Euthanasia practices questioned at shelter

By Nicholas Elmes -

The State Bureau of Investigation has concluded an investigation into allegations of cruel and unusual treatment of animals at the Stokes County Animal Shelter by two former Stokes County Animal Control officers.

SBI Spokesman Shannon O’Toole said Monday that the investigation into Former Chief Animal Control Officer Phillip Handy and former Animal Control Officer Daryl Sheppard would be provided to the District Attorney’s office as soon as possible. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

The investigation was referred to the SBI by the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office after they received notification from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture that the state was revoking euthanasia certification for both Handy and Sheppard on July 2.

Handy’s order of revocation notes that the revocation stemmed from a citizen complaint received on June 24.

In the order Dr. Patricia Norris alleges Handy performed at least six euthanasia’s prior to the 72 hour minimum holding period without proper documentation and that Sheppard performed at least five euthanasia’s prior to the 72 hour minimum holding period. Norris noted that the euthanasia’s occurred over several months prior to the investigation, clarifying that they did not occur in the time period directly leading up to the closure of the shelter for repairs on July 3.

The orders also allege that credible evidence exists that in May Handy performed, and Sheppard witnessed, at least one improper euthanasia which involved cruel and inhumane treatment of the animal; that Handy and Sheppard performed, participated in and/or witnessed the inhumane euthanasia of multiple animals that involved improper euthanasia administration, failure to adequately confirm the death of the animal and/or the improper disposal of the animal; that Handy treated multiple animals in a cruel and inhumane manner; that Handy improperly euthanized an animal by gunshot and failed to report the use of a gun; that Sheppard performed or had knowledge of the improper use of gunshot in the euthanasia of an animal; and that Handy and Sheppard failed to cooperate with Lloyd and the Animal Welfare Services director during the course of the investigation.

County Manager Rick Morris confirmed that both Handy and Sheppard were no longer employed by the county, noting that they were terminated as employees on July 16. He said the county has since filled the vacant positions, hiring one new animal control officer on July 29 and another on Aug. 13.

Handy and Sheppard were placed on administrative leave on July 2, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Those emails also show that Morris also had the sheriff’s department secure euthanasia drugs and records at the shelter on July 2 and was quick to respond to Norris with a plan to find temporary staff for the shelter. In one email, Morris notes that he was trying to rehire an animal control officer who had “just resigned due to his dissatisfaction with the work environment.”

The facility had passed a euthanasia inspection on Jan. 26 with Lloyd noting that there were no animals scheduled for euthanasia at the time, but adding that the facility needed to have an updated euthanasia manual.

The July 2 revocation of euthanasia certification was not the first time this year that state inspectors had penalized Handy for treatment of animals at the shelter.

On Feb. 18, Handy received notice that the shelter was facing a $1,000 civil penalty as the result of its handling of a visibly injured brown and white male hound dog that was picked up on Jan. 15. Morris confirmed that the county paid the penalty.

The notice stated that Animal Control Officer Daryl Sheppard failed to euthanize the dog or take it to a vet for assessment and treatment at the time of pick up. According to the notice the dog had been hit by a car and was unable to bear weight on one of its rear legs. The notice states that written statements by both Handy and Sheppard admit the dog was not taken to a vet, and that another animal shelter employee, Willie Herndon, found the dog bleeding from its rear in a kennel with another dog on Jan. 16. Herndon reportedly took the dog to veterinarian Dr. Deborah Cowan where its injuries were assessed and it was eventually euthanized.

Cowan told Lloyd, according to the notice, that the shelter could not provide the dog a warm, clean and protected environment.

Continued issues with enclosures

The Stokes County Animal Shelter facility has been dealing with issues since failing an inspection on Dec. 1, 2014.

At that time, state inspector Lindsey Lloyd noted that the facility was understaffed, animals had not received rabies vaccinations after being at the facility for over 15 days, and that several bags of food were left open. The biggest concern was peeling paint on the walls and floors of animal enclosures.

The facility passed an inspection on Jan. 26, with Lloyd noting that all of the original problems had been addressed except for the state of the enclosures.

“Peeling/chipping floors and walls throughout this facility has been an inadequacy on several previous inspection reports without the inadequacy being corrected,” wrote Lloyd in January. “This inspection is conditionally approved if this inadequacy is corrected within the time line that has been requested withing 72 hours.”

The county began work on sandblasting and sealing those enclosures in early July to address that problem. Morris said those repairs took longer than expected delaying the reopening of the facility by several weeks.

But the results of the renovations at the shelter resulted in an “unapproved” inspection report on Aug. 20.

“Floors throughout the facility have been sandblasted to the original concrete and Concrete Remedy sealant was applied,” wrote Lloyd. “However, water is not beading on the floors and the water appears to be soaking into the concrete. Additionally, when I rubbed my hand on the floor concrete dust was noted on my hand. Flooring in and around the trough drains have a rough texture allowing for hair and debris to build up.”

Lloyd recommended the floors be resealed.

Morris said the county is currently testing new sealing options, and noted the county would respond to inspectors by Sept. 3.

“We are working to try to see if we can get the right kind of seal on there and get it working as it is supposed to,” he said. “We are going to get it to whatever standards the state wants it to be at.”

He noted that at this point he did not know if the shelter would have to be closed to reapply the sealant.

Other violations in August included litter boxes full of waste, the lack of medication logs indicating if a particular animal had been given prescribed medication, damaged lighting, a strong odor, insufficient employees to maintain the proper level of husbandry and care of the animal, and damaged dog houses. Lloyd also noted that the cat population was too large for the number of enclosures at the facility.

Morris said the county had hired a part time shelter attendant to help with animal husbandry, and added that they are sill working on filling an additional animal control officer position.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes

comments powered by Disqus