County Ordered to Stop Killing Animals Wanted by Adopters Pending Hearing

dog and cat

Update May 9, 2010: After a hearing on Friday, May 7, 2010, Judge Stanley Carmical denied the county’s motion to dissolve the restraining order, basically extending the restraining order in effect that prevents Robeson County, North Carolina’s public shelter from killing animals wanted by adopters.  

Prior to the hearing the county filed a motion to dismiss the case. The county claims the shelter is exempt from animal cruelty laws and is thus free to euthanize animals even when adopters are actually on the way to the shelter as in this case. The county claims no laws are violated when its shelter staff kills animals despite plenty of kennel space. N.C. Gen. Stat. Sec. 19A-1.1(5).

The county also claims there is nothing illegal about its policy of euthanizing animals after 120 hours. According to the motion filed by the county, the plaintiff, Susan Barrett, should first exhaust administrative remedies to change shelter policies, meaning ask the health department to change the policy. Barrett claims she has done this already a number of times.

The county then claims it has governmental immunity against the lawsuit.   A copy of the county’s motion is attached below for downloading.

The judge declined to hear the county’s motion to dismiss during Friday’s hearing, saying it was filed too late.   

Original report: Susan Barrett is a North Carolina resident who tries to save the lives of animals in the state’s public shelters.  Barrett has routinely pulled or adopted animals from the shelters and put them with rescues in foster care until they can be placed in permanent homes.  

Robeson County, in particular, has a high kill rate, killing 88% of the dogs and cats impounded in the county shelter in 2009. Typically, Barrett notifies the shelter when she plans to adopt an animal to place with a rescue; she places a "hold" on the animal and then retrieves it from the shelter as soon as possible.  

Barrett alleges that Robeson County shelter staff simply ignore her when she places a hold on animals and euthanizes them regardless.

She has filed a complaint in Robeson County District Court against the county, William Smith, director of public health, Jeffrey Bass, manager of animal control, and Albert Lockler, director of environmental health.  Barrett describes occasions when she has arrived at the shelter to pick up an animal and shelter staff will tell her they euthanized the dog or cat anyway even though they knew she was en route to adopt the animal.   

Barrett through her attorney, Calley Gerber, Gerber Animal Law Center, in Raleigh, claims the defendants have committed cruelty to animals, that state laws, N.C. G.S. §§130A-192(c), (d) and 19A-1, indicate animals should be placed in foster care, if possible, during the state mandated 72 hour hold and can be adopted after the 72 hour hold. She also alleges the shelter refuses to hold animals longer than 120 hours even when there is ample space.  

Barrett points out the Robeson County animal shelter can house up to 100 dogs, but it is operated at 50% capacity.  That means dogs are needlessly euthanized just to keep one half of the kennels empty.  A copy of the Complaint is attached below for downloading.

Barrett maintains the defendants’ actions are animal cruelty, causing "unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death". 

Pending a further hearing, a judge has already granted a temporary restraining order, noting "Plaintiff[] ha[s] demonstrated that animals are being killed regularly, sometimes daily…., in lieu of allowing persons to pull such animals from the shelter and save their lives".  The defendants were ordered to stop the cruelty and killing in cases where a hold has been placed to pull or adopt the animal. A copy of the judge’s order is attached below for downloading.

A hearing will be held this week.  


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