It’s been awhile since I posted anything new. I know that’s frowned upon if you have a blog, my apologies. But, the General Assembly gets me back online, checking it out and working towards getting it all together and in your trucks and on your desks. We are a unique profession most don’t understand and we need unique knowledge without the time wasting chatter. So, warm weather is right around the corner and the Assembly is convened. So, back on the horse.
It’s that time again for the NC General Assembly to begin the lengthy process of introducing, voting, passing and abandoning legislative bills. This Session is already interesting for animal welfare professionals; animal related issues already introduced.
Thus far only 6 weeks in we find a bill making Driving a Vehicle with a Live Animal in the Operator’s Lap a crime with a fine of $100 and costs of court. I think allot of feel this one is overdue in making its’ way to the Statehouse. We have all seen it. If someone has to be that close to their pet all the time one would think they would at least make it safer for the pet, let alone everyone else on the road. They make seat belts for dogs now. Representative Pierce from Hoke, Scotland, Robeson and Richmond counties introduced a bill that makes common good sense, too bad some drivers have to have the taxpayers teach them a little.
The bobcat is introduced as our State Cat once again. Last it was introduced it just died in committee.
We might just have a State Spider if Senator Hise can rally the support for the Linville Caverns Spider. A little reading told me it is only found one place in the world, Humpback Mountain which houses Linville Caverns in western NC.
The Linville Caverns Spider may not have much support yet but an Official State Fried Chicken Festival sure does. Cumberland County Senator Floyd would like to see the city of Fayetteville host the Official Fried Chicken Festival and it looks like he is not alone.
The Puppy Mill bill is back and probably won’t go away until something passes that regulates the mills we all see, large and small. This bill draws the line at 10 intact females, over 6 months sold as pets. Of course, hunting and field dogs are again exempted. The bill specifies dogs have clean water, light, food and medical attention, including deworming; again, common sense. Some items go beyond the animal welfare act which is a good thing in my opinion.
It’s a start and we will still have to manage the dogs traded for drugs, pets sold that are sold via fringe advertising, etc. This bill also states local governments can supplement with their own codes, something the Limitations on standards of care for farm animals statute, passed during the last long session specifically denies. Is anyone seeing the pattern I am? It is OK to regulate and protect dogs, it is not OK to regulate and protect other species, especially those that bring in the big bucks. I was floored when that one passed and the counties who supported it. If you haven’t checked the votes on that for your representative in Raleigh, you might before you vote again. But we move on.
Reptiles are back in, buried in an agriculture and natural resources bill. Our violation of Chapter 14 concerning poisonous reptiles is up for amendment to allow the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences or Zoological Park to dispose of reptiles, speaks to court orders, etc.
There are a few more but lawmakers just got started. Should be an interesting year.
2016 is going by quickly; I thought it a good time for some reflection after such a tumultuous Session and a busy summer.
While we carry on in our efforts to enforce animal laws, serve the public and run our facilities we try to get ahead of the game by trying to reduce the numbers of animals arriving at our shelters. It would be a fair guess to estimate that at least half of the
animals we take in are unwanted. We all know “unwanted” covers a myriad of reasons but most assume “unwanted” is a symptom of irresponsibility and most would probably be right. Dogs and cats running at large causing damage, biting and being horribly injured. Along with all of the dangers lurking for everyone when dogs and cats run at large, many of them breed. Dog packs surrounding a bitch in heat is still fairly commonplace and still dangerous. After all is said and done, the dog picked up, the owner fined, signatures and ID gathered, etc, etc, a few month later, we start taking in the litters. With hope and allot of hard work, many leave on a leash or in a carrier, some in a bag and at the end of the year we count them up.
Every year about 80 to 90% of our county jurisdictions tally their animal numbers and send them to the Animal Welfare Section in Raleigh. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the numbers over the years.
I found a few interesting numbers and changes and would like to share them. And since our Spay Neuter program went through some buffeting, I thought I would start with 2001, the year of its’ enactment. We can take a look at 15 years of animal numbers and maybe it played a part in a change.
In 2010, the Michigan State University, Animal Legal and Historical Center reported that 32 states in the US have implemented mandatory spaying and neutering for shelter animals as a method to control dog and cat overpopulation. While NC did not adopt this mindset, it did adopt spay neuter as an incentive, so let’s take a look.
Here is a snapshot of what I found looking over 15 years of our animal totals:
Human Population Dog/Cat intake Other species intake
2001 8.21 million 285,549 6,688
2010 9.56 million 336,286 8,592
2015 10 million 245.436 7,193
It appears we are doing well in reducing the numbers of animals coming into our shelters, with and without other species; 2010 may have been a turning point.
All of us who work the field and the shelter know spaying and neutering doesn’t and won’t do it all. Those of you who enforce your laws equitably, work doggedly (pun intended) to get them out alive, treat the public with respect (regardless) and understand the big picture are making a change in North Carolina. Hopefully, the dog pound has been euthanized, those who remember it thank you for making that happen and for all of the rest of us, all species included.
House Bill 1009 and its’ sister bill S849 propose to enact a new statute regarding the disposition of city and county property and a possible true retirement for those dogs that have served us alongside their law enforcement partners in lieu of the auction block or the landfill.
The bills second “Robby’s Law”, Title 10 U.S. Code § 2583, where retired service animals’ ownership may be transferred to the handler, his/her surviving spouse or children or an approved animal organization dedicated to retired officers.
The original struggle for the disposition of these animals begins with a military handler of “Robby” who failed in his struggle to keep his partner. The dog was euthanized but spearheaded the federal law allowing the dogs to be saved and adopted to their handlers.
Prior to the law enacted in 2000 and signed by President Bill Clinton, the US military disposed of our military K9’s as “surplus equipment”, a bullet taking care of the “extra weight” or simply sold off. Today, “Robby’s Law” allows these animals to be saved and adopted. North Carolina appears to be following suit.
Additionally, the so called “surplus equipment” may be transferred to law enforcement agencies; North Carolina has been the recipient of some of these transfers. Robby’s Law requires an annual report regarding the disposition of these dogs be submitted to Congress. You can read reports from 2000 to 2011 posted on the Save-A-Vet site:
I wasn’t able to find reports after 2011 and read that a proposal to stop the reporting has been introduced to Congress.
The NC bill was originally affecting and sponsored by representatives of Wake County. As it progresses through its’ readings, it now includes sponsorship by Wake, Cumberland, Robeson, Durham, Guilford, Chatham, Lee, Buncombe and Iredell counties, yet only affects Guilford, Moore, Randolph, Surry and Wake.
At first glance the bill may not raise any flags or spark any particular interest. It does get more interesting after reading about the background of why we need a bill to re home service animals in the first place. Counties and cities are fast to inform that these animals are property and the transfer of county personal property has the right to convey property by private sale when that right is conferred by another law, public, or local. By my reading of § 160A-279, Sale of property to entities carrying out a public purpose; procedure, the bill is establishing “another law”. I also read that local law can establish the sale of these dogs to their handlers. However, and I think most of us will agree, local law makers avoid changing or enacting any local animal laws. Wake County isn’t queasy and takes it on. Good for them.
There is no short supply of stories about the bond between military and law enforcement K9s and their handlers locally or nationally. Some departments realize the human aspect of their staff and respond more appropriately than others. “Connect to the community, not to the canine.” is archaic and ignores the reasoning the officers and their partners do so well together.
I can share a few stories about local service canines:
In Morganton, a Forest Service officer Jason Crisp and his K9 partner, Maros were ambushed and killed while on duty. Crisp and Maros were buried together.
In Nash County, Rocky Mount K9 officer Shasha, had a leg amputated due to a cancerous growth. The Department could have retired her, euthanized her, or let the cancer grow. The dog's leg was amputated and is now back at work with her handler, Sgt. Greg Adams. The Sheriff’s Department kept the community’s interest in mind and posted her progress on their Facebook page.
In Ohio, a police officer who retired attempted to purchase his partner of 4 years and was denied. The law stipulated the dog be auctioned off. The dog’s value was placed at $3,500. After the community raised $45,000 and the officer was made an auxiliary, he was able to keep his partner.
But, there is always the down side for the animals. Most of us have witnessed far too much of it.
Many of us have, at least one experience involving local K9s beyond the handler and dog arriving at the shelter for a bath, observing the dog clear a crime scene, giving a demonstration or at the local veterinary for treatments, etc.
Many of us, myself included, have witnessed retired K9 officers being neglected, euthanized due to the maltreatment of their handlers, displaying unrestrained aggression due to an unchecked machismo ego in handler’s homes, some even transferred to another handler as a form of punishment by the sheriff. Again, as most of you know, little to none about these situations are known but by a very few and may happen more often than we would like to know.
Recently, a retired K9 was discovered in Hoke County, tethered to a fence and about starved to death. A local animal welfare organization is trying to save the dog and the Sheriff’s office is investigating. Kudos to Hoke ACO’s for seizing this poor dog and to the Sheriff’s office for investigating. Now that it is in the media and the person responsible is probably blatantly obvious; we can hope for accountability.
There are also websites that buy, sell and trade these “working dogs”. The New York Post published an article about these dogs and a possible black market. Again, North Carolina makes its’ way into the story. This time it is in Lenoir County,
The House bill is moving fairly quickly; let’s keep an eye on it and for the dogs who live to serve.
If you are interested in furthering your military acronym vocabulary regarding these dogs, here is a starter:
The North Carolina Attorney General’s office launched the Animal Welfare Hotline mandated by newly enacted law from this past session. The Hotline number is 1-855-290-6915 and the website provides a complaint form for mailing and an email option.
The website explains the office reviews complaints and determines if “it is animal cruelty” then forwards it to the locals or the NCDA. If one interprets this language literally, one could surmise the report is screened by the Attorney General’s office and dispatched when they find the report contains one or more elements of the crime of animal cruelty or animal welfare violations. Animal Services might be able to use this additional level of review to advantage in supporting investigations, perhaps even in criminal charges. It would be interesting to know what the dispatched reports from the Attorney General’s contain and how they are sent. If anyone has received a report, an entry to this blog would be helpful to the Animal Services and Animal Cruelty Investigator community. It would also be helpful to know how the office responds to reports that aren’t found to be valid; a guess is there won’t be many of those.
We may be able to assume in the future as the public utilizes this reporting mechanism, there would be some access to information such as numbers, any categorizations, locations, etc,. This new law, §114-8.7., Reports of animal cruelty and animal welfare violations, not available on the General Assembly website yet, does not specify any reporting mechanism. The NC Rules may hold an answer as to how this office receives and reports information.
The link for the website is found on the Links page. G.S. 114-8.7., is available now in the 15th edition of NC Laws for Animal Control.
PETA, the Center for Food Safety, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Food & Water Watch and the Government Accountability Project filed a federal lawsuit January 13, challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s “Ag-Gag” law, G.S. 99A-1, G.S. 99A-2.
The vetoed bill was overridden this past Session and took effect on Jan. 1.
The primary sponsors of the bill represent Cumberland,
Transylvania, Henderson, Polk, Ashe, Watagua and Mecklenburg counties.
The suit alleges the law violates free speech, free press, the Equal Protection clause and endangers our health, safety and welfare behind an anti-sunshine law.
The law doesn’t directly affect Animal Services in NC but it is infringing on the protections animals have under our cruelty laws. Big Ag is already found there exempting their “lawful activities” as “providing food for human consumption”. Define “lawful”. How can one know if it is within the parameters of “lawful” if whistle blowers are gagged.
Here is a link to our factory farms in NC:
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed a similar law while in Utah a Federal judge struck it down completely.
It will be interesting to follow this case and the stand our state and county representatives take on this one.
In all probability, anyone involved in Animal Services or animal welfare in NC (and beyond) has heard about United Animal Coalition’s Marsha Williams termination by Guilford and Davidson counties and the charges against her. The animals involved suffered, along with the people of those counties, the staff exposed to the neglect and the cruelty even while they steadily shouldered the influx of more neglected animals arriving from the field.
Looks like she will get off on technicalities in Guilford while Davidson indicts. The DA is refusing Guilford County Sheriff, BJ Barnes’ charges based on lack of evidence and the form of the citation issued to Williams. It is interesting that there are 5 animals mentioned but only one stated to have been shot in the face by a deputy gets special mention. There are a few “facts” cited that makes one wonder what they have to do with the case. Form your own opinion, read the DA’s press release here.
Sheriff Barnes responds to the letter’s political leanings and his attempt to correct error in the paperwork here. The fact he was on the UAC Board and continues to work toward Williams facing justice is to his credit.
In the end, William’s was paid to oversee the shelters and the animals in them and she didn’t. Animals suffered in violation of the law in our own shelters and shamed us all. We see enough out there; none of us need to be forced to accept it in our own shelters.
Animal Service professionals are under allot of pressure in providing public safety, animal welfare and positive public relations. We provide a unique and specialized, important service with relatively small budgets and of course, the stereotyping.
Legislation is changing more substantially each session and we have to be current and accurate when interpreting and enforcing animal law along with regulations regarding our animal shelters and the care and handling of the hundreds of thousands that go through our doors every year. We follow and promote the laws that protect and regulate animals but we have little voice in our State's Capitol.
This is a place where we can be informal and off the record to educate each other, discuss legislation (and legislators) and support one another in a changing and dynamic profession.
Post your news, your comments and your ideas; we can change the "top down" approach in protecting our staff, our facilities and of course, our animals.
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