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Animal control worker reprimanded
Oct 24, 2005 12:00 am
October 20, 2005
A Lebanon Animal Control worker has been reprimanded in connection with an incident at the city's animal pound which left a dog injured, with a top official vowing a "methodical" review of the operation.
"If we find that we have any problems we'll correct them," Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said.
Weeks said Animal Control Officer Josh Greer was reprimanded for failing to seek immediate veterinary care for a black Labrador injured in a fracas while penned in a cage with three other dogs.
He also pledged a complete review of the city's animal control operation, saying he will issue a report to Mayor Don Fox on the probe's findings.
"What happened was terrible and we're truly sorry and I fully intend to personally and methodically look over every aspect of that operation to see if we can find a way to make sure that it never happens again," Weeks said.
But the safety chief strongly defended city workers against allegations he said have been circulated by animal rights activists about the incident.
Weeks emphatically denied the injured dog was caged with three pit bull dogs and angrily defended Greer against claims some have made he did little more than move the dog to a separate pen to die.
"That dog was not locked up with three pit bulls," he said. "There were two mutts in there and one that looked like it could have been a pit bull, but it was the smallest one of the bunch. As for the other allegation, if there was even the tiniest hint, the tiniest indication, that one of our workers put an injured dog in a cage with the intent of leaving him there to die then that person wouldn't be working here anymore. It's just ludicrous."
He said when Greer arrived to find the dog injured "he made a decision that turned out to be a bad one, but it's one of about 1,000 like that he makes each year."
"He (Greer) made the determination that it looked like the dog was going to be all right and he even told another animal control worker that if the dog didn't look like it was getting better in the morning, then they would take it to the vet," Weeks said.
He said "in hindsight he should have sought immediate attention for the dog and that was a mistake and he's been reprimanded for it."
The dog, named Zania, was said to be improving yesterday by an attorney representing its owner, Rabecca McLemore, who is said to be considering legal action over the incident.
The dog was picked up by Mt. Juliet police – who have described it as "vicious" and the subject of repeat complaints – and taken to the Lebanon pound as part of a long-standing agreement on animal control between the two entities.
But the controversy may have endangered the agreement, Weeks said again yesterday, noting "serious discussions have taken place" about ending the arrangement.
"We've always had an excellent relationship with Mt. Juliet but we're going to have to take a long, hard look at whether it's feasible to keep doing it this way," he said.
Mt. Juliet police officials have maintained the officer who took the dog to the pound remained on the scene for several minutes and apparently left satisfied the animal was safe, saying they feel he did not act improperly in the incident.
Weeks said he was inundated with telephone callers "making totally false claims" about the incident and indirectly blamed local Humane Association officials – who alerted the media about the alleged dog attack – for circulating the allegations.
"I think it's shameful, shameful, that they would be spreading falsehoods against us rather than offering to be part of the solution," he said.
As a result, Weeks said he intends to call on animal rights activists outside the county to help with his inspection of the city's animal control operation.
"Many of them have called and very politely offered their help and I certainly intend to take them up on it," he said.
However Humane Association of Wilson County spokesperson Sara Felmlee – who was earlier critical of the city's actions in the controversy – said her organization only became involved in the controversy after being contacted by a concerned resident.
"We got involved because we were contacted, not because we were just out looking for something," she said.
Felmlee also expressed pleasure with the city's decision to reprimand Greer and review its animal control operation.
"I think that's wonderful," she said. "When somebody's animal is picked up the city has a responsibility to see that it's housed safely.
"I think if they make some changes, put in some runs, have animals separated and protect them from extreme temperatures, things of that nature, those would be tremendously positive changes."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.