Animal shelter under fire again

Two dogs at an animal shelter
May 3, 2010 7:54:42 PM PDT
A lawsuit filed against the Robeson County Animal Shelter accuses workers of mistreating animals.Besides filing a lawsuit, a judge has also issued a restraining order that the shelter can't euthanize any animal that has been placed on hold for adoption.

The seven page lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the Robeson County Animal Shelter of euthanizing some animals to keep them from being adopted.

"There are questions about how euthanization is being conducted there and questions about whether they are killing animals that don't need to be killed," said Calley Gerber with the Gerber Animal Law Center.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Susan Barrett a Winston-Salem animal rights activist.

"She had experiences with the shelter trying to pull animals from the shelter and have them adopted, and run into some brick walls where the animal ended up being euthanized even though she wants to take them out," Gerber said.

It's the latest complaint filed against the shelter.

In March, a 13-year-old undercover video of animals being euthanized outraged pet lovers across the country.

Thousands of angry messages were posted on Governor Bev Perdue's Facebook page and the shelter director said he received death threats.

Late last month, the shelter stopped the practice of killing animals by painful injections to their hearts. But county officials deny the lawsuit allegations.

"Everything we do in our shelter is based on animal care first," County Environmental Director Albert Locklear said.

Locklear says sometimes sick and suffering animals have to be put down.

This is the first lawsuit in the state since a new law took effect Jan. 1 allowing shelters to place animals into foster care instead of euthanizing them.

Robeson County's shelter policy gives owners 120 hours to claim a lost pet, after that the animal can be put down without ever being put up for adoption.

Animals rescue groups say that's got to change.

"When that's an option, if there is a choice, I would like for them to choose life or choose humane treatment of an animal," Gerber said. "Right now that's not a choice being made."

Meanwhile, county officials say the shelter is now being run by the book and a hearing is scheduled for May 7 on the restraining order.

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