Approximately 20 animal rights advocates protested the recent shooting death of the dog “Toby” Friday in front of the Coffee County Animal Shelter.
Advocates from as far away as McMinnville and Winchester led “save our pets” and “Control Animal Control” chants to passing vehicles with three Nashville TV media stations also in attendance.
“Our friend runs a business called A New Dog in Town and she alerted us to this via Facebook and I’m just appauled,” said Sheila Mason, who made the trip from Winchester to hold a sign and help lead chants. “We are animal rescuers and lovers and we are just trying to do the right thing.”
At the forefront of controversy is the Monday shooting of Bryan Pennington’s pet Labrador Toby by Coffee County Animal Control Officer Charlie Brown.
Pennington claims the dog was old and slow to get around but otherwise healthy. Meanwhile, Brown says when he arrived at the dog it was in bad shape and “looked like it had been hit by a car.”
According to County Resolution 95-41, any dog picked up as a stray must be held for three days if it does not have tags and five days if it does.
Resolution 95-41, section 7, paragraph G reads, “If a dog impounded for any reason is not wearing a tag or a name collar and is not claimed by the owner within three days from its impoundment, then the dog may be claimed and redeemed by any responsible person without liability to the owners, or the dog may be destroyed by the county.
But Charlie Brown says the three-day rule does not apply in this case since he alleges the dog was in bad shape and in need of emergency euthanasia.
“I thought it had been hit by a car,” he said.
Brown shot Toby in the head with a county-issued 22-rifle.
“I didn’t like that … it’s not right,” said Judy Syler, who also showed up to protest Friday. “You just don’t do [animals] that way. God created pets just like he did us and they are here to be taken care of, not abused. We have to speak up for them.”
What should happen with the Coffee County animal control department?
- Both (52%, 60 Votes)
- Complete policy overhaul (31%, 36 Votes)
- Employees removed (8%, 9 Votes)
- Nothing at all (8%, 9 Votes)
Total Voters: 115
Vera Lund, a Manchester resident who was present Friday, pointed out that animal control officers should be better trained and the shelter should be better funded.
“This guy should have never been made to make the decision to shoot the dog,” Lund said. “The dog should have been euthanized and if there was a vet then Charlie could have taken it there. Death should not be a violent thing. Euthanasia with a gun is not peaceful. It’s all a very sad situation.”
Brown and department head Kevin Brown, no relation, have made claims that training has not been provided to them and that they aren’t aware of certain policies.
But an open records request by the Manchester Times reveals that $1,000 was in this year’s budget for training for the department. Kevin Brown said that money went towards a truck motor.
“We had to have a new motor so we had to use money out of that to cover the truck motor,” he said.
But according to Coffee County Director of Accounts and Budgets Marianna Edinger, a reserve fund of $5,860 was available to the department for repairs on the truck and the $1,000 in the budget for staff development could have been used for training.
“It is up to them how they spend the money in their budget,” Edinger said Thursday. “Nobody told them that they could not go to training. I told [Kevin] there was $5,000 in reserve we could use to pay for [truck] repairs.”
The Times tried to contact Kevin Brown to ask if he was aware of the $5,860 in reserved, but he did not return a message left on his cell phone before publication.
The Times has also learned that the department has under-spent on veterinary services. According to a copy of the budget obtained from the county mayor’s office, $5,126 was budgeted for veterinary expenses and only $3,376 has been spent with less than a month left in the fiscal year.
Those numbers conflict with Charlie Brown’s statement that money is not available for emergency veterinary care – including the most recent case involving Toby.
“We don’t have the money to take in an animal for emergency pet care,” Charlie Brown stated.
Each worker also said that a trained veterinarian must also be available to provide euthanasia through an injection. But animal control workers can be certified by taking courses. One course offered by the National Animal Control Association Training Academy offers a certification for animal control professionals in euthanasia. Kevin Brown attended that academy in 2010, Edinger says.
The most recent incident in question happened Monday when Bryan Pennington claims his dog was taken to the pound and wrongfully shot in the head by Charlie Brown.
In a story first reported by the Manchester Times, Pennington claims that Toby, who was 16-years-old, was blind in one eye and suffered from arthritis but was otherwise healthy.
“He always went to the neighbors but I got new neighbors recently,” Pennington explained. “Well, they didn’t know him and he was laying on the sidewalk and they thought something was wrong with him so they called animal control.
“But he loves to lay out in the rain. He likes to get wet. And that is what he was doing.”
Once animal control picked up the dog, according to Pennington, worker Brown took it to the impound and “shot it in the head” before tossing the body in a dumpster.
But Brown claims the dog was in bad shape.
“I put my hand on its side and [his chest] lightly come up and down,” he explained. “ [He had] very shallow, light breaths. Other animals were under porches and cars. This dog was stretched out in the yard [in the rain.]
After picking the dog up Tuesday morning from the animal shelter, Pennington took the deceased pet to his veterinarian (Tom Harbin) where he claims the dog was not hit by a vehicle.
“Dr. Harbin said there was nothing wrong with him,” explained Pennington. “He said he had thin fur from being old. So basically, they killed my perfectly healthy dog.”
– Josh Peterson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.