Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dogs shot; animal control director quits (Mars Hill,NC)

The director of animal control in Madison County has resigned after several dogs were shot and killed as shelter staff tried to capture them. The shootings occurred on property where animal control had seized dozens of dogs in September.

County Manager Steve Garrison said Wednesday that animal control officers are not issued firearms and are not authorized to have guns on the job. “The county has not given them permission to carry firearms,” he said.

The shootings occurred on Dec. 31, Garrison said, and Animal Control Director Robert Davidson was “advised that he would be terminated. He requested to resign.”

Madison County Sheriff John Ledford said the situation came about after animal control requested on Dec. 31 that a deputy go with them to Worley Cove Road in the Sandy Mush area as they served an administrative warrant regarding the presence of the dogs.

“Animal control trapped some dogs” and tranquilized others, Ledford said, and then fired shots at others. Challenged by the deputy over their authority to use the firearms, Ledford said animal control assured the deputy they had the legal basis for their actions.

The deputy remained troubled, however, and reported the shootings to his supervisors. That led the sheriff to contact Garrison and the district attorney.

Asked how many dogs may have been shot, Ledford said the deputy, who has not been identified, said it was “possibly four,” and that one survived. “The deputy reported multiple shots being fired” at dogs, Ledford said.

The surviving dog is in the care of a veterinarian, Garrison said.

The scene of the shootings was in the news last year when animal control seized more than 100 dogs. Animal control euthanized them because the animals were uncontrollable and vicious, authorities said at the time.

Since then, Garrison said the shelter “continued to go out there” because some dogs had not been captured and were running wild. He said there were reports of 15 to 18 dogs threatening people. Asked if the dogs were considered dangerous, he replied: “It could be. We’re investigating.”

A dog had bitten two animal control officers at the property in early October, and Garrison said Wednesday that those two officers were also involved in the situation last week.

A message left for Davidson asking for comment had not been returned at the time this report was written.

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