This concise version of Kelley’s story submitted as a Letter to the Editor was rejected by The Dahlonega Nugget as a “he said/she said story.” I very strongly disagree. This kind of behavior by an employee of Lumpkin County is unacceptable and must be exposed. lumpkinsunshine.com will be pleased to publish any other sides of the story submitted to us. Emily Lewy, Publisher
The Dahlonega Nugget published the story! It appears the Editor did not realize that both versions had been submitted to him. Thank you Mr. Knuckles. You are my hero. Emily Lewy, Publisher
Dog rescuer threatened with arrest
On June 7, I stopped to remove two dogs from the middle of a busy road on my way to work. Although one appeared to have been injured, I was able to get them both into my truck. Trying to find their owner, I went to five nearby homes before giving up and taking the dogs with me to work.
Fortunately, I am an experienced dog handler and technician who works for the Humane Society of Forsyth County. I treated the dogs for injuries and parasite infections as well as severe flea and tick infestations.
That same morning, I called Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Dept. and was transferred to the Lumpkin County Animal Shelter. When I reported that I had picked up the dogs, I was told that if I brought the dogs to the shelter, the injured dog would be euthanized immediately and the second dog would be euthanized after five days if not claimed by the owner. Delivering the dogs to be killed was not acceptable to me.
At the end of the day, I took them home with me to be quarantined for a period of time to make certain that they had not been exposed to diseases that could endanger other animals or people.
I continued knocking on doors trying to find the owners. After about a week, the neighbor’s children suggested another place to try. The dog’s owner was not available; but a neighbor provided his phone number.
The man said he called the shelter inquiring about the dogs on June 11 before leaving on a nine day vacation He had been told that there had been no reports of his animals.
I agreed to keep the dogs until the owner returned and he agreed to pay for expenditures made on the dogs promising to get back in touch on June 21.
On June 22 when I had not heard from the owners, I called them. Their attitude had changed. They were now belligerent and refused to pay expenses for the dogs.
At about noon that day, I received a call from Officer Beck of Lumpkin County Animal Control. He ordered me to return the dogs to Lumpkin County Animal Control no later than 4:00 PM or a warrant for my arrest would be issued. I would be charged with Theft by Taking.
When I tried to explain what had taken place, Beck told me, “You have no authority to pick up an animal from the roadways of Lumpkin County at any time ever and doing so would be in violation of a Lumpkin County ordinance.” He demanded the immediate return of the dogs.
Lance White, Director of Forsyth County Humane Society accompanied me to the Lumpkin County Animal Shelter to return the dogs. Shelter Director Eddy Harris demanded that Mr.White sign a “contract” designed to protect Lumpkin County and prevent the Forsyth County Humane Society from collecting compensation for their expenditures from the owners of the dogs.
I understand that the dogs are at back at home and free to roam. Lumpkin County has required the rescuer to provide medical care and two weeks of board for a dog owner who neglects his animals and allow them to roam free on the roadways of this county.
There are many questions that Lumpkin County residents need answered as a result of this incident:
Is everyone who has taken in a stray animal guilty of Theft by Taking?
Is the Animal Control Officer the only person who has the “right” to remove a stray from a public road in this county? Since animal control only works 40 hours a week, what is supposed to happen to animals wandering the streets during the other 128 hours a week? Residents of this county will not sit back allowing these poor creatures to wander the streets causing accidents and being hit by cars.
How do I locate that County Ordinance giving total authority over private property (dog) to an animal control officer?
Who should a resident call to report a found animal? A call to the sheriff’s office is apparently not adequate? The public needs to be informed.
Since LCAS immediately euthanizes injured animals, why would any caring person take an injured animal there?
Based on shelter employee admissions to me, the second dog would have been euthanized on June 13 if I had taken it to LCAS. Why was the animal control officer so concerned about reuniting the dogs with their owner when the 2nd dog would have been dead for nine days and the injured dog for 15 if the animal control officer had taken possession of them?
Does the Lumpkin County recognize a duty of county employees in animal control and LCAS to keep records of lost and found notifications so that animals can be reunited with their owners? Why is this information not available to the public?
Had the owners abandoned the animals when they went on vacation without knowing where the animals were?
Is it acceptable for county employees to use the threat of arrest to intervene in a civil dispute between private parties?
When did it become acceptable for a county employee to behave in a rude manner and threaten a citizen?
The county commissioners, shelter director and animal control officer have a lot of explaining to do.
Kelley Tomkinson, Lumpkin County resident