Did county policy fail this dog?

Carmen Jaramillo
cjaramillo@ptleader.com
Posted 7/10/19

The story of a wolf hybrid dog found nearly dead after he was apparently dragged behind a car, may lead to new county policies surrounding the care and transport of stray and injured animals.

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Did county policy fail this dog?

Posted

(Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction ran in the July 17, 2019 edition of The Leader)

The story of a wolf hybrid dog found nearly dead after he was apparently dragged behind a car, may lead to new county policies surrounding the care and transport of stray and injured animals.

Moses, a wolf hybrid who captured the attention of hundreds of Jefferson County residents on Facebook, was found starving on April 20 in Chimacum, with severe wounds all over his body having been accidentally leashed to a moving vehicle.

He was transported to Center Valley Animal Rescue for emergency treatment by a Jefferson County deputy and then three weeks later was transferred to the Jefferson County Humane Society against the wishes of his attending veterinarians. Days later, he was released to his owner, even though animal cruelty charges were being pursued by the Sheriff’s Office. The investigation remains open, but has taken a back seat to investigations of an attempted murder and a fatal stabbing.

The Leader made multiple attempts to contact the dog’s owner for comment including electronic messaging and in-person attempts to locate the owner. The Leader has chosen to protect the owner’s identity because no criminal charges have been filed.

County Code 6.07.030 and 6.07.170 say an impounded domesticated animal must be brought to a shelter “designated by the county” and if it is injured or diseased it must be provided for with reasonable veterinary treatment.

Jefferson County Humane Society is the only animal welfare agency that has a contract with the county.
Paul Becker, president of the Jefferson County Humane Society says this also means the deputy erred when he brought the dog to Center Valley Animal Rescue because it is not a licensed veterinary hospital and he believes it does meet the county’s standard for reasonable veterinary treatment.

Center Valley has licensed veterinarians on its volunteer staff, but is not licensed as a veterinary hospital. Sara Penhallegon, Center Valley Animal Rescue Director, holds a veterinary technician license. Washington State Health Department records confirm the facility operates with a “limited veterinary service/animal control agency,” license.

This license allows animal welfare nonprofits to provide spay, neuter and microchip services and perform vaccinations on pets for low-income owners. It also allows them to provide full care to sheltered animals and animals in need of emergency care.

Penhallegon disagrees with Becker, saying the nonprofit was acting within its capacity and the facility should be considered adequate veterinary care in emergency situations as was the case with Moses. Even though another local veterinarian was open at the time the dog was found, Panhallegon said no one else in Jefferson County could have provided the around-the-clock care the dog needed.

Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole said in addition to considering what was best for the animal, another factor in the decision to take the dog to Center Valley was the cost to the county. He said the department has worked with Center Valley Animal Rescue many times in the past for emergency animal care and because of the way they operate, the cost to the Jefferson County taxpayer is lower than that of a veterinary hospital.

Prompted by Becker, a discussion between County Administrator Philip Morley and Undersheriff Andy Pernsteiner caused the Sheriff’s Office to transfer Moses to the Humane Society, where it was released to its owner days later.

Nole said because of this situation and the department’s desire to continue to work with Center Valley Animal Rescue, he is considering options to legitimize the organization’s relationship with the county, possibly through a revision to the county code.

Becker said after the dog was brought to the humane society, it was taken to a licensed veterinarian for evaluation. He said this vet did not make any ascertations to whether the dog showed clear signs of abuse, as Center Valley had, but Becker also said that no one asked.

Becker said they would not release the name of the veterinarian who saw the dog because they “do not release medical information without the owner’s permission.” Penhallegon said she was told this veterinarian also submitted a report to the Sheriff’s office.

The dog was released to its owner, Becker said, because the law requires organizations to contact the owner as soon as possible. This was done despite the Humane Society’s knowledge of Center Valley’s neglect allegations.

When Nole called the Humane Society to ask them to hold the dog he was told it had just gone back to its owner hours earlier.

From there, Nole said, the veterinary reports from Center Valley along with witness statements and other evidence was forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for a determination.

Since then, nothing has happened. Prosecuting attorney James Kennedy said that while the case is still under investigation by the county it has taken a back burner to cases involving human victims. He said he hopes to have made a determination of whether or not to pursue charges of animal cruelty by the end of July.

He said he does not know if the case will lead to criminal charges because the law does not protect animals the same way it does people.

In Washington State, animal cruelty in the first degree is a felony, animal cruelty in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor.

Kennedy said they have yet to determine which of these this case would fall into if they determine that a crime has occurred at all.

One challenge, he said, is that economic factors are an affirmative defense against animal cruelty in the second degree. That means that if an animal is not being adequately provided for because its owner does not have the financial means to, it cannot result in criminal charges and the animal remains in their care.

In this case, Nole confirmed the owner is homeless.

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Jayme

My question is, who accidentally put a leash Underdog and then puts that leash on a moving vehicle? Seriously?

It seems everyone in this story was reaching out to help an animal who clearly was abused. But the laws are behind the times. There needs to be more Animal Control Officers on the peninsula now. More and more people are moving in and animals are getting loose the running around they could cause accidents they themselves are getting hurt. And we need to have people who know how to handle animals and deal with them compassionately. Well the officers do a terrific job and taking these animals to the vet or the Humane Society they might not always be able to do so because of other things happening.

Wednesday, July 10