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Tag: davidson county

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.

Shelters in Guilford, Davidson counties shut down amid continuing investigation


Citing 75 incidents of animal cruelty and a “systemic failure to care for animals,” the N.C. Department of Agriculture on Monday yanked the United Animal Coalition’s license to run animal shelters in Davidson and Guilford counties.

The non-profit organization has been running Guilford County’s animal shelter since 1998, when it was hired by the county to improve conditions.

Seventeen years later, the same sort of allegations have resurfaced during continuing investigations by state and county officials as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Department of Agriculture reports mention more than 100 cases of animals receiving inadequate medical care, including a cat with a broken leg and internal bleeding that went seven days without being seen by a vet and a dog with a gunshot wound to the face who went 12 days without medical attention before being euthanized.

The former shelter director in Guilford County, Marsha Williams, was suspended with pay earlier this month. As of yesterday, that pay was halted and Williams was officially terminated under the orders of the county commissioners.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners convened an emergency meeting Monday, voting unanimously to revoke the United Animal Coalition’s contract and to place the shelter under the county’s control on an interim basis.

A letter of revocation was delivered by hand to the shelter yesterday.

“The things we’ve learned are very disturbing and unacceptable, as I know it is for the community as a whole,” Commissioner Hank Henning, the board’s chairman, said at a press conference after the county commissioner’s meeting. “Our goal is to put transparency and a culture of efficiency back into the shelter, so the community at large can get the services and the shelter that it wants and deserves.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture has been investigating both shelters for about a month following complaints about animal care and conditions, according to the Greensboro News & Record

The Davidson County investigation began after the state agency received a complaint that a dog had arrived at the shelter with a broken back but received no veterinary care.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to investigate potential unspecified violations at both facilities.

Also still investigating are the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department.

“To be quite frank with you, I expect to see criminal charges come out of this,” said Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes.

Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier will serve as interim director of the Guilford County shelter, which will remain closed the rest of the week.

The facility is expected to reopen Aug. 22.

(Photo: Former Guilford County Animal Shelter director Marsha Williams; by Lynn Hey / Greensboro News & Record)

Where a trail of dead dogs has led


When Randi Hileman came upon a trail of dead dogs and cats on the highway in North Carolina, she did what most folks do nowadays. She got out her phone and took some pictures.

She was distressed enough by the scene that, after moving the corpses to the side of the road, she posted the photos on Facebook and called the news media —  all in search of some sort of explanation.

And when, earlier this month, the explanation came, she — and a lot of other people — got even angrier.

trailWhat little official response there was went something like this: Someone failed to properly latch the tailgate of  a truck transporting dogs and cats that had been euthanized at the Davidson County Animal Shelter.

Rather than ending up at their destination, a landfill, their bodies were left strewn along U.S 64, near Interstate 85.

Judy Lanier, the shelter’s director, told inquiring reporters it was a non-story, and apparently convinced a lot of them of that.

Not too many accounts of what happened can be easily found on the Internet, other than this one in the Winston-Salem Journal.

“It was an internal employee mistake that’s been dealt with in less than 30 minutes,” Lanier told columnist Scott Sexton. “Basically it’s a nonstory. There is one thread on one Facebook page where you’ve got less than 10 people beating a dead horse.”

Between being one of only eight counties backwards enough to still use gas chambers to put down dogs, the public opposition to that, the county’s dismal adoptions figures (it reportedly euthanizes 6,000 dogs a year), Lanier’s defensive reaction and the vivid images of what her employee left, however briefly, on the highway, it’s not too surprising that some people are calling for the shelter director’s resignation.

Lanier, while she’s not granting many interviews with the media, is responding to what people are saying on Facebook.

“I never took it lightly,” she says in one comment. “I dealt with it a week ago in a professional expedient fashion … I take issue with this non story that was simply an error of equipment usage being used as another platform for attacking our shelter, our staff and our ethics … Not one cat was adopted due to this story being spread all over face book. Not one of these so called activists stepped through the door to help lessen the overcrowding that requires that truck to make that trip several times a week. Shame on those who criticize that which they don’t understand and those who don’t intend to put their words into action. Journalism when practiced honestly does not require ambushing and exploitation. That’s just his personnel (sic) self aggrandizement in print.

Lanier wrote that none of the animals found on the road had been put down in the gas chamber, and said the shelter uses lethal injection three times more often than it uses its gas chamber. Opponents of the gas chamber, she said,  are using the dead animal spill to fuel their campaign against the use of gas.

“Those animals are the visual picture of what happens in a community that does not spay/nueter (sic), thinks of animals as disposable property and expects a small shelter to absorb their decisions and re home each one. That’s a fact not an excuse but reality.

In another comment, she gets in a shot at the reporter:  ”Must be a slow day in the newspaper world when a columnist can only report week old news and quote a no comment voice mail to make a punch line … Mr. Sexton burnt a bridge he won’t ever cross again today.”

MAP TEMP NEW 2014Lanier further states that she wishes people criticizing the shelter would spend that energy instead on volunteering at the shelter, helping get dogs adopted and educating the public on spaying and neutering.

Amid her comments, an apology can be found.

“The incident where animals were found on Highway 64 on Tuesday, August 8, 2014 was an unfortunate error caused by the tailgate on the animal shelter truck being inadequately secured. The animal shelter truck was in route to the county landfill at the time of the incident. The animal shelter staff acted as soon as possible to correct this error and the staff member involved was extremely sorry and devastated that this had occurred. The shelter staff member is an excellent employee who performs above and beyond every day at the shelter. Measures have been taken by the staff to make sure this never occurs again.

“The Davidson County Animal Shelter apologizes to the public who witnessed this incident. We are aware of the impact this has had on our citizens. The entire incident was due to human error and is regrettable.”

Probably she should have provided that statement to reporters and stopped there, rather than telling them they were “beating a dead horse.” And probably she should have held back on criticizing animal advocates who want to see the gas chamber dismantled.

Criticizing those who see the issues differently is bad for public relations. Badmouthing reporters is bad for public relations. The gas chamber is bad for public relations. Dead dogs on the highway is bad for public relations.

Davidson County officials have the power to do something about one or two of those, or perhaps all four.

(Photos from Randi Hileman’s Facebook page)

Allocation algorithm with promotion to the rhetorical force and logic, logic.