During our investigation of Alice, the “dog in the box” we’ve written about twice recently, we came to learn of a different problem in Toombs County, Georgia that also demanded our attention. On January 20th 2011, ALL OF THE DOGS (approximately 77) at the Lyons Animal Control were euthanized in one day without prior notice. These dogs, some of which were scheduled to be rescued the very next day, were then thrown into a large pit behind the animal shelter.
Not surprisingly, the incident has engendered accusations of animal cruelty by animal rights organizations, counter claims by the shelter that it had no choice and yet another black eye for the county.
No one knows all of the details (do they really matter given the outcome?) but the explanation provided at the ensuing Chamber of Commerce meeting by Lyons Public Works Director, Darel Corley, was that, “I cleaned the place.” Corley is in a position to make such a decision: as Fire Chief, he has direct responsibility for the Lyons Animal Shelter, which is considered part of the Fire Department. Corley subsequently stated publicly that the decision was made because the shelter was “overrun” with dogs and because he wanted to “start over.” His newest idea of population control is “at the end of every month, whatever dog they can place, they can place (referring to SOAPS), and we’ll go ahead and euthanize whatever’s left and we’ll go ahead and move to the next month.”
Sounds like an easy enough plan, right? Unfortunately, according to Holly Reynolds, foster chair at Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS), the local animal rescue organization that typically pulls most of the dogs out of Lyons Animal Control, indiscriminately putting down all animals at every months end would mean that some dogs would be euthanized without regard to when they arrived; animals are required to be in a shelter for 30 days before euthanization becomes an option.
Consider this: If you lived near Lyons, GA and lost your pet within a day or two of the end of a month, if it ended up at the Lyons Animal Control, Corley’s new plan would likely mean your pet would be put down before you had a full chance to find it. No questions asked, no effort made, nothing.
Perhaps worse is the inhumane manner in which these animals were killed. Nobody is saying which (or whether) veterinarian was on site on January 20th but the license of the attending veterinarian listed on the Lyons Animal Control website, Dr. Chris McRae, expired on 12/31/2010. In addition, in a 2006 Department of Agriculture report Dr. McRae was cited for not only being unable to properly inject dogs but also for returning the animals to kennels post said faulty injection to “stagger and flop” until they died or another injection was attempted. These reports also noted that Dr. McRae did not check for pulses (as is legally required) before throwing dogs in a “backhoe bucket” to be buried.
Even more damaging, a former employee at Lyons alleged that in 2010, unauthorized personnel euthanized dogs and that some had been buried before they were dead. Another informant has come forward indicating he has seen animals beaten before they were killed and that if the Animal Control did not have appropriate medication, the dogs were simply shot.
SOAPS, which partnered with the mayor in 2009 to assist in adoption of as many dogs as possible from the rescue, is demanding answers. Under its agreement a few years ago, SOAPS agreed to pay for the spaying and neutering of each animal that was adopted, built the animal shelter new kennels and assisted in the adoption of between 300-400 dogs. In sum, the organization has spent more than $195,000 assisting this single animal shelter. Because of these efforts, euthanasia had not been performed between July 2010 and January 19, 2011.
Ms. Reynolds is horrified, stating that “They’re all dead. There were dogs that had just arrived Wednesday that were euthanized Thursday before their time was up. We pulled dogs from there Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and I told Tyler Corley (a shelter worker) that I would be back Thursday to pick up more and he said ‘OK.’ I called twice Thursday but no one would call me back. They put down dogs that we had slated for adoptions.”
This issue is particularly resonant for us. We adopted Zoey’s older sister, Abby, on August 2, 2006. If the shelter we got her from had used the same process as Lyons Animal Control, she would have been euthanised two days earlier. And we would have never had the chance to enjoy a lifetime of wonderful memories with our sweet, loving dog.