Controversy Rages Over New Animal Shelter Director
The shelter’s field supervisor and the shelter supervisor have resigned and an Animal Control Advisory Board member has been removed.
More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition to remove the Douglas County Animal Shelter's new director, Rick Smith. 11Alive news is reporting tonight that at least one more such petition exists, also with more than 1,000 signatures.
"New Douglas County animal shelter director Rick Smith is making numerous changes at Douglas County Animal Control, all of which will result in more animals being killed," reads the online petition, posted by Douglas Animal Advocates Network. "Rick’s proposed new animal ordinance updates will make him judge, jury and executioner and will give him even more power to kill animals."
Carl Pyrdum, an outspoken critic of Smith, was removed from the county's Animal Control Advisory Board this week by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
Pyrdum said the county administrator informed him of the BOC’s decision, which was made in executive session after Tuesday's public meeting.
Pyrdum spoke at Monday’s BOC work session, announcing the resignation of Mike Pope, the shelter’s field supervisor. Pyrdum also said that Pope’s resignation came five days after the resignation of Tracy Thompson, the shelter supervisor, and that he believed the resignations were indicative of a problem at the shelter since Smith's arrival two months ago.
Pyrdum was appointed as Commission Chairman Tom Worthan's representative on the board roughly 10 months ago.
"I believe that I was removed for being an outspoken critic of the new animal service director Rick Smith" Pyrdum said in an email. "Having written blogs (on Douglasville Patch) and having been interviewed by the Sentinel and having expressed my concerns of Mr. Smith's expressed intentions and direction for the shelter and ultimately for my bringing those concerns to the BOC in a public forum at their work session meeting last Monday."
"To me it looks like a witch hunt," Commission Chair Tom Worthan told 11Alive News in an interview.
Worthan told 11Alive that nothing has changed with the County's euthanasia rate since Smith's arrival, "I have not seen it go up. We're at about 16 to 17 percent today. If you check the counties around us, they're going to be at 60 or 70 percent."
"I have not spoken to Chairman Worthan; he never contacted me to express either his sentiments, reasoning or thanks. His decision to remove me from the board was conveyed to me via a phone call from Eric Linton, (county administrator) on Tuesday afternoon and I received an official letter from Mr. Linton on Thursday confirming the previous conversation."
11Alive also reports that the Southern HOPE Humane Society has decided to discontinue the popular Mae West Fix 'Em Free Program effective Feb. 15. The program provides free spay and neuter procedures to the pets of Douglas County residents who cannot afford to get their pets sterilized.
"The decision to end this program is due to the hiring of Rick Smith and his actions since becoming director," reads the letter sent to the Douglas County Amimal Shelter by the Soutern HOPE Humane Society. "This program has provided hundreds of fre spay/neuters to Douglas County low income residents over the past two years. We know the Fix 'Em Free Program has also helped to lower Douglas County's kill rate.
Pyrdum believes the shelter is taking a step backwards after improvements over the past year.
"I believe the direction of the shelter under Rick Smith, is to return to the days where animals are picked up and put down on a weekly basis for enforcement and control purposes exclusively. I earnestly do not believe that Mr. Smith has any intention of pursuing animal welfare, adoption or rescue issues on any level beyond lip service. Mr. Smith has repeatedly cited his perceived need to have a 'manageable capacity' at the shelter and his concerns over 'inhumane life and humane death' and when pressed to define his intentions, his only comments to myself or others on how he intends to do that is: is that 'hard decisions will have to be made.'
"These are code phrases for euthanasia and a justification for killing animals as opposed to housing them and trying to find them homes via adoption and rescue. Mr. Smith has repeatedly used the analogy of 'puppy mills and hoarding,' to myself and others when addressing his feelings of the progress made over the past year by volunteers and staff, who have actively been engaged in reducing euthanasia and increasing adoptions and rescues at the shelter. Mr. Smith has told me and others in the community in both direct conversations and in writing, that he feels the efforts of dedicated volunteers and shelter staff have been no better than those who run 'puppy mills and hoarders.' As recent as last Sunday he was accusing the former shelter supervisor, who resigned rather than serve under him, of perpetuating hoarding in the isolation room. He accused the employee to me directly, of utilizing the space in ISO to house over flow cats while they were networked for adoption and rescue as 'hoarding.'
"I would like to say that based upon my conversations and meetings with Rick Smith and my observations of his intentions as expressed by his actions since becoming the animal services director, it is more than apparent to myself and others that Douglas county is moving backward and regressing backward away from the progressive success that has been obtained over the past year at our shelter," continued Pyrdum in the email. "Mr. Smith's expressed intentions are to focus exclusively on enforcement violations and animal control, while driving his proposals to change county law to satisfy his desire to have absolute control over not only animal control, but also the property rights of citizens of Douglas county.
"To date, his determined efforts to impose his philosophical realignment of the animal shelter, has resulted in the resignation of both supervisory shelter staff and a forced alienation of dedicated volunteers who have invested their time money and efforts on behalf of the animals and the community toward saving lives. Mr. Smith is setting about to control every aspect of animal control and animal welfare in Douglas county. His creation of a volunteer group of which he has appointed his wife as head, smacks of nepotism and his desire to control all levels of animal control and animal welfare in Douglas county. I for one refuse to become part of this man's antiquated philosophy of animal control of seizing, warehousing and killing healthy and adoptable animals wholesale to satisfy his antiquated philosophy of animal control. And I refused to be part of the sham representation of a volunteer group that his wife is heading and attempting to force descent and dedicated volunteers to join, just so he can control volunteer activities for his own purposes."
Pyrdum points to an article published in St. Joseph Missouri in New Press Now in 2008, where Smith recalls his record of killing more than 70,000 animals over the course of his career, which at that point was twenty nine years.
"That represents an average death rate of more than 200 animals a month during his tenure, over 2,400 a month over the course of his then twenty nine year career in St, Josephs," Pyrdum continued in the email. "This is the level of animal care and expertise that Mr. Smith is now demonstrably determined to bring to Douglas county and I for one as a citizen and as an animal welfare advocate, don't believe that we need this man here killing our animals wholesale as he has done over his career in Missouri.
"I will continue to work toward saving animals in Douglas county and in my efforts to keep the community informed of the actions taking place to reverse the positive efforts and results of the past year at our shelter."
The ACAB is made up of a representative from each of the four county commission districts, the chairman’s representative and a member representing the city of Douglasville. Local veterinarian Dr. Justin Verner also has a non-voting spot on the ACAB, which can make policy recommendations to the BOC for approval.
Douglasville Patch blogs written by Carl Pyrdum: