Christopher Fletcher and his mother, Karen Fletcher, addressed the County Commission about their two lab puppies who were picked up by the county’s animal control department and euthanized before the Fletchers had a chance to pick them up…and clearly before the three-day waiting period, required by county ordinance, had expired.
County officials did not contest the claim that the dogs were put down before the waiting period was over and admitted that procedure had not been followed.
County Attorney Tommy Reeves advised the commission that, since county employee Jaime Willoughby did not follow procedure and euthanized the dogs without waiting until the three days were up, that the county should pay the owners for the dogs, estimated to be about five to six months old.
“The County Coordinator (Allen Cherry) can come up with an acceptable market value for the dogs,” he said.
Fletcher stated that he had served faithfully in the military and in the community, and that he believed in playing by the rules.
“I put a lot of my time and money in those dogs,” he said. “I raised my animals correctly. They were friendly. This is completely inexcusable to the utmost. ‘Compensation of fair market value’ is not acceptable.” The two dogs that he had raised and cared for were “like members of the family.”
He added that he was also seeking punitive damages, since the county, in his view, had violated the law by euthanizing the animals before the law allowed them to, and the incident should not have happened in the first place. However, he did not have receipts for all the expenses he had incurred in caring for his dogs, because he never imagined animal control picking them up.
Karen Fletcher also addressed the commission, saying that the dogs had not been wearing collars, which she admitted was “our mess-up,” and that they would have been okay with paying the fine. However both the dogs had been wormed, and had been given all of their required vaccinations.
“We were willing to pay the fine, but we were not given the chance,” she said, echoing her son’s question as to why there would have been consequences for themselves (a fine) for violating the rules, but seemingly no consequences for the county or its employees. “What are the consequences for not following your own ordinance?” she asked.
The Fletchers also have an older dog, one who habitually would go down the road to the neighbor’s house to visit, sometimes staying a day or two; in turn, the neighbor’s dog would sometimes come over and visit for a day or two. The owners thought nothing of this, since both dogs were friendly and welcome at both houses, and the Fletchers believe that the puppies learned this back-and-forth visiting behavior from the older dogs, which was why they wandered out of their yard and down the dirt road.
The neighbor did not know who the puppies belonged to and told Fletcher that she “never would have called animal control,” if she had.
Fletcher pointed out that there were other animals in holding kennels that had been brought in before his dogs were, yet his dogs were euthanized first, long before their waiting period was up.
“Why were my dogs put down?” he asked.
A figure of $2500 per puppy was mentioned, but the commission wanted to look into what it would cost to replace the dogs. Commissioner Ron Moore made the motion to look into the matter.
Commissioner Rick Davis quietly suggested also working with the Fletchers before the next meeting to make sure what they came up with was acceptable; otherwise at the next meeting, if the Fletchers rejected their offer, the commission would be back at the starting point. The other commissioners agreed and the motion passed.