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Animal rights group seeks investigation
Nov 04, 2005 12:00 am
November 2, 2005
The fallout from a dog fight at Lebanon Animal Control earlier this month continues to draw national attention, with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling for a criminal investigation into how city officials responded to a mauled black lab found at the pound on Oct. 16.
Last week, a PETA official penned a letter to Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks urging "city officials to undertake a criminal investigation into the incidents described herein and immediately move (Lebanon Animal Control) Officer (Josh) Greer to a city position that does not put him into contact with any animals."
"I have spent many years at rural and under-funded animal control facilities and well understand the limitations facing workers at such facilities," wrote Teresa Lynn Chagrin, an animal sheltering advisor at PETA. "However, the reports and photos submitted to us from the case of the dog Zania illustrate severe problems at Lebanon Animal Control that need to be addressed immediately."
Mark Henderson, the attorney representing Zania's owners in a civil lawsuit against the cities of Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, said he has also asked Weeks to look into pressing charges against one or more animal control officers.
But Weeks said criminal charges are "not the proper way to deal with this."
Weeks said the District Attorney's office would be responsible for filing any criminal charges, but he did not foresee that happening.
The Public Safety Commissioner once again chalked up the response of city officials as a case of misjudgments.
"I guess if you indicted people every day for making stupid decisions, obviously the jail would be full of politicians," Weeks said.
Chagrin said Week's response shows "he doesn't understand the seriousness of this matter."
"This animal should have been put down immediately," she said. "No one can dispute that Zania is suffering horribly."
Assistant District Attorney Linda Walls said no law enforcement agency has asked for such a criminal investigation.
As part of the city's internal investigation into conditions at the pound and the response of the two animal control officers to the attack on Zania, the police solicited sworn statements from the officers, Bob Cowin and Greer.
According to Cowin's statement, he was the first officer to arrive at the pound where he found the injured Zania. He immediately contacted Greer, asking him to come to the pound to assist in the euthanization of the animal.
"Josh (Greer) arrived and said we'll move the dog to another pen and check on it in the a.m. He – Josh – felt the dog would be okay till then," wrote Cowin in his statement.
Greer – who Weeks said has already been adequately reprimanded for his actions – said in his statement, "I looked at the dog (Blk Lab) it was sitting up I said move the dog to a different pen to see how it was in the morning."
Cowin also signed an additional statement denying Greer's actions were "an intentional act to neglect the dog."
Weeks said the city has completed its investigation and is in the process of formalizing its findings and recommendations for official submission to the City Council.
Included in the recommendations are rewriting animal control policies and making physical changes to the facility itself, some of which are already underway, Weeks said.
"We're redoing some pens, trying to keep as many animals separated as possible," he said.
Weeks added the city is sensitive to one of PETA's recommendations, which is the timely euthanization of animals.
Under current state law, animals left at pounds must be euthanized after three days; city law allows five days before animals must be euthanized.
"We try our best to work within those parameters," Weeks said, adding historically Animal Control has tried to strike a balance between limiting overcrowding and euthanizing animals that may be picked up while their owners are on vacation or otherwise unreachable.
"But the bottom line is we're going to have to follow those policies more closely," Weeks said.
"And right now we've got two beautiful labs in here – beautiful dogs – that were picked up on West Main Street," Weeks said. "And I wish that people would call or come and get their dogs back, because now time is running out."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15