With Warren County Animal Control director Tammy Webb on paid administrative leave following the arrest of her son, Jonathan Ewell Smith, for allegedly growing marijuana at the facility, questions are arising about the future of Animal Control.
The facility is currently not picking up any new animals and is down to one part-time employee. The employment status of Webb could be decided at a Health and Welfare Committee meeting Thursday night.
Smith was arrested July 9 while working in a marijuana patch that was growing behind the secluded Animal Control building on Paws Lane.
According to the arrest warrant, investigator Kevin Murphy observed Smith tending to marijuana in a field of 36 marijuana plants. Capt. Bo Ramsey and Murphy stated Smith told them it was not his first time in that marijuana patch. At the time of his arrest, Smith had in his possession drug paraphernalia that included rolling papers.
County Executive John Pelham said Webb notified him July 9 that marijuana was found on the property, and Webb said she knew nothing about it.
Sources said two water hoses were hooked together and were leading from a spigot at the Animal Control building to the marijuana patch.
“It’s a well-worn path where they have been watering the plants,” said Sheriff Jackie Matheny. “And hoses and tools to tend to the crop are there.”
Sources said Webb purchased three bags of potting soil to place around a sign outside the building. She later said two bags were stolen. The sheriff’s department confirmed potting soil was used to fertilize the marijuana patch.
Hair was used around the perimeter of the patch perhaps to keep out wild animals. The sheriff’s department could not confirm if the hair used was human hair or animal hair, which possibly was gathered from animals at Animal Control.
Ramsey said the sheriff’s department is looking at text messages found on more than one cellphone trying to find out content and meaning. “We are taking steps to rule out any other involvement,” Ramsey said.
Where does all this leave Warren County Animal Control?
Health and Welfare Committee chair Sally Brock said Animal Control is not taking any animals at this time. She did say part-time employee Kim Pettrey is fielding emergency calls.
County Executive Pelham said, “We are on hold right now until we can get things working again. Kim hasn’t been there that long and she is learning the ropes. She is working to adopt some animals out. We are open and she is maintaining regular hours from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. If we had a danger case, like a bite case, then yes we would pick up the animal, but only if the animal is a danger to someone.”
Animal Control has adopted out several animals during Webb’s two-week suspension. Animals which are brought to the facility will be accepted during regular business hours, but no other calls are being made, except in case of emergency.
Candi Williamson said she called Animal Control three times within the last two weeks asking someone to pick up dogs belonging to her brother, Ricky Johnson. The dogs are struggling to survive since he became severely ill and entered the hospital three weeks ago. She said someone told her they would be out to get the dogs, but never came.
Johnson had nine adult dachshunds, five dachshund puppies, two adult mix-breed dogs, and five mix-breed puppies in a pen behind his home. Williamson said there were originally eight dachshund puppies and 17 mix-breed puppies. She said the puppies were starving. She had buried several puppies and was no longer able to care for them.
Linda Coursey of Viola Valley Dogs agreed to rescue the animals and picked them up Monday evening.
Pettrey said she has not spoken to Williamson. She said she would have told anyone who called the facility pick-ups are not being made at this time.
Pettrey was hired May 22 as a part-time employee. She has been working full-time since Webb was put on leave in order to care for the animals.
“I do want a full-time position, but don’t want to put anyone out of a job. If it does become available, I will apply for it.” Pettrey said.
As for the marijuana patch and criminal charges, Smith has several prior arrests including simple possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and multiple DUIs.