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.