This is a story of a kind and generous woman who removed large dogs from the middle of a dangerous curvy road. The dogs were saved from further injury. Traffic was not impeded that morning. The dogs escaped euthanasia and were returned to their former home. Kelley’s reward was to be threatened with arrest by a Lumpkin County Animal Control Officer.
On the morning of June 7th 2012 as I was on my way to work, I encountered two large dogs loose on Castleberry Bridge Rd. near the section where local residents park at the bridge to play in the river. This was at 6:45 in the morning and traffic is usually fast on this curvy road.
One large dog, a mostly black male lab mix was trying to walk up the middle of the yellow line. As I slowed and searching for a safe place to pull over, I noticed a second dog. She was a large black and white female cattle dog mix with a docked tail. I pulled my truck off the road, grabbed two leads and walked towards the two dogs.
The older, male was walking as if he had been hit by a car, limping badly and dragging his rear feet as he stepped. I was very concerned that one, both, or all of us would be hit by a car because most people drive very fast in this area and cut the curves. I knew that I had to be quick but careful as I did not know the dogs, they didn’t know me and one was in obvious pain.
I walked into the road calling to them and speaking softly. The male didn’t want to come to me at first. The female first allowed me to pet her. I slipped one of my leads around her neck and slowly walked her to my truck, putting her in the back seat.
I then returned for the male, still standing on the yellow line shaking. I spoke to him and began to pet him, slipping my lead around his neck. I did not try to walk him to the truck as he was clearly in a lot of pain. I picked up the 70 lb dog and put him in the back seat of my truck along with his friend.
I then turned my truck around and headed back to the nearest home to knock on doors trying to locate the owners. After about 5 homes and almost 30 minutes one person finally answered the door. But they were also new to the area and didn’t know anyone.
The time is now approaching 7:10-7:15 and I was supposed to be at work on Hwy 306 (Keith Bridge Rd. Cumming) at 7am. I had no choice but to head on into work, a 20 minute drive from where I was and about a mile from where I live.
Upon arrival to my job I quickly set up two large wire cages, the largest we had, with blankets, food and water and brought the dogs into the treatment area. I cannot bring strays anywhere near the general population of my kennel dogs because I don’t know their history.
After setting them up and securing them, I disinfected myself and continued my kennel tech duties. At about 8: 30 am I was able to have CSW (Community Service Workers) take over for me cleaning the kennel so I could get back to the strays that I had found.
I had no other help at the time so by myself I drew blood from a front leg of each dog for heart worm tests, which were negative to my surprise. I took a fecal sample from each dog with a fecal loop and run a flotation parasite test. Both dogs were positive for both hookworms and whip worms. I treated them for the parasites. I then gave each dog vaccines for Bordatella, CIV, Dhpp and gave them Advantage Multi for heart worm prevention and flea control. Both were covered with ticks and fleas.
By this time it was approximately 9:15 am. I then went to the computer in the main office and googled Lumpkin County Animal Control (AC). I called the number listed and spoke with someone in the Sheriff’s office who then patched me through to AC. I explained to the person on the phone that I had found two dogs, gave their description, and told them who I was and where I worked and that I had the animals there at work with me.
The man did not give a name. He told me that if I could bring the animals to their facility by 4pm the male that was in bad shape and had a medical issue would be euthanized that day. The female would be euthanized after five days. I said thank you and exited the phone call. I still have the record of that call on my cell phone.
I then call Lance White, President of the Forsyth County Humane Society, and explained my situation. He said to enter them into our program. I then micro chipped both dogs and gave them names so that the office staff could make them exist in our system.
I went back to the phones at this time, approximately 10 am, and registered the dogs as found pets with Dawson County Humane Society and Forsyth County Animal Control. I found an entry on the computer for PAWS in Lumpkin County and left a message that I had found these two dogs and could not find any other rescue groups to list them with so I returned to my regular duties at the HSFC.
As per protocol in our facility any animal brought into the system has to be in a 10 day quarantine. Having a shortage of foster families and the fact that I found the dogs, I felt I should keep them with me so I took them to my home as fosters.
The next day, June 9th, on my way home from work, I went around in the general area where I found them and continued knocking on doors. I did not see posters, notes or signs of any kind for lost pets in the area. I knocked on approximately an additional 10 doors over the course of three days and drove several miles in either direction of the location where I found the dogs. No signs were put up for lost pets.
By this time it is now Tuesday or Wednesday (June 12th or 13th). My neighbor’s teenage children told me that they believed that there was a family across the main road and up another dirt road who had two dogs that fit the description of the dogs.
I went to the location they suggested. No one was home but a small brown intact male dog. There was no fence and no food or water in sight.
I then went to the next house, this time someone was home. The lady of the house told me that she did know her neighbors very well, but they did have two dogs that matched the description of these dogs and that they got out all the time. She continued that they had several dogs that had been killed on the road over the years. She had a phone number of the owners that she called telling them of the situation. I asked to speak with the owners.
The man on the phone asked me where and when I found the animals. He asked if I could get the dogs and leave them with this neighbor. I told him that we had incurred expenses in taking care of the dogs for now 6 or 7 days, preformed medical procedures, vaccinated and chipped the dogs and were giving the black one pain medication. He informed me that the black dog, Bosco, had been hit by a car about three times over his life and that his back was broken and he was not on pain medication at home.
He went on to state that they had gone on vacation to Florida sometime after Monday and that they were not returning until June 21st. He would not be able to pay for them until then. I let him know that the animals would remain in my care until that time.
He wanted to know how they came into the HSFC’s care and I told him. He further wanted to know why they had been given medical care and vaccines. I told him it was the protocol of our kennel. He wanted to know why there were fees and if that was policy. I explained that we had treated the animals, we had at that time had them for 6-7 days, and that they could not be admitted into our facility without the tests and treatment that I gave them, and that yes, it was policy for owners of pets at large to pay these fees in order to reclaim their pets. He said he understood, that he would be back in town on the 21st, and that he would reclaim them at that time. He wanted to know if we had a payment policy. I told him $200 down with the remainder to be paid within a month.
He said that he had gone to Lumpkin County Animal Control on Monday to look for his dogs and they had no record of me reporting them as found pets. I told him that I had a record of that call.
June 21st came and went and we did not hear from the owners. On the morning of the 22nd at approximately 9:30 am I called the owners to find out if they were going to pick up their pets or if they wanted to surrender them to us. The lady on the phone was VERY curt and told me that she was going to handle it. I again asked her if she planned on picking up her pets or surrender them. She asked for my supervisor’s name and a number where she could be reached. I gave that information to her. She was very rude insisting that I had no right to take her dogs out of county.
Not once in any phone conversation did either owner say thank you for saving their dogs from certain death. She informed me that she was going to get me fired and sue the HSFC.
I remained calm during our conversation and let her know that she was more than welcome to speak with my supervisor but that if she did not pick up her pets by 6:00 pm, they would be put up for adoption as soon as the female could be spayed. She again informed me that she was handling it. She then hung up on me. I informed my supervisor of the conversation.
At approximately 12:12 I received a call from 706-974-7016, the man introduced himself as Officer Beck of the Lumpkin County Animal Control. He informed me that he had been contacted by the dog’s owners and that I was to return the dogs to them.
I informed him, respectfully, that there were fees involved that had to be paid first. He informed me that no fees could be charged and the animals were to be returned for free. I tried to explain to him what had been done to the animals and that at this time we had the dogs for 15 days. He was very curt with me. I asked if he would like to speak with my boss. I gave the phone to Lance White and exited the room. The call lasted 9 minutes and 46 seconds.
At 1:53 I then received another call from Officer Beck informing me that if the animals were not returned to AC by 4 pm, not 4:01 not 4:02 but by 4 pm a warrant for my arrest would be issued. I ask him for what.
He replied Theft by Taking. I informed him that I did not steal the dogs I found them in the middle of Castleberry Bridge Rd. I tried again to tell him what transpired. He did not want to hear me. He again told me that if I did not have them at AC by 4 pm, I would be arrested.
He said that I was not authorized to rescue animals in Lumpkin County. I asked for an explanation. He replied that I was not allowed to rescue animals in Lumpkin County and again told me to take them to AC.
I stated that I understood that part but I did not understand what he was saying about rescuing animals. I asked him what should I do when I see an animal at large. He replied, “leave it and call the AC number so he could be dispatched. “
I then asked him, what if I see an animal that had been hit by a car and injured. He stated, “leave it and call the AC number and he would be dispatched to handle it.” So I stated again, “so let me get this correct, if I see an animal at large, an injured animal of any kind, I am not allowed to render aid of any kind, and I am to leave it lay in the road and call the AC number.”
He replied, “yes.” He again reiterated, “You are to have these animals at the LCAC by 4 pm today, not a minute later or a warrant will be issued and you will be arrested. Do you understand.” I replied, “Yes Sir, I am crystal clear on that point at this time.”
He then hung up the phone. The call lasted 3 minutes and 58 seconds. I informed my supervisor and Lance White of the current situation.
At 3 pm I left work to go to my home and retrieve the dogs. Lance White wanted to go with me to AC to surrender the animals. At approximately 3:50 pm, we arrived at AC and took the dogs inside. We were pretty much ignored upon arrival until a vet tech wearing black scrubs began his intake procedures and questions. His introduced himself as Wayne.
Officer Beck was not there. After about 15-20 minutes, an older man came into the lobby and both Lance and I thought that he was Officer Beck, but he introduced himself as Eddie Harris. He was very to the point and short with us.
After completing the intake questions and finishing his work, Wayne asked another employee to take the animals to the back. She did so.
Wayne then presented Mr. White with a contract to sign, after reading the contract, Mr. White refused to sign it based on language in the contract that addressed seeking damages for the animal’s care.
Mr. Harris then returned to the lobby to discuss the matter with Mr. White. Mr. Harris refused to allow Mr. White to change the contract in any way. After Mr. Harris exited the lobby, I suggested to Mr. White that he not sign the contract, retain the animals, and let Officer Beck issue a warrant for my arrest. He declined my offer as it was Friday and he did not want to see me sit in LC jail over the weekend.
After a couple more conversations with Mr. Harris, Mr. White suggested that Mr. Harris call the Sheriff’s office and let him speak to Officer Beck. A call was placed and Mr. White spoke with someone, I do not know the name of the person.
I then received a call on my phone from David Turk, whom I had contacted earlier in the day, an attorney in the area that has assisted rescue groups in the county. I informed him of the current situation and he spoke with Mr. White. He then placed a phone call to the Sheriff’s office, called me back and spoke with Mr. Harris and Mr. White. After that phone call, he suggested that Mr. White sign the contract and if that contract interfered with him seeking damages for the animals, Turk would represent Mr. White in a civil case.
Mr. White then signed the contract under duress and the animals remained in the Lumpkin County shelter. During the time, over an hour, that we were at the shelter, Mr. White was threatened with my arrest and an investigation into my actions.
I am not sure if or what other threats were made to him while on the phone. Officer Beck was not at the shelter at any time we were there. As Mr. White and myself were leaving the parking lot a Lumpkin County sheriff’s vehicle did pull into the parking lot and I witnessed an officer speaking with Wayne just outside the shelter. At this time it was after 5pm.
In closing I would like to make a few personal statements:
I work for the Humane Society of Forsyth County.
I have worked as a vet tech for many years.
I have done wildlife rescue in S. Florida – as an in the field rescuer capturing animals in need.
I have been rescuing animals since I was 3 yrs old.
This is what I do, who I am. I help animals of all kinds, domestic or wild. I will continue to do so regardless of what Officer Beck tells me.
When I see an animal, any kind of animal, in danger or distress I will render aid to the best of my abilities and regardless of the danger to myself.
I want to point out that in this particular case; not only did I not know these animals, each of them weighed in at 70 pounds. I approached them, caught them, and put them into my car with no cages, without knowing their temperament, and with one in obvious pain. All of which can be quite dangerous. I did this because it was the right thing to do for the animal’s safety.
They ended up in another county because I was on my way to work. Not because I intended to take them out of the county, it just happens that I work in another county.
How many residents of this county work in another county? What would have been the result of me NOT rescuing these dogs? Was it the dogs fault that they were not properly confined?
Why was a dog that had been hit by a vehicle on three separate occasions with a broken back NOT given pain medication?
Why did Animal Control choose to get involved in what should be considered a civil matter?
Why was I threatened with arrest for saving the lives of two innocent animals? Why was I told I was not authorized to rescue animals in Lumpkin County? Show me the law that states that. Both Lance White and I asked for written proof of these laws and was told to look it up or go to the court house.
Is this the way LC welcomes new residents? Is this the way the authorities treat residents of the county? Is this the way to treat citizens that try to help animals? Or is it because I just moved here and work in a different county?
I work for an agency that has worked with animal control agencies all over the state to pull animals off death row and put in our system to save their lives, is this the way Lumpkin County works with Humane Societies? If so why?
Is it common place to talk to people in a rude curt manner? To threaten citizens? If it is perhaps I should reconsider my residency of this county. If I am to be persecuted for my rescue efforts and my beliefs then perhaps I should consider moving out of Lumpkin County or I shall surely be in jail at some point for doing the right thing.
I have always stood up for what I believe in and tried to do the right thing, those ideals do not appear to be supported in this county by authorities currently in office. I will continue to be the person that I was raised to be and am. I do not change who or what I am for anyone or any government agency.
I was willing to go to jail for these dogs, I will be willing to go to jail for the next animal, I am willing to go to jail for my beliefs and what I believe is the right thing to do.
Kelley Tomkinson, Animal lover/rescuer/vet tech