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Tag: charges

NC’s first lady supports new charges against former animal shelter director


A week after Guilford County prosecutors declined to pursue felony charges against the former county animal shelter director, Sheriff BJ Barnes was back before the cameras to announce new charges, and with a new ally at his side.

Barnes announced yesterday that former shelter director Marsha Williams has been served with five new misdemeanor citations for animal neglect.

He made the announcement with North Carolina’s First Lady, Ann McCrory, sitting next to him, and, next to her, Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning.

Barnes was critical of the district attorney’s decision to not pursue felony animal cruelty charges against Williams and other two other former staff members he says were responsible for “horrendous” conditions at the shelter.

McCrory said she supports the effort and asked the district attorney to reconsider prosecution of the case.

On November 1, the district attorney’s office said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the former Guilford County Animal Shelter employees who had been charged after an investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Similar charges have been filed, and are still pending, against Williams and two other employees of the shelter in Davidson County, which was also operated by the nonprofit group United Animal Coalition.

In Guilford County, Sheriff deputies spent several months investigating allegations of animal abuse, mismanagement of funds and potential drug violations.

But officials in the district attorney’s office said the evidence to pursue cruelty charges was insufficient, showing a “systemic failure,” but pointing to no particular culprits who could be held responsible.

Sheriff Barnes voiced displeasure with that decision when it was made.

And yesterday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, he insisted the charges should be pursued, at least against the shelter director.

“Marsha Williams, as the manager, was in complete control. There was no decision made, live or die, without her being involved in the process,” he said.

Barnes also requested the cases in the two counties be consolidated, and be prosecuted in Davidson County.

McCrory, an animal rights advocate, said she’d requested to meet with Barnes to discuss the charges and show support for the case.

“This went beyond anything I’ve ever heard of in my life,” she said. “It’s basically torture. It’s beyond me that the Davidson County district attorney is going to prosecute. If that person has enough to charge and make a case … why don’t we have that in Guilford County?”

(Sheriff BJ Barnes, left, First Lady Ann McCrory, and Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning; photo by Andrew Krech / Greensboro News & Record)

Sheriff disagrees with DA’s decision not to charge Guilford shelter employees

barnesThe sheriff of Guilford County is making it clear he disagrees with the district attorney’s decision not to file animal cruelty charges against former managers and employees of the Guilford County Animal Shelter.

Sheriff BJ Barnes took to Facebook to voice his displeasure with the decision.

“We still have missing animals that cannot be identified by records available. We have dead animals stacked five foot high in the shelter freezer with no explanation as to why, the shelter had a crematorium. We still have computers to review, but it seems that criminal charges for abuse are not going to happen,” Barnes wrote.

The DA’s office announced earlier this week that cruelty charges would not be pursued against three employees, all of whom also worked at the Davidson County Animal Shelter and still face charges there.

The three were part of the United Animal Coalition, which ran both shelters until the nonprofit organization’s license was revoked in August, about a month after investigations into the two shelters began.

Barnes said the sheriff’s office presented the Guilford County DA with the “five most horrendous cases of abuse we found at the shelter … I will not go into particulars out of respect for those like me who love animals, but know it involves broken bones, open wounds and some missing body parts,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

Barnes said prosecutors thought it would be too difficult to prove who was actually responsible for the abuse.

“The ultimate decision was the shelter manager’s, but her defense could be she was not told of the situation by her subordinates and the documentation was so poor (also the managers responsibility) that it became one person’s word against the other person’s word, both with vested interest.”

Barnes added, “The atrocities that occurred at the shelter are hidden by poor management, poor oversight by management and the board and poor oversight by both the state and the county. I’m saying this now because since the DA is not going to prosecute the facts can be brought out without fear of hurting the case.”

The sheriff said that the shelter, since its operation was taken over by the county, is “in better shape now … and things have been put back in order. Someone should have to be held accountable for the pain and suffering of the animals at both shelters…”

The DA and Guilford County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the shelter in July, looking into allegations of animal cruelty and financial misappropriation at the shelter. The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the potential financial misconduct by the nonprofit group running the shelter.

A similar investigation in Davidson County resulted in indictments against the same three employees on felony animal cruelty charges — former shelter director Marsha Williams, her daughter Dana Williams-King and Marissa Studivent, a veterinary technician.

Studivent’s husband told FOX8 he is not surprised that Guilford County decided not to pursue charges against his wife. He said Davidson County should not have, either.

“These charges were unjust and unfair and never should have happened,” Michael Studivent said. “And the fact that Guilford County has turned around and said there’s nothing here — yeah that does validate my point.”

In addition to animal cruelty, Williams faces two charges of keeping a controlled substance at the Davidson County shelter as well as two felony counts of obstruction of justice.

Davidson County officials said Monday they are still reviewing the charges the three employees face there.

Woman insists taping dog’s mouth shut was joke


A Salisbury, N.C., woman insists it was just a joke when she posted a photo of her dog with her snout taped shut, but she has been charged with animal cruelty all the same.

Kimberly Ann Howell, 25, posted the photo above on Facebook, along with these words:

“I warned her. I told her I was going to teach her not to bite the baby again, even play biting. LOL. She so pidiful (sic). I can’t even make her keep it on for five minutes. LOL. She jumped up on me and was like but please mamma.”

howellAmid some critical comments, Howell took the post down, but not before someone — concerned either about the dog or the infant — tipped off county officials, who referred the matter to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Salisbury Post reported.

A detective questioned Howell, who insisted the dog, a young mixed breed named Leah, managed to quickly get the duct tape off her face. She also insisted the dog was not harmed.

The detective examined the dog and found her to be in good health with no other signs of abuse or neglect.

Howell, however, was charged with animal cruelty, jailed, and later released on $3,000 bond on the cruelty charge and failure to appear for outstanding traffic charges.

Leah was left in the custody of the family after the detective consulted with animal control officials about the case. Howell was told that a follow-up visit might take place to ensure the dog was being treated properly,

Since her initial post, Howell has responded repeatedly to the barrage of criticism she has been receiving online.

“Wow ok maybe I should of said I was joking when posting that,” she wrote on Facebook. “But honestly though people would know better anyone who spend (sic) a week at my house would see how spoiled and loved my dog is. Anyways guess I really didn’t think through but anyone who knows me knows when I got Leah she [was] skin and bones how (sic) that animal abusee (sic).”

(Photo of Leah from Facebook, photo of Howell from Rowan County Sheriff’s Office)

Euthanasia, or murder?

zeus1“Euthanasia” isn’t really the correct word for what animal shelters do to dogs.

When a dog is in pain, the use of the word may be apt.

When it’s not a mercy killing — but an act that takes place because a shelter is overcrowded — calling it euthanasia, as much as that may make it more palatable to the public, is a misnomer.

And it’s definitely not the word to use when a shelter worker takes their neighbor’s dog — without their neighbor’s knowledge — drives it to the shelter and gives it a lethal injection.

An animal welfare employee in Ada, Oklahoma, has has been accused of animal cruelty after allegedly doing just that.

Marteen Silas, a certified animal euthanasia technician for the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), took her neighbor’s dog — a pure white Siberian Husky named Zeus — because it was chasing her livestock, according to court records.

She then allegedly drove the dog to PAWS and “immediately euthanized it with a schedule II controlled dangerous substance,” KFOR reported.

KFOR obtained a recording of a telephone conversation in which a former PAWS employee, Jim Nowlin, says Silas tells him why she killed the dog.

A voice he claims to be Silas’ is heard explaining the dog was “a punk” who was “chasing our cows, and chasing our horses.”

Two employees told investigators Silas knew the dog was her neighbor’s, and that she told employees to keep the procedure a secret.

PAWS officials said Silas is no longer employed at the shelter.

A Facebook page has since been set up, demanding justice for Zeus.

Four indicted in Green Acre boarding deaths


The owners of Green Acre Dog Boarding and two caretakers, including the son of a senator, were indicted yesterday on animal cruelty charges in connection with the deaths of more than 20 dogs at the kennel in Gilbert.

Owners Jesse Todd Hughes and his wife, Maleisa Hughes, were indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury on 22 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, according to County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office.

The two caretakers in charge of the kennel while the owners were on vacation in June — Logan Flake, the Hughes’ daughter, and her husband, Austin Flake — were indicted on 21 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.

Austin is the son of U.S Sen. Jeff Flake,R-Ariz. All four defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 23, the Arizona Republic reported.

The indictments came after more than four months of investigation by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s offie, which learned early on that 28 dogs at the kennel had spent the night in one 9-foot-by-12-foot room.

Some customers arriving to pick up their dogs were told their pets had run away, when in fact they had died.

“How would you like your dog stuffed in a small room? Twenty-eight dogs,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Wednesday night. “Think about that. I feel sorry for the owners. … This has been one of the toughest cases we have worked. We had over 17 people work this case, between the posse, other volunteers, our deputies.”

The Hughes told investigators that a dog had apparently chewed through a wire, cutting off  the air-conditioning in the single room they were being kept in, but the air conditioning was found to be functioning.

A spokesman for the county attorney’s office said the charges stem from the deaths of 21 dogs and the injury of four others at the kennel.

“We have to prove how each of those dogs died,” said Jerry Cobb. “They basically suffocated. They were in a tight room without enough air.”

One of the dogs escaped from the kennel and was found on the side of a Gilbert road weeks later, hit by a car.

Dennis Wilenchik, an attorney for the Flakes, said he will file a motion to dismiss the case or remand it back to the grand jury. “They’re innocent,” he said. “They will be proven innocent. There is no evidence to convict them of any felony charge.”

(Photo: Green Acre client Valerie Collins looks under a blanket where her two dogs lie; by D.S. Woodfill / The Republic)

Felony charges urged in Green Acre case


Justice for the more than 20 dogs who died at an Arizona boarding kennel came one step closer this week with a recommendation from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that both felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges be brought against the kennel’s owners and two caretakers, one of them the son of a U.S. senator.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he is recommending prosecutors file 21 felony charges of neglect against Todd and MaLeisia Hughes, who own Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert; their daughter Logan Flake; and her her husband, Austin Flake, who is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

The final decision on filing charges will be made by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the Arizona Republic reported. He says that process could take a few weeks.

Authorities found 21 dead dogs on the property June 21 when they went to the kennel after customers began learning something was amiss.

Some customers whose dogs had died while cramped with more than 25 others in a 12-by-12-foot laundry room were told their dogs had run away. Later, the kennel owners said there had been a “freak accident” that knocked out the room’s air conditioning.

The sheriff’s department investigation concluded the dogs died of “apparent suffocation and overheating.”

Two other dogs also died, including one who ran away.

The kennel owners were on vacation in Florida when the dogs died, and had left the animals in the care of the Flakes.

Sheriff Arpaio, said to have a soft spot for dogs, vowed at the investigation’s start to get to the bottom of what happened:  ”If a crime occurred, someone will be held accountable,” he said. It took nearly three months to accomplish that, but Arpaio was being praised this week, by the owners of pets who died and some members of the news media.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts commended Arpaio’s actions, saying, ”Of course, there are bigger cases to be cracked, more horrifying things that happen to humans every day. But on this day, there is no more important story than this one and the statement that it makes.

“For Parker and Rosie and Zed. For Ellie and Roxie and Francis.For Remy and Buick. For Valor and Patrick and Sonny.

“For a pair of Bernese Mountain dogs named Carson and Daisy.

“For all good dogs everywhere.”

(Photo: A memorial created near the Green Acre kennel in Gilbert to commemorate the more than 20 dogs that died there; by Corina Vanek / The Republic)

Search finds little evidence to back up claim that chewed-through wire led to deaths

Necropsies conducted on some of the victims, and an intensive search of the Arizona boarding kennel where more than 20 dogs died, have revealed no evidence supporting the belief that a chewed-through electrical cord led to the deaths.

That, ever since the dogs died virtually overnight nearly a month ago, has been the claim of kennel owner MaLeisa Hughes, seen defending herself (and attacking the news media) in the raw interview footage above.

Hughes and her husband, Todd Hughes, were out of town when the dogs died, and had left the dogs under the supervision of their daughter, Logan Flake, and her husband, Austin Flake, who is the son of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

The dogs — some dead, some dying — were discovered early in the morning on June 20, most of them held in the same 9-foot by 12-foot room.

Upon their return, Hughes’ husband told at least some of the owners of the deceased dogs that their pets had run away — another inconsistency MaLeisa Hughes attempts to explain in this June 23 meeting outside the kennel with the news media.

Last week, Maricopa County Sheriff’s detectives searched Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert, seizing parts of an air conditioning system to determine if it failed.

Necropsies performed on seven of the 21 dogs also found no evidence to validate the kennel-owners’ statement that a dog had chewed through an electrical wire and cut the power to an air conditioning unit.

“On the dogs that were necropsied, there was no evidence found to support or suggesting electrocution,” concluded Dr. Bernard Mangone, the veterinarian who performed the necropsies at Palm Glen Animal Hospital. He said results indicate the dogs suffocated, but that more testing is required to pinpoint a cause of death.

Tissue samples were sent to the University of Arizona for further testing and to the University of Michigan to determine if the dogs were drugged, according to Arizona Republic.

Mangone wrote that it is possible the dogs died of heat stroke or lack of oxygen.

“The dogs begin to pant and become agitated which increases both their oxygen need and the amount of (carbon dioxide) they are producing,” Mangone wrote.

The search warrant indicates that investigators confiscated computers, cell phones and records associated with the operation of the facility, CBS 5 reported. Detectives also took samples of insulation and wiring from the small room where the dogs were found dead.

As of today, no arrests have been made and no criminal charges have been filed.