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Monday, March 7, 2011

Exposing the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter... and the killing field...

Just when I'd committed to myself to do more to promote Epilepsy Awareness on Project Rewire in March for Purple Day on March 26th, a story breaks on the news that broke my heart into 22 pieces.  So, as much as Epilepsy Awareness is of importance to me, it's not my passion.  It's a cause, and will take a back burner for now.  My passion is animal rescue, mostly lived out in canine rescue with an emphasis on English Springer Spaniel rescue.  As a furkid mom to four English Springer Spaniel rescues, three of which my husband and I acquired as volunteers with a wonderful nationwide group called, English Springer Rescue America.  Whether I'm hands on or not, I'm very much hands on at home all of the time with four rescues who all have unique special needs.  I'm also a momma to three special needs rescue kitties.  So, needless to say the recent massacre of what now appears to 22+ dogs while in the CARE of the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter takes priority.

Since the story broke on March 4th, it's taken over my thoughts and my heart.  I can't let go of it. The only peace I've found is that at least it's been exposed, and that God knows who pulled the triggers.  He also knows the ones who are just as guilty by allowing it; possibly encouraging it as a cost cutting measure, while perhaps conveniently looking the other way.  Whom or who might that be?  Well, as someone very close to the law enforcement community, since the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Control comes under the wing of the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department, I can't help but point fingers toward them, too as the "governing" agency.  Someone in power had to know this was going on.  A decision to do it had to be made by someone.  And I highly doubt it was by someone on the bottom end of the staff totem pole.  They knew it was wrong by the shear fact they were covering their tracks by tossing the bodies into the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department Firing Range, rather than disposing of them appropriately.  Is that a red flag, or what?  And what a God awful way to make it rainbow bridge.  We must be thankful, as horrific as it is, that the killing field was not a dump site in the back woods off road in the boonies somewhere.  Had it been, would it have ever been exposed?

I've plastered various media coverage in the form of newspaper articles and television news stories on my Facebook for past three days in an effort to bring attention to the inconceivable incident. Which is turning into incidents.

I'm now turning my blog, so as not to wear out my welcome on Facebook with my friends and family.  Normally, I post encouraging messages, uplifting quotes and devotions, while sharing about my dog loves of my life, and my hobbies.  I'm sure it's been tough for many of my Facebook peeps to see the information and links I've shared pass by on their news feed.  I'm sorry, but it was *must* do for me.  Rather than share the whole story here, I'm going to add a couple of media links, even though I don't believe there can be any overkill in sharing the story. 

In a nutshell 22 dogs are now suspected of being shot (and not all shots were kill shots) to death by Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter personnel at the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department Firing Range across the street from their facility. Yes, I know... WHAT?  Well, then how could the Sheriff or Deputies not know?  However, it also appears that the original suspicion of 22 dogs will be the tip of the iceberg.  And that in fact, the the firing range has been a killing field of sorts for a yet to be a determined period of time.  It very well could be six months as the facility did away with their gas chamber last fall.  God, I hope and pray it's not been going on longer.  Also, as of last September their records show that they only purchased two vials of Phenobarbital to conduct euthanasias.  That's enough to put down 14 dogs.  Further, their records also show that 80 were euthanized between last September and now.  So, by their own record keeping and accounting, in essence, it appears they've recorded their guilt in the inhumane "disposal" of animals.  Not sloppy record keeping.  How long did they think they could get away with this?  Had it not been for canine rescue worker and volunteer for the shelter, Deborah Farhi with Paws 'n Claws along with the help of two other volunteers literally digging up evidence in the firing range.  The slaughter may have been hidden awhile longer.  Between she and Whitney Knowlton, CEO of Last Chance Animal Rescue the dirty little secret of epic proportions was brought out of the firing range into the light for public outcry.  Thank God for those two dedicated and devoted women and the other two volunteers.

As you can see from the link below The Cheraw Chronicle, the local paper in Chesterfield County, is doing a good job covering this horrific story.  A story which won't be over for a long time.  I hope that they stay on it.  I hope they demand justice via investigative reporting and by  keeping the pressure on while continuing to report the all of the facts when revealed.

I count myself among those who believe that the Sheriff's Department should not be the agency to investigate the slaughter of these poor animals.  I say animals because recent stories have indicated that the remains of a cat was discovered, and puppies, too.  For real justice to be served, I wholeheartedly agree with those who are pushing for the South Carolina Department of Law Enforcement to investigate both the senseless inhumane shooting incidents, AND the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department's possible role in it.  Since Animal Control comes under the authority of the Sheriff's Department, that's a true conflict of interest and gives ground to a potential cover up.

Of the news coverage I've watched on television, I appreciated Charlotte's Fox Affiliate Channel 14's reporting and the fact they they were sensitive by blurring heart wrenching images.  They shared shocking details, but did so in a compassionate manner.  Their story, although, gripping, was well done.

Click to watch:  Shelter Dogs Killed, Dumped in Landfill...

Why have I taken this so personally?  Because my husband and I together have pulled three dogs from the pitiful Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter over the past 21 months.  Two of which are special needs dogs who were meant to have forever homes with us.  All three were heaven sent rescues. 

For those of you who may not know them, I'll introduce them to you...

This is our adorable liver and white mini Springer as we like to call her, Roxy... 

aka Rotten Rootie.  We pulled Roxy on June 9, 2010 while in foster care, arranged by the former Chesterfield County, SC Shelter Manager.  Roxy's prior owner called the shelter to come pick her up to euthanize her for Epilepsy.  Rather than take her to her vet to be evaluated and treated her "mom" believed it was better for her wallet to kill her.  She assumed treatment would be too costly.  Roxy is living happily with us and her rescue Springer family -- two sisters and one brother.  We are managing her seizures with low dose Phenobarbital.  Not only did the former manager show Roxy compassion by putting her directly into foster care, the officer that picked her up, did as well.  Acts of kindness for which we will forever be grateful.  The officer who took the call was really taken by Roxy the moment he laid eyes on her.  He even described her to us as a little show dog.  He shared that upon asking the "mom" if she was serious about putting Roxy down, she replied that she was indeed.  At that point, he said he couldn't get her out there fast enough.  Instead of caging her in the back of the truck that hot day, she rode in the cab of the truck on the seat beside him. Now, this is the place where I feel a sense of betrayal -- because he's still on staff there.  Having met him twice now, I can't imagine how he could condone what's been happening there since the former manager was dismissed.  Unless I'm totally crazy, the former manager had a heart for animals and was into saving them, rather than destroying them.  He fostered dogs on his own.  He found foster homes for others.  He worked with rescue groups.  He truly appeared to do the best with what the county gave him, and the rest he did from his heart.  Maybe he was conscience of that place?

Next up, is our beautiful liver and white with chestnut tri color, Summer, our first pull from the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter...

I chose this shot of Summer because she's resting peacefully.  Her story is very different than little Roxy's.  It's a story that involves a great deal of suffering.  Suffering she went through at the hands of her prior owner.  It's been easy to piece together her story.  She was used only for breeding purposes (from we can tell) and horribly neglected.  She was confined in a pen or a cage.  In the care of the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter, she was caged again with seven other dogs.  Several of them were intact males who in my opinion raped her during her days there.  She was third stage heartworm positive.  Her chest rattled so badly when she coughed or barked, it was heart gripping.  Of course, being in a common pen with the males dogs, the "breeding" caused her to become pregnant.  The puppies wouldn't have been viable, so sadly, we had to make the right, but difficult decision, to terminate her pregnancy.  Since we (our vet) and my husband and I were unaware that she had just been impregnated when we pulled her, heart worm therapy began immediately.  Two weeks later her pregnancy was discovered.  It was decided in her best interest, to let her body recover a bit more from the neglect and the effects of the HW treatment before spaying her.  It was a rough time for both she and I.  As mother dog who took her role seriously she was in pain emotionally.  She was in pain physically, too, because we had to put off another surgery she needed.  She had much going on all at one time.  There is much more to Summer's story.  Other medical issues which had to be treated and anxiety issues.  Some she will never be free of.  But, she's very much a special part of our family, and the most needy dog in our lives.  She's still not where we'd like her to be emotionally, but she is night and day from where she was when she came into our lives on June 23, 2009.

And then, our most recent pull last September 28th was dear Molly...

Sweet sweet Molly was a senior girl fostered by some close friends of ours after we pulled her.  She was given a wonderful funfilled dog friendly home.  Or better said, a dogs rule home and was able to live out her last months fully enjoying being a dog.  She reveled in sleeping beside her daddy at night.  She was deemed too much to handle.  The shelter contact volunteer advised us that she was only 7, well 12 or 13 was more like it.  So, something must have gotten lost in translation in Molly's story.  She came out of that place barking loudly and didn't stop for the next 50 miles.  She was SO happy to get out of that place.  She had been owned by an older couple who could not care for her and was passed on to someone else and was kept her outside.  She was strong and the moment she realized we were there to free her, she couldn't get out of there fast enough.  The person who greeted us at the gate and turned her over to us was an inmate.  He told us how special she was and how glad he was that she would no longer need to be there.  He was there when she was dumped off.  It was easy to see, he had soft spot for her.  He truly was the most compassionate person we encountered during this pull.  And he is one of reasons I'm having a difficult time reading comments on new sources pointing fingers at the inmates as the possible shooters.  That's just nuts.  They should not be scapegoats.

So, there you have three precious reasons why I'm torn up about the events that have been revealed the past few days, and why I can't let go of it.  Their faces to me, represent those in the dumped in the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department Firing Range and those still existing in that shelter.  ALL had stories.  ALL had stories that didn't need to end.  NONE deserved anything less than a happy ending, but what did they get?  Inhumanely SHOT!  Gathered together, walked across the street, and SHOT.  Who knows whether it was execution style one by one, or multiple shots being fired at once.  Anyway you look at it, it was massacre.  A tragic killing field at the Chesterfield County Sheriff Department's Firing Range.

In rescue we walk a fine line in our relationships with kill shelters.  Our first goal, is to rescue.  I don't want to do anything to jeopardize our first goal with this shelter, because Lord knows, the animals there need assistance to get out of that place.  At the same time, my mantra and the mantra of many of my friends and contacts in rescue is that "it's all about the dogs".  It truly is.  So, it's all about the dogs is ruling my conscience and sense of obligation.  If I step on any toes by being so outspoken, I'm sorry, but you're not in my shoes with this one.  And I'm the one that has to live with me and get up with me.  I've no clue as to whether I'm crossing a line of what's appropriate for someone who wants to maintain relationships with kill shelters to save the dogs, in sharing my feelings.  But, most assuredly the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter has crossed a serious line in human decency.  They've also broken the law.

The South Caroline Code under Title 47 Animals, Livestock and Poultry, Chapter 3 Dogs and other Domestic Pets, Article 7 Animal Euthanasia and Tranquilization, Section 47-3-420, Item (3) 

Shooting may be used as a means of euthanasia only in an emergency situation to prevent extreme suffering or in which the safety of people or other animal life is threatened or where it is considered necessary by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to eliminate or control the population of feral animals.

(B) In any of the previously listed methods an animal may not be left unattended between the time euthanasia procedures have commenced and the time death occurs and the animal's body may not be disposed of until death is confirmed by a certified euthanasia technician.

Click to read Title 47 in its entirety  (shows current through 2010 -- I could not locate any updates -- as the above snippet indicates, it's all black and white.)

I implore outraged animal rescue workers, shelter volunteers and the compassioned public to read this code and let your voices be heard, so this type of tragedy will never happen again at the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter.  If our voices echo throughout the country with a collective focus on the inhumane practices exposed at this shelter by making it an example, it's likely other inhumane practices will be revealed elsewhere.  So, there's a chance, they'll be stopped in their tracks.  Also, it's the only way to ensure that justice will be done on behalf of the 22+ animals in the Chesterfield County, SC Sheriff's Department Firing Range.  That in and of itself opens up another can worms.  Is it not illegal to shote and dispose of dead animals in firing ranges?  But, that is not a topic I care research at the moment.  I don't know about you, but as for me, I intend to be a "watchdog for justice"... until justice is served for the 22+.

A few links to assist you in making your voices heard:

South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division

South Carolina House of Representatives

South Carolina Senate

South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley

South Carolina State Attorney General, Alan Wilson

Chesterfield County, SC, Sheriff. Sam Parker

Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter

By the way, Sheriff Parker's direct email link is not included, however, considering that the following is his department's mission as per the following web site, he should welcome hearing from his citizens via telephone or fax, or the admin email address.

The primary mission of the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office is the protection of life and property of Chesterfield County citizens and the operation of the county's Detention Center. With dedication, honor and commitment, the Sheriff's Office works to provide quality law enforcement services to all residents of Chesterfield County. Officers and staff demand the highest standards of honesty and integrity and recognize the importance of investing in the future of their community's children. 

The question is, do they walk their talk?

Due to the nature of this post I will not be cross posting to my other blog All Aboard Hamlet as I'd previously stated in my last entry.  I'm not sure if I'll be following through with more Epilepsy Awareness posts prior to March 26th.  But rest assured I'll be wearing purple that day, and Roxy will adorn her collar with a purple ribbon.

If there are any questions to content I've shared here, please feel free to ask.  If you need a place to share your outrage (vent), feel free to, as well.  You can do so anonymously if that enables you to share openly.  May God bless each of you who have taken the time to read this.  I ask that you please add your prayers to mine that the truth will be revealed in its entirety, however awful it may be, so true justice can be delivered.... that NO one will get off with a slap of the wrists.

Where am I at with all of this?  I can't look at my two precious rescues, Summer and Roxy from Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter, without seeing the paw prints in the dirt at the landfill.  I can't look at Molly's photos and not see and feel the same thing.  Those paw prints have now been embedded into my heart and I will never ever forget them -- my dogs wear their faces.  I'm still flowing between moments of being heart sick and outraged with sadness and anger in between... with moments of utter gratitude and thankfulness to Deborah Farhi and Whitney Knowlton and their volunteers.

To show your support for Paws 'n Claws consider joining their Facebook Page, Where Hope Lives.  Right now they need and deserve all of the encouragement they can get.

I ask as favor of all who read this, and that's to please share it and link others to it.  Feel free to pass it on to legislators, so they can see how rescue changes lives.  And those 22+ won't get their chance, but may pave the way for others to be rescued.  I've learned in my struggle with Epilepsy, that unless someone has face, they don't often truly get it.  This entry my way of helping to get the word and to put faces on the precious animals dumped in the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department Firing Range.  It is NOT about me, it's all about the dogs.  The dogs in the firing range have no voices, so those of us that can, need to speak for them as best we can.

Some of the information shared are my personal opinions, but all are based on facts that have been shared and by my own experiences in dealing with the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter. 

A special ♥ felt thanks to the editor of Virginia News Source for featuring this important story!

Updates to this story will be linked below...  

March 8, 2011 -- Let's ♥ WSOC & WCNC & other news agengies for doing a great of investigative reporting...

March 11, 2011 -- Exposing the Chesterfield County, SC Animal Shelter... and further exposing the killing field



Chip "Rocket Man" Allen said...

Jeanne, you know how disgusted I am by this atrocity. IMHO the agency responsible for investigating should be the state police since the sheriff's dept. is at least partially responsible.
I'll be back to follow the links and make my voice heard once I cool off enough to keep the profanity out of my comments.

Jeanne said...

Chip, thanks buddy. I know you feel this like I do. I had to go back and correct that it was not a Chesterfield County Landfill, but the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department Firing Range where killing and the dumping was done. It is UNREAL!!

Anonymous said...

One of the dogs suspected of being in the 22 looks exactly like my pup from Chesterfield. I share your pain. I have been heartbroken since Friday as well. I was there on Saturday and the faces will haunt me.

Animals Alone said...

Thanks for writing this Jeanne - heartbreaking to think the authorities we're taught to respect and honor as children, can be so deceiving in a world we try to mark with our compassion - I pray that they never put a gun in the hands of those who were doing community services!! And what kind of example was the law setting to those who were doing community services - I hope all involved are punished for this!!

Jeanne said...

Animals Alone, I hear you. It's tough for me because my husband is a law enforcement officer and has dedicated 38 years of his life to public service, 33 of which to the state of NC. So, it hurts to see the a few bad apples make law enforcement appear to be a rotten bunch unworthy of respect. The community service (or inmate trustees) working there are the ones caring for the animals when volunteers aren't there. In fact, had it not been for them, the truth would not have been revealed when it was. The ones who should have the guns are the officers, because they certainly misused them.

I appreciate your comment, and have added my follow to your blog. God Bless You.

Riddle's Mom said...

Jeanne, I'm just now seeing this for the first time and am in shock and disbelief. Please let me know if there is something I can do. All of the animals in this shelter (and believe me... even more) are so fortunate to have you an their advocate. How people can turn a blind eye and just shrug this off is beyond me. How law enforcement can even possibly be somehow involved sickens me even more. Bless you for all you do for so many. The rewards of rescue certainly do not come without a painful price. The pain that is often left on our hearts.

Jeanne said...

Riddle's Mom ~ Thank you for your comment and I know it was a tough read for you. It's mind blowing. Just imagine the shock I felt when I saw that it was the shelter that we pulled Summer, Roxy and Molly from -- I'm still shaking my head over it. The only way I can cope with the thoughts and images in my mind is by focusing on doing what I can to ensure that justice is served by networking every avenue I have. I've sent you a note via Facebook on how you can help. Love to you and to Riddle... God bless.

Debbie M.N.. said...

Jeanne..I cried when I read your words about the paw prints in the dirt at the firing range..I saw that on tv..very powerful words.

gloria mckechnie said...

Thank you so much for your passion for animals. I don't have any dogs but I have plenty of cats and I love them just the same. They need to be treated as humane as any other living creature. I will keep a close eye on this story I live in North Carolina, Union County and the shelter there is no better want even let rescue groups in. Would rather kill the animals dosen't make any sense.

Jeanne said...

Gloria, thank you so much for your kind comments. I have rescue kitties that call me momma, too. I'm aware of the "conditions" in Union County, it's one of the reasons I'm hoping that an example be made of the Chesterfield County Shelter and Animal Control Officer's in hopes that change will be made across the border (and across the US). In Wisconsin they only have no kill shelters. We need that across the nation! God bless you!

Anonymous said...

I got my dog at that shelter too. I can't go a day now without thinking of those who were left behind, and shot to death. I am disgusted.


Whoa! This is horrible. I have not heard anything like this ever before. This should definitely be national news. Everyone needs to hear about this. I'm not surprised by the animal shelter thing though. I don't trust them. Everyone knows when they only give animals a limited amount of time, and then they put them to sleep (kill them). If you want to make sure animals are taken care of, then do it yourself, because no one else will. People need to be held responsible for this.

Mandy Price-Moin said...

I did a google search on "exposing animal shelters to the media" and this came up. This is so heart-breaking. I visited a shelter for the first time today. I live in NC, but I grew up in Galax, Virginia (very rural area). Galax is where I went to pull two dogs out today. A friend of mine and I starting pulling some out last month and finding them homes. I've heard for the last two years that the women who work there would rather dispose of these babies than network to find them homes. I'm finding this to be very true. I had a rescue going down today to pick up two other dogs (Great Pyreneese). I couldn't take them out because they were not neutered and I was not a VA resident. Anyway, I had a woman from the rescue on her way. The shelter closed at 4, but she called stating she would be there at 4:10. The reply of the animal control officer there was "ummm, I have plans and can't wait". Ten minutes, really, you can't wait ten minutes to save two dogs? This isn't the first time this has happened, but I got to witness it first hand today. I have contacted the City Manager, but I want to go further. I had sent him an email last week, his reply was not positive at all. So, after the incident today I just send him another email. They do not even allow volunteers at this shelter...what kind of BS is that? Anyway, information on how I can continue further would be greatly appreciated. They do no calling to rescues, networking, nothing! My friend actually set up a FB page for the shelter, and goes there once a week to take pictures. They employees should be doing this! Something needs to be done...I'm just asking for advice on how to proceed? BTW, your babies are beautiful = ) you can contact me at for ideas that may help me.

Jeanne said...

Mandy, first of all thanks for having a heart for animals and a desire to rescue AND expose what's happening in Galax. When we encounter, or become aware of such heartlessness (and heartless) acts of animal cruelty in shelters, in order to change things, we must step up and expose them, as well as work for justice. You are doing just that! If you don't mind, I'm going pass on your comment to a friend I made through the Chesterfield "crises" who can assist in exposing the Galax situation further. Also, don't hesitate to bring to the media's attention. The media has been a big help in exposing Chesterfield with their coverage and investigative reporting. One reporter in particular has done a number of feature stories on the case and her investigative reporting has been instrumental in bringing even more atrocities into the light of public opinion. As far as Chesterfield, we're still hoping to achieve justice, but the wheels of justice turn slowly and particularly re. Chesterfield due to a lot of contributing factors. However, there are a number of us behind the scenes they will never drop it. It's been like a 9/11 event to me in that it's changed me forever. In fact, I created a new blog because of it that's in memory of the Chesterfield 22+, and to use it as a vehicle to expose and fight for justice you may want to follow:

I'll be emailing you soon. I'm going to be away from home today, but promise to get in touch with you via email.

God bless. I know your heart is breaking over those dogs not getting their chance to have a foreverhome. I can't fathom why 10 more minutes couldn't be given knowing rescue was on the way. What a sad example of a cold hearted human.