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Tag: guilford 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)

Guilford County Animal Control office warns tetherers, $500 fines are coming soon


Residents of Greensboro who tie up their dogs and leave them unattended can expect to start receiving warnings this week, and $500 fines by September, as Guilford County’s anti-tethering ordinance comes closer to being fully phased in.

The ordinance, approved by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in 2013, prohibits the tethering or chaining of a dog without the owner present, or the use of any tether or chain less than 10 feet long.

To the uninformed, it might seem odd — an agency called “Animal Control” telling people to un-tether their dogs — but it’s another example of how, amid a new sensibility about dogs, the duties of such agencies have outgrown their name, and have (rightly) become more about helping animals than controlling them, and therefore should be called something else, something less archaic, something like the office of Animal Protection.

We tried to make that case last week, arguing that a new name could also go a long way toward improving the image of  those offices, and pushing those that are still living in the past into modern times.

Animal protection, we think, is a better description of their modern day duties, or at least what their modern day duties should be.

Responding to complaints about chained dogs, and helping to free them, is a perfect example of that.

Guilford County Animal Control officers will be investigating complaints about tethered dogs and issuing written warnings to the owners until Sept. 1, when fines will go into effect. Until then officials will continue to educate residents about the new ordinance.

“We’ve done good about getting the word out and handing out fliers, posters and brochures to let people know it’s coming and it’s going,” Logan Rustan, the manager of Guilford County Animal Control, told the Greensboro News & Record. “But believe it or not, a lot of people just still have no clue.”

The ordinance took effect last March but is being phased in gradually to give residents time to comply.

It was welcomed by animal activists, and particularly by Unchain Guilford, a nonprofit organization that helps dog owners construct fences as an alternative to tying up their dogs.

Tethered dogs left unattended can easily injure themselves, and often develop behavioral problems.

“If you’re chained to a small area your entire life, you’re going to have issues interacting with other people — whether you’re a dog or a human,” said Ellen Metzger, a committee member for the group.

Many dogs who spend their lives tethered outside can easily make the transition to inside dogs, with a little training.

Greensboro resident Jennifer Thompson found that out when, shortly after the county passed the ordinance, she contacted Unchain Guilford for help.

Her 10-year-old pitbull-chow mix, Spike, had spent most of his life tethered in her yard.

“He was so big and was at the point where he would jump all over,” Thompson said. “I was kind of fearful of him.”

In Thompson’s case, volunteers also taught her training techniques to help Spike behave better. Spike lives inside the house now.

“I didn’t know this dog is so lovable,” she said. “e sat outside all these years, and he just wants somebody to love him. He’s such a sweet dog. I would not keep another dog outside, knowing what I know now.”

(Photo: Jennifer Thompson and her dog Spike; by JERRY WOLFORD / Greensboro News & Record)

Gov. McCrory shows his soft side

While he’s not viewed as particularly warm and cuddly by Democrats — at least when it comes to helping humans in need — N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory says he wants the public to adopt abandoned and mistreated dogs, and he and the first lady are opening up the governor’s mansion (or at least its yard) for an adoption event tomorrow.

McCrory is shown in this News & Observer video petting a pomeranian, seized in a recent puppy mill bust in Pender County.

Lexi will be among as many as 30 dogs — some coming from as far away as Greensboro and Charlotte to attend — who will be available for adoption at the event, which runs from 10:30 12:30 p.m. Saturday

While it seems odd protocol for an adoption event, anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP by today — by emailing

The governor and first lady Ann McCrory are also promoting a bill to set minimum standards for breeding operations.

While the proposal isn’t too tough, relative to measures passed in other states, it sets standards ensuring that dogs have daily exercise, fresh food and water, shelter and veterinary care at breeding operations with at least 10 females.

The measure passed the House but didn’t get heard in the Senate before it recessed. The General Assembly reconvenes in May.

“I’m not going to give up on the bill,” the governor said at the press conference announcing the adoption event Wednesday. ”This dog issue is not a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s an independent issue for every one of us.”

The McCrorys have one dog, Moe, who lives at their Charlotte residence.

Burned puppy in N.C. rallies back to health

susieA 3-month-old puppy burned and left for dead in a park in North Carolina has — amazingly — recovered and is soon to be adopted.

Meanwhile, her former owner, Lashawn Whitehead, made a court appearance yesterday — the first since he was jailed in Greensboro on felony charges of animal cruelty and “burning personal property.”

Whitehead’s mother told the Greensboro News & Record yesterday that her son was afraid the puppy might harm his newborn child.

The dog, since named Susie, was found in Greenfield Park with burns covering more than 60 percent of her body. A pit bull-shepherd mix, had a broken jaw, broken teeth and second and third degree burns on her head, back, stomach, tail and legs.

Veterinarians estimated she had been laying in the park for weeks, based on her body being infested with maggots.

The dog has had extensive treatment for her injuries and is expected to be adopted soon.

“We are really impressed and amazed at how she’s recovering,” said Marsha Williams, director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter.“We didn’t think it would happen this quickly.”

Sixty people have signed up to adopt the puppy, the Greensboro News & Record reported in October.