Warren County Animal Control is feeling the sting of more allegations of wrongdoing. These allegations, aired Wednesday on WSMV Channel 4 News, are totally false, says Warren County Executive John Pelham.
“I’m heartbroken about this,” said Pelham. “What has been reported and said of us is just ridiculous. Every animal in our facility is treated humanely, provided with medical care, and fed and watered every day, without exception. I can’t believe a rescue group would do what this rescue group has done.”
According to a Channel 4 segment that was recorded and aired Wednesday by reporter Dennis Ferrier, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, led by owner Jean Harrison, has alleged Animal Control employees starved, abused, and mistreated animals.
“Ferrier charged, tried and convicted us last night in the media without even knowing the facts,” said Pelham. “He didn’t call us or ask our side on these allegations.”
Pelham says the situation began when Animal Control made an Internet post in an effort to find homes for 12 dogs and Big Fluffy Dog Rescue responded with an offer to take all of them.
“They showed up to get the dogs on Wednesday morning,” Pelham said. “They decided to take one additional dog, so they actually took 13.”
Animal Control director Kim Pettrey says all of the animals were of good weight and health, except one.
“The only dog they showed on the video clip was one that we picked up six weeks ago,” said Pettrey. “We have been having a difficult time getting it to eat. That happens sometimes. They get stressed and they stop eating. We even mixed venison and rice to coax it to eat. They showed only one dog because there was nothing wrong with the other dogs.”
The video also showed a dog eating profusely, as if starving. Pelham says the dog was hungry, not starving.
“If we know a rescue group is coming to get animals and they will be traveling a long distance, policy is we don’t feed them that morning,” he said. “We do that for the rescue people. We don’t want the dogs getting sick or using the restroom in the transport vehicle. When they get to the rescue facility, they are supposed to feed them.”
The video also showed an open pit behind the shelter that is used to dispose of animals that have been euthanized or found dead in the county.
“I think this is the saddest part of this whole thing,” said Pelham. “These people climbed into this pit and ripped open two bags containing dogs. Then, they staged a video and stole the body of one dog. It’s gone.”
According to facility records, there were three dogs in the pit – two that were road kill and one that had been euthanized by a local vet.
The missing dog, a female husky mix, was picked up by Animal Control in January and taken to Dr. Sam Young, who diagnosed the dog with “severe pyoderma secondary to demodectic mange.” Young treated the dog for two months before making the call to euthanize.
“After two months of treatment the condition of the dog continued to deteriorate and the phyoderma was worse,” said Young. “The dog was also in significant discomfort. Considering the worsening of the condition in spite of treatment and the discomfort of the dog, I made a recommendation to euthanize the dog.”
The body was released to Animal Control on March 19. Young says the video of the dog was not an accurate depiction of its condition.
“Often interviews and visual scenes might be staged or modified to support a given position or opinion,” he said. “Although this might make for good press or release on unsubtantiated mass media, it often does not represent an accurate picture of the truth. Such inaccuracies might be permitted by constitutional rights, but might not qualify as responsible journalism.”
Since July 1, 2012, Animal Control has euthanized three animals — a pit bull that was determined to be aggressive and the facility was required to euthanize it, the husky mix, and one cat that also had to be euthanized due to a severe medical condition.
“We have made wonderful strides to reduce euthanization and increase adoption,” said Pelham. “If you can find one facility in Tennessee that works harder to rescue and save animals than Warren County Animal Control, I would love to see it.”
Pelham says if anyone has been treated unfairly it is the staff at Animal Control.
“We have two employees at our facility that care deeply for the animals,” he said. “They go above and beyond to care for them. They even built a play area for the cats. All I could do this morning was to encourage them to continue their efforts and not let these ridiculous allegations get to them.”