County officials place the blame on the pet’s owners. However, the incident has sparked county officials to implement a new rule, effective May 10, for county shelter workers to write down names and telephone numbers of people interested in adopting specific animals.
The idea, he said, is to contact them before euthanizing an animal.
April Kirk, of Cedartown, owned Max, an 8-year-old Labrador-Husky mix. Kirk asked her sister-in-law, Kelly Kelley, to watch Max while she went on vacation in early May.
Max escaped Kelley’s property Thursday, May 3, Kelley said. Animal control personnel picked the dog up on North Cave Spring Road on May 3, according to animal control records.
Kelley said she looked for Max around her property over the May 4 weekend and went to animal control on Tuesday.
“I saw him and I said I want that dog,” she said.
According to Kelley, the female worker, identified by the county later as Dana Parish, told her she couldn’t take him home.
“She said only the owner can pick him up and said, if the owner was not here, then he would be available for adoption,” Kelley said.
Kelley said Parish told her Max would be available for adoption on Thursday, May 10, at noon.
Kelley said she went back at noon on May 10 and Max wasn’t there. Kirk, who was returning from vacation, also went to the shelter shortly after Kelley and Parish began searching records.
“She told me he was given to the owner and I said I am the owner,” Kirk said.
Eventually, Kelley said she confirmed through the vet assigned to the shelter that Max had been euthanized Thursday morning before the shelter even opened.
“We had family out trying to get him back,” Kirk said. “He was a house dog and spoiled rotten. It kills me to think he was in there.”
County officials tell a different story. County Manager Clinton Lester and Assistant County Manager Matt Denton said Kelley lied to animal control officials about her connection to the dog to avoid a possible $200 fine for violating laws regarding rabies tags and containment.
“She said no, that’s not my dog. I want to adopt the dog,” Denton said.
They said, and county records show, Max did not have a collar, a rabies tag or a microchip.
“If she had been honest, this situation would have been avoided,” Lester said.
Lester said, had Kelley been honest about losing the dog, the county would have charged her $25 and she could have taken the dog home when she found him Tuesday.
He put the sole responsibility of the incident on Kelley.
“I’m not going to leave my dog sitting in a kennel,” Lester said, adding that he would have been at the shelter the next day instead of five days after a dog is missing.
“I’d be down there every day until my dog showed up,” he said.
Kelley said she never lied and wasn’t concerned about a fine. She said Parish asked if she was the owner and she said no. That’s when she was told only the owner could get him released. Otherwise, Max would have to be adopted after the five-day hold was up, which was on Thursday.
She said her memory of the conversation with Denton is different from his version.
Denton said it wouldn’t have matter if shelter workers knew the whole story, according to Kelley.
“Then he turned it around and said I couldn’t have gotten Max, only the owner could have gotten him,” she said.
Denton said the county has learned from the incident.
“If there was anything in this we would do differently next time,” Denton said. “It would have been to communicate to her that Thursday is euthaniza day.”
Denton said shelter workers didn’t write down Kelley’s name and contact information, so there was no way to contact her before Max was euthanized.
He said most people stating they will come back to adopt don’t come back, so workers have never documented interested persons.
Animal control intake records state Max was healthy, so Denton was asked why he was killed and not put on an adoption list.
Denton said that is Polk County Director Jeff Crawford’s decision and county policy is any dog can be killed after remaining in the shelter for more than five days.
However, Max had a skin condition and that is what prompted Crawford to have him euthanized.
It doesn’t appear from animal control records in the case that Crawford knew someone was interested in the dog.
The case bears a resemblance to that of the an Aragon family’s dog Ace, who was euthanized a few months ago after only spending one night in the shelter. Ace also had a skin condition, but shelter officials claim the dog was euthanized because he was sick, throwing up and bleeding.
Denton turned over written statements by Crawford and Parish in the latest case.
Crawford said he was doing paperwork when he heard Kelley calling an employee a liar. Kelley told him Parish had lied to about picking up a dog and that she knew the dog’s owner.
“I asked her if she knew who owned it, why didn’t she tell us and why was she trying to adopt it,” Crawford said in his statement.
“She told me and several other people in the office that she couldn’t pay the ticket. I told the young lady that she couldn’t be charged with anything because she didn’t own the dog.”
Parish said in her written statement that she did tell Kelley that the dog wouldn’t be available for adoption until May 10 and that the shelter didn’t open until lunch.
Parish said she told Kelley the dog wasn’t at the shelter when she returned that Thursday. She said Kirk also came in asking about the dog and, after a walk through the kennel, Parish began looking at intake records and found out he had been euthanized that morning.
Parish also said in her statement Kelley could have reclaimed the dog on Tuesday had the whole situation been explained.
Kelley said the county’s statements are simply to avoid responsibility for a mistake at the shelter.