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Tag: north carolina

NC shelter may offer dead dogs for sale

Bladen County Commissioners will consider a proposal tonight to start selling the carcasses of dogs euthanized in the North Carolina shelter to a biological supply company.

According to a proposed contract, the company wants to pay $4 each for dead dogs weighing between 25 and 45 pounds, assuming the carcasses are in “reasonably good condition.”

The company would pick up the dogs weekly, preserve the bodies with chemicals and then offer them for sale to “facilities and/or laboratories designed for scientific research and biological educational classrooms” — at prices of $100 or more each.

WECT identified the company as Southeastern Biological Supply.

The county has sold dead cats for $4 each to the company since 2009 — as have Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties in southeastern North Carolina. New Hanover County donates cat carcasses to veterinary schools.

Pender County made $1,604 selling dead cats last year, and Brunswick County raked in $4,788, WECT reported.

It all sounds like a pretty questionable and nasty business — this marketing of carcasses — and historically it has been. But those who defend the practice say it contributes to science, specifically the teaching thereof, and is no less dignified than the traditional means of disposal: taking dead dogs to the landfill.

The Humane Society of the United States, while it doesn’t oppose the transfer of euthanized animals to educational and research institutions, says shelters should not be making money from such exchanges.

“So-called ‘surplus’ dogs and cats are a result of the tragic pet overpopulation and millions of dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in U.S. shelters. When money can be made in dealing in their carcasses, it can give the perception that there may be less incentive for addressing overpopulation or that the shelter would rather gain from this tragedy than spend the money necessary to solve it,” the HSUS says.

The organization also believes the owners of any pet euthanized by a shelter should, when possible, be notified when a carcass is being transferred for scientific research, and it advises shelters to be transparent when it comes to what they do with the carcasses of animals they euthanize.

“Full public awareness of any animal transfer policy is vital to maintaining public trust in animal shelters,” it says.

When it comes to what becomes of the bodies of euthanized pets, I think we are pretty far from full public awareness. Even when the information is made available, it’s a topic most of us prefer not to delve too deeply into.

Still, it manages to rise to the surface once in a while.

Back in the 1980s, it grew into a full blown scandal when it was discovered that employees at Winnebago County Animal Control in Illinois were receiving payments and gift credits in exchange for providing carcasses to a Wisconsin biological supply company.

An investigation by Rockford-area authorities into missing funds in the animal control division of the county Health Department turned up evidence that, between 1982 and 1988, the division was receiving $2.25 per cat and $6 per dog from Nasco International Inc.

The animal-control unit built up a line of credit with Nasco and periodically spent that credit to purchase items from Nasco`s various equipment and gift catalogs, the Chicago Tribune reported in 1988.

A county public health administrator at the time said he thought selling the dog carcasses to a biological supply company was a better idea than the county’s previous arrangement — paying a rendering firm to dispose of dead dogs and cats, which then ended up in products such as lipstick, mouthwash, rubber and even pet food.

In Bladen County, N.C., where dog carcasses are now taken to the landfill, Health and Human Services Director Cris Harrelson insisted getting paid for dead dogs wouldn’t motivate the shelter to kill more.

“We euthanize them only as necessary,” he said. “As long we have room in the shelter, they stay alive.”

Harrelson said the county had the fourth lowest euthanasia rate in the state in 2012.

I checked on the Internet to learn more about Southeastern Biological Supply, but, if it exists, it doesn’t have any online presence.

I did find Carolina Biological Supply, whose website boasts “bigger pigs at same low prices …”

The company offers both dog and cat specimens to educational and research institutes — all preserved in its exclusive “Carolina’s Perfect Solution.”

“Including the dissection of preserved dogs in your AP Biology lesson plans will give students a hands on experience with anatomy that surpasses print or pictures,” the website states.

That’s one of the things that troubles me most about these grisly exchanges. Today, with computer graphics and 3d models and imaging, we have the technology needed to avoid having students chop up animal carcasses in biology class.

But biological supply companies — accustomed to their near obscene profits — aren’t likely to admit that. And leaders of research and educational institutions, for whatever reasons, aren’t either.

So the demand continues, and the companies, seeking ways to meet it, turn to animal shelters.

I’d like to think animal shelters — whether county run or private — would steer clear of it all, for appearances sake if nothing else.

But when it comes to which ones do, and which ones don’t, we don’t really know.

Dog flu arrives in North Carolina


The potentially deadly strain of the dog flu that has sickened thousands of dogs nationwide has made its way to North Carolina.

Two dogs in Asheville and one dog in Winston-Salem were confirmed to have the H3N2 virus at the end of last week, and state officials suspect more than 200 dogs in the state may also be infected.

The confirmed case in Winston-Salem is that of a 10-year-old German shepherd that belongs to Dr. Sandra McAvoy of Abri Veterinary Hospital, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

McAvoy believes Zalea might have gotten the virus from a dog she was fostering for the Forsyth County Humane Society.

The humane society closed its doors Thursday due to concerns about the virus and expects to remain closed for at least 10 days.

Most dogs recover from the sickness within two to three weeks, but secondary bacterial infections can develop and cause more severe illness and pneumonia.

Dog flu is not transmittable to humans, according to the Center for Disease Control. Humans can, however, spread it from an infected dog to an uninfected dog.

The symptoms include cough, runny nose and fever. Other signs can include lethargy, eye discharge, reduced appetite and low-grade fever, officials said.

The state is also testing samples from a cluster of dogs in Greensboro that are showing similar symptoms.

“All dogs are at risk because this is something new, they’ve never been exposed,” said McAvoy. “They don’t have any natural immunity to it. So it’s probably going to run a course and then down the road we’re going to have immune dogs, down the road we’re going to have vaccines so the dogs will be vaccinated and they won’t get it.”

As for Zalea, she’s recovering from pneumonia and McAvoy is hopeful she’ll to pull through.

Two percent of the dogs that have contracted the virus have died.

A state Agriculture Department website is tracking the cases, and features more information and resources for pet owners.

(Photo: Zalea, the German shepherd who was one of the first dogs in North Carolina to be diagnosed with the H3N2 virus; from

Consider yourselves gagged, N.C. citizens


For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.

Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.

Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.

Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.

Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.

Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.

Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.

The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.

Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.

“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”

The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.

“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.

That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.

Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.

As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.

“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”

(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)

Making a splash at the Triad Dog Games

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Ace and his bladder stones stayed home, but the camera and I went to the Triad Dog Games over the weekend and found that, in its second year, the event is making quite a splash.

Held this year at Tanglewood Park, outside Winston-Salem, the two-day event featured dock diving, agility contests, flying disc competitions, dachshund races and flyball and agility demonstrations.

The event raises money for The Sergei Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to families needing help to pay for their pets veterinary care.

The dock-diving dogs were drawing the biggest crowd. Some of the dogs entered into the  competition –  run  by Ultimate Air Dogs! — were seasoned leapers, while others were newcomers who seemed content just to cool off.

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Then there was Petunia, a bulldog who wasn’t part of the diving competition, but managed to find some relief from the heat all the same.

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Bella’s back home, woman charged with theft

bella2Bella, the Maltese mix who mysteriously disappeared two weeks ago from a home in Durham, N.C., has been returned to her family — and in an equally mysterious manner.

Bella wandered away from home on March 11, and, minutes later, a neighbor saw the driver of a car stop and pick her up at an intersection.

A day later Scott and Kerry Holmes received a phone call from a person claiming to have found their dog. But when they didn’t specify a reward amount, the caller hung up without supplying any additional information.

The family contacted police, and began putting up “lost dog” flyers.

Near the end of  last week, a third party contacted the family in an attempt to arrange the return of Bella. The family later met her at a nearby church and picked the dog up.

But neither the Holmes nor police, who have made an arrest in the case, are saying much more than that.

Scott Holmes, an attorney, said Bella was safely returned home Thursday  night. “Our family is so happy she is home. We are celebrating her return. She has slept a lot and seems to be perking up today,” he said.

He declined to offer any specifics about the dog’s return, but did say that his family is collecting reward money for a single mother in Chapel Hill who provided information that led to Bella’s return.

bynumMeanwhile,  police arrested Amanda Shanese Bynum, 28, of Carrboro, and charged her with extortion, larceny of a dog and felony conspiracy, according to the Durham Herald-Sun. According to police, Bynum threatened not to return the dog unless she was paid $600.

According to WTVD, Bella traveled at least as far as Charlotte during the time she was missing. A photograph of her at a Charlotte pet supply store, wearing some  new dog clothes, appeared on Bynum’s social media page, the Holmes family said.

Holmes said that after being returned Bella was lethargic over the weekend, but that she is bouncing back. He said she appeared to be in good shape physically.

“My wife and Bella are catching up on their sleep and are really, really glad to be reunited,” Holmes said. “They’re very close, and they’re doing really well. There’s been a lot of joy in our house since we got Bella home.”

Is missing Maltese being held for ransom?

bella2When a woman stopped her car a week ago to pick up a Maltese mix who’d wandered away from her family’s yard and into an intersection, it appeared to be the act of a good Samaritan.

Then the family got a phone call that indicated otherwise.

The caller, who claimed to have picked up their lost dog at a Durham, N.C., intersection, asked if there was a reward, and hung up when the answer didn’t please her.

The phone call was made six days ago, and the woman hasn’t called back since, according to the owners of Bella.

“She said she had the dog and asked about money and if we had a reward,” recalled Caroline Wilgen. “I said yes, but we hadn’t decided how much and she hung up.”

Bella, a white Maltese-poodle mix, wandered off last Wednesday as her owner unloaded groceries. She made it to the intersection of Cornwallis and Pickett Road.

“Several cars stopped when she tried to cross the road and the person who was closest to the dog scooped it up and then tried to put it in her car,” Wilgen told WTVD.

The next day Bella’s family received the phone call from a woman who said she had found the owner’s contact information on the dog’s collar.

“We received a call Thursday, around 8:00 pm, from the young woman who picked Bella up,” Wilgen’s husband wrote on his blog. “She said that Bella got into her car voluntarily. She sounded a little worried she may be in trouble. … We have hoped she would call back, but so far, nothing.

“We really hope she calls. We are not trying to get her in trouble, we just want Bella home. Maybe a neighbor or friend will recognize Bella and encourage her to do the right thing.”

Wilgen adopted Bella two years ago,  driving seven hours to pick the dog up from a shelter in Tennessee, where she’d been dropped off with matted fur and rotting teeth.

Now Bella needs to be rescued again.

“She’s already been through a lot so if we could bring her home, that’d be great,” Wilgen said.

Directive bans use of gas chambers in N.C.


A simple directive has accomplished what North Carolina’s legislature, despite repeated efforts, couldn’t — and, as of the middle of February 2015, animal shelters in the state will be all but banned from killing unwanted dogs and cats in gas chambers.

For those who waged battles to do way with gas chambers in their home counties, and those who worked to pass statewide legislation ending their use, it’s a cause for celebration.

But it’s also a little confusing. If all it took to change things was a directive from the state Department of Agriculture — basically, a memo — why all the years of bickering, grandstanding and politics (both clean and dirty)?

If only the stroke of an administrator’s pen was needed to end such a cruel and callous process, why did it take so long?

The memo issued this month by the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s veterinary division gives shelters until Feb. 15 to switch to lethal injections. Gas chambers, which kill animals with carbon monoxide — sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups — will only be permitted for “unusual and rare circumstances, such as natural disasters and large-scale disease outbreaks.”

Patricia Norris, the Agriculture Department’s new animal welfare director, said the directive was based on guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which in 2013 finally recommended against the use of gas chambers for “routine euthanasia.”

(We’d disagree with both of the words in that phrase. Ending the life of a dog simply because he’s unwanted or because a facility is overcrowded isn’t a mercy killing; it’s a money-saving killing. And common as the practice is, we hate seeing it called “routine” — which it certainly isn’t for the dog.)

While animal welfare organizations, including the ASPCA, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, have been saying the practice is inhumane for years, it wasn’t until the AVMA adjusted its stance that the state decided to take action.

The Humane Society of the United States hailed the change. “It’s going to lift that stigma that was associated with North Carolina animal shelters,” said Kim Alboum, the HSUS’s state director is quoted as saying in the Raleigh News & Observer. “The pound is gone, and I think that’s something to celebrate.”

Only four of North Carolina’s 197 approved shelters still use gas chambers.

According to the HSUS, North Carolina becomes the 25th state with a formal ban in place. (Many states yet to ban gas chambers are no longer using them.)


“To put an animal inside a gas chamber, their final moments are alone in a dark box,” Alboum said. “Sometimes they don’t die right away. If we have to euthanize animals, at least the animal is touched, at least the animal has some dignity and some human contact.”

Among those to recently cease the practice are Johnston County, which earlier this turned its gassing equipment into a work of art, designed to look like the tree of life. In Cleveland County, a fundraiser was held that allowed donors to “whack the chamber” with a sledgehammer.

Shutting down the gas chambers is a long overdue step in the right direction. Then again, lethal injection isn’t really something to celebrate. What is? The day we stop killing dogs. Period.

(Photo of the gas chamber in Franklin County, NC, by Takaaki Iwabu, from the Raleigh News & Observer; graphic courtesy of Humane Society of the United States)