is practiced. A dog could have easily already had a litter.
When the staff member called the field officer that left the notice, he could not immediately give her the dogs’ log ID# which is the only way we can track which dog out of the dozens of possible dogs they were asking about and how they track. She heard nothing more until six weeks later when the officer came back to her home. She then called the center and one of the shelter staff provided the needed number showing they were asking about dogs adopted a full year before. In minutes we could show them where and when Paws (who turns in the vouchers to CACC for reimbursement) had fixed him. Think of the time it took to send a field officer who could not identify the dogs not once but twice to the home of someone who typically is INSIDE animal control two or three times a week. No wonder the officers don’t have time to take action against cruelty.
The current management by their actions have shown their true regards to the two animal rescues who are responsible for them maintaining their low kill status last year. The lack of a professional approach in dealing with the individuals in either case is shocking. What type of relationship is this indicating?
We are not saying that we expect special treatment in any way. Yet we don’t expect to be treated like we are a problem. Especially when there are many important problems not being addressed in the interest of a dog responsible and safe community.
We do it for the dogs and cats who need a second chance of finding a good home. There are enough challenges without wasting our time on games. The citizens and animals deserve better from our city.