Wednesday, 20 January 2021 13:13

State levies penalties against Richmond County Animal Shelter

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State levies penalties against Richmond County Animal Shelter RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — For the second time in two years, the Richmond County Animal Shelter is facing penalties from the state.

A notice dated Jan. 8 from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service Veterinary Division Animal Welfare Section levies more than $2,000 in civil penalties following an incident over the summer involving an injured dog. The notice also implicates the Humane Society and the dog's owner for the lack of care.

According to the Findings of Fact, a complaint was filed with the state on Oct. 2 alleging the shelter failed to provide medical care for a dog named Princess.

(See the complaint attached at the bottom of this story.

The report states that an animal control officer picked up the injured dog, presumably hit by a vehicle, from the median of a busy road on and took it to the shelter around 11:45 a.m. Sunday, July 19.

All shelter staff had reportedly left by the time the dog was dropped off and no one knew the dog was there until the following day.

According to a review of time cards, the inspector reportedly discovered the last person clocked out at 10:21 a.m. — despite requirements for an afternoon cage-cleaning and kittens under 6 months old needing to be fed twice a day in 8-hour intervals.

On July 20, the shelter director reportedly set an appointment with a veterinarian for the following day to examine Princess. During that time, the dog did receive bedding, but no pain medication.

On the day of the appointment, the shelter director reportedly contacted the Humane Society of Richmond County to see if the group would pay for the medical expenses, and HSRC reportedly agreed.

According to the report, the vet noted that Princess had a spinal lesion and was paralyzed and recommended euthanasia. The report also states that the vet did not administer pain medication because he was under the impression Princess would be euthanized.

The dog was taken back to the shelter, but state inspectors could find no evidence that Humane Society reps informed the shelter director of the vet’s recommendation or that the shelter director asked the vet directly.

On July 22, the owner reportedly saw Princess on a social media post and picked up the dog the following day.

State inspectors say the shelter director’s statement indicates the owner was made aware of the dog’s condition, but there is no evidence that the owner was provided full written disclosure.

The director’s statement also notes that the owner was “instructed” to seek follow-up care and the shelter provided a donated wheeled cart for Princess.

State inspectors say the owner told them she did not seek medical care and no pain medication was administered during the 22 days after she got the dog from the shelter.

The owner reportedly contacted the Humane Society on Aug. 6 to surrender Princess, which was handled on Aug. 14.

According to the report, paperwork from that day contains information that was not known until Aug. 18 and that no medication was given to Princess during those four days before the Humane Society took the dog for a second evaluation.

The report states that veterinary records show Princess was diagnosed with a dislocated right hip, a severely fractured right femur with callous formation, severe arthritis in the right knee, and a severely fractured left tibia.

The vet reportedly suggested euthanasia or consultation with a veterinary orthopedic specialist. The Humane Society reportedly asked for time to make a decision and the vet administered two pain medications.

The vet also reportedly ordered Princess be confined to a crate with the exception of leash walks, however, state inspectors note that an Aug. 18 social media post — asking for monetary donations to send the dog to a specialist — showed Princess playing outside with another dog.

State inspectors say Princess wasn’t administered pain medication until 30 days after the injury.

On Aug. 19, the day after the video was posted, the Humane Society reportedly transferred Princess to a rescue agency willing to “assume the care of this severely injured dog.”

The unnamed rescue took Princess to a specialist who amputated the dog’s rear right leg and repaired the fracture of the left leg on Aug. 24.

According to the report, the rescue group says Princess is continuing to recover with her new family.

The investigators concluded that all parties involved — the shelter, Humane Society and owner — neglected to give Princess proper treatment for her injuries.

They also determined that the shelter violated two provisions and levied civil penalties: 

$250 for failing to properly clean enclosures a minimum of two times per day on Aug. 19; and

$2,000 for failing to provide veterinary care for a seriously injured dog.

The shelter also received a warning failing to have staff on hand to feed kittens and puppies less than 6 months of age at least twice daily with a minimum 8-hour interval between feedings; and for failing to provide full written disclosure of the medical condition of an animal to the owner.

The county has 60 days to pay the penalty or file an appeal.

“We are committed to reviewing the facts presented in the Notice and taking appropriate corrective action for any failings on our part,” Jimmy Quick, a spokesman for the county government, said in a Jan. 20 email. 

The county took over operation of the shelter from the Humane Society in 2013.

In his response, Quick also reviewed the timeline of events included in the report.

“We discussed with Dr. (Patricia) Norris (director of the Animal Welfare Section) that we will submit a response and seek to contest the case and/or negotiate a settlement pursuant to NCGS 150B-22,” Quick continued. “She welcomed further discussion with us. We inquired about the assessment of penalties to all parties. Dr. Norris informed us that we are the only party under her jurisdiction who could be assessed Penalties, so the weight of the Penalties fell on us. We believe these will be negotiated and settled.

“To the extent failures may have occurred, I believe there will be a common cause,” Quick added. “First, the parties trying their best to help Princess are not veterinarians. Second, everyone was trying to give Princess a chance to live a long life reunited with her owners. It’s difficult to see Princess reunited with her owner on July 23rd and to see Princess in the attached* video and understand our efforts were a failure. We will review, address and improve.”

(*Quick attached the aforementioned video showing Princess hobbling around in a yard with another dog.)

The shelter was issued a penalty in 2019 for two violations — including failure to provide treatment to an injured dog — which led to thousands of dollars in renovations.

On Sept. 26, the Humane Society announced on Facebook that it was cutting ties with the shelter.

The post read in part: 

“Our presence in the local shelter has been neglected and taken advantage of for way too long and we need to focus the efforts of our VOLUNTEER staff to the community going forward.  The animals inside the shelter DEPEND on pictures and videos of them to be displayed to the public as a way of being released to a foster and/or adopter. When such a simple task becomes a more coordinated process than entering a prison, the animals suffer as well as those that volunteer their time to help out the animals.”