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Tag: north carolina

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)

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)

Animal cruelty warrants issued for three former Davidson County shelter workers

marshawilliamsA grand jury returned animal cruelty indictments this week against three former employees of the Davidson County Animal Shelter as investigations continue into allegations of abuse there and at the Guilford County shelter.

Arrest warrants were issued yesterday for Marsha Williams, the former executive director of both shelters, as well as her daughter Dana Williams-King. Also indicted was Marissa Studivent, another director of the Davidson shelter.

Williams also faces two felony counts of obstructing the investigation and one felony count of possessing a controlled substance at the Davidson shelter.

Both facilities were managed by the United Animal Coalition, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that took over operation of the Guilford shelter in 1998, and took control of the Davidson shelter in December.

Both shelters had their licenses revoked by the N.C. Department of Agriculture in August.

The indictments stem from claims that the three women neglected to provide humane treatment to a dog admitted to the Davidson shelter in May with a broken back, the Greensboro News & Record reported.

The dog had been diagnosed with paralysis from the shoulders down, but she languished in her kennel for three days with no veterinary care before being euthanized.

That was the incident that sparked an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture, which found abnormally high numbers of animals had died in their kennels at the Davidson shelter.

The Lexington Police Department has been investigating the shelter, as has the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Despite the indictments, those investigations remain ongoing, as does a a separate investigation into the Guilford County shelter, by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.

(Photo: Marsha Williams, by Lynn Hey / Greensboro News & Record)

Sheriff department’s dog raffle called off after flood of complaints on social media


The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina has been holding a dog raffle for years, but this year’s contest has been called off after a flood of criticism on social media.

The raffle, held to raise money for the department’s canine unit, is part of the county fair and it offers a chance to win a German shepherd pup for $1.

But after posting details of this year’s raffle on its Facebook page, the department drew thousands of complaints — most of them calling the contest irresponsible and objecting to randomly awarding a dog to a family that had not been screened first.

“I’m sure this is being done with good intentions. However, please reconsider,” one resident wrote. “You have no way of knowing what kind of home this pup will go to… Perhaps you could pair up with the local shelter and do a fundraiser with them and in turn encourage residents to adopt from the shelter.”

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman did not comment on what precautions might be taken to screen the raffle winner when contacted by the Shelby Star.

But Captain Richard Acuff later said the sheriff’s office has used a screening process in the past, including a visit to the winner’s house to make sure it’s a safe environment.

Nevertheless, on Friday, the sheriff’s office posted notice on its Facebook page that the raffle was cancelled:

“The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office has cancelled the raffle for the German shepherd puppy that was going to be raffled at the Cleveland County Fair. Our original post did not state that in the past years we have required the person that won the drawing to be subjected to Cleveland County’s Animal Adoption Policy.

“Due to the overwhelming outcry we have teamed with a reputable 501.C3 animal rescue that has agreed to help in finding a suitable owner for this puppy… The Sheriff’s Office will be looking into other fundraising projects to help support our K-9 program. If you purchased tickets you will be contacted and your money will be refunded.”

A spokesperson for a local animal rescue group says the raffle is risky because the puppy could end up in the wrong hands.

“Just because someone can afford a dollar for a raffle does not mean that they can afford lifelong care for an animal,” Brianna Duffy, a spokesperson with Catering to Cats and Dogs told Fox 46 News.

“We rescue a lot of dogs that have been used as bait dogs, dogs that have been sold to any person on the side of the road to just have it for their own personal use, which is not positive,” she added.

A GoFundMe page was set up Friday on behalf of the sheriff’s department.

Posted by The American Pit Bull Foundation in Charlotte, it seeks to raise enough funds to cover what the sheriff department would have made through the raffle.

Another N.C. shelter accused of cruelty


Another North Carolina animal shelter has come under fire from the state Department of Agriculture — this time the county-operated shelter in Stokes County, where an investigation found dogs were being inhumanely euthanized.

The Veterinary Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture released documents Friday showing inspectors found credible evidence that shelter director Phillip Handy and employee Darryl Sheppard “performed, participated in and/or witnessed the inhumane euthanasia of multiple animals that involved improper euthanasia administration.”

The allegations, now being investigated by the state Bureau of Investigation, include putting down one dog by gunshot, failing to confirm the death of an animal, and improper disposal of an animal. The report also accuses the two men of putting dogs down prior to the 72-hour holding period.

The shelter (pictured above) is located in a cinder block building in Germanton.

The division revoked both Handy and Sheppard’s certifications to perform euthanasia, and both have been relieved from duty, according to Stokes County Manager Rick Morris.

This summer has also seen the Department of Agriculture revoke the licenses of animal shelters in Guilford County and Davidson County, citing a “systemic failure to care for animals.” Both were run by the United Animal Coalition under contracts with the counties.

And last week, news surfaced of a dog at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter being mistakenly euthanized.

The Stokes County shelter was closed for two weeks in July, for what county officials said was state-ordered maintenance and repairs.

County Manager Morris assured the public then that animals housed there at the time would not be euthanized.

The revocation notice from the state — instructing the shelter to cease all euthanizations — was issued two days before the temporary closure.

Animal advocates in Stokes County have been working to improve the shelter and are raising funds to open a new no-kill shelter, with around $180,000 raised so far.

(Photo: By Jennifer Rotenizer / Winston-Salem Journal)

Lost, blind and deaf, poodle gets some help in making the 770-mile trip home


A blind, deaf, elderly poodle who went missing from her home in North Carolina a month ago was to be reunited with her family today after being found on the side of a road in Massachusetts.

Coco, a white miniature poodle, was flown to Johnston County’s airport Sunday morning by Pilots N Paws, a non-profit group of pilots and plane owners around the country who fly rescued, shelter and foster animals to new homes.

Today, her owner, Toby Brooks of Concord, N.C., was scheduled to drive to Clayton, in Johnston County, to pick her up.

According to Brooks, she let Coco out into the yard one day last month and, a minute later, she had disappeared. Coco wasn’t wearing a tag and was not microchipped.

They were still searching for her when Coco turned up 770 miles away.

On Aug. 9, in the small, central Massachusetts town of Belchertown, an animal control officer received a tip about a stray poodle on the road and picked her up, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Anna Kuralt-Fenton, an animal control officer in Belchertown, said she later posted a picture of the dog on the department’s Facebook page.

After that, the department received a call from someone in Belchertown who said their neighbor had picked a small dog up from the side of the road while traveling in North Carolina and brought it home.

She said the neighbor, who she wouldn’t identify, realized she couldn’t care for the dog and left her on the street.

Kuralt-Fenton got back on the Internet to try and find the dog’s owners, and began networking with animal control officers in North Carolina.

One of them, Angela Lee, an animal control officer in Clayton, began posting photos of Coco on lost and found dog sites, and that’s when she got an email from Coco’s owner.

Veterinary records confirmed the dog found in Massachusetts was Coco.

Kuralt-Fenton went on to help arrange Coco’s flight back to North Carolina, and Lee was there when the plane landed.

“I can’t believe I’m crying,” Lee said, “This isn’t even my dog.”

Lee kept the dog until today.

“I pick up a lot of dogs that are never re-claimed,” she said. “This is the best feeling ever to know she’s going to be home. That’s where she needs to be.”

(Photo: Clayton Animal Control Officer Angela Lee holds Coco shortly after the dog was flown back to North Carolina, by Lil Condo / News & Observer)

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)

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