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:

Lisa Levesque February 10, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Mark, before you make such a comment, perhaps you should do your homework...many of the people posting here (including myself) HAVE been quite busy trying to change things in partnership with the caring staff of the shelter. To that end, many volunteers have worked tirelessly to network the animals to find them loving homes or rescue. The caring shelter staff supported this effort, and worked diligently with rescues too. Now, the two supervisors at the shelter have resigned because they refuse to be associated with Rick Smith's regressive philosophy, the dedicated volunteers have been pushed out for refusing to sign on with Mrs. Rick Smith's developing non-profit (since he appointed her to Volunteer Coordinator, in his attempt to control every thing, as anyone who speaks out against him will be told they cannot volunteer at shelter), and at least one very highly acclaimed rescue has been told they are not welcome at the shelter for speaking out against what is happening. Yet, the county wants to call this a "witch hunt" and they want to attribute 2012's low kill rate to Rick Smith, who had NOTHING to do with it..., but I fear will have everything to do with spike in killing for 2013 and beyond if commissioners do not act quickly. So please, before you say nothing was being done, please get the facts because there is a small army that has worked very hard to save these animals...in Douglas county, in the state of GA, as well as outside the state of GA.
Lisa Levesque February 10, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Thank you...you too are a true advocate for these innocents.
Lisa Levesque February 10, 2013 at 02:55 PM
SHHS pulled the Fix'em Free program because they did not want to be associated with Rick Smith and his regressive philosophy.
Rebekah Mattox February 10, 2013 at 05:12 PM
If we are unable to get a recall election, at least we must stay "vocal" about what the county commissioners have done WRONG. I often repeat because I know everybody does not read everything: The D.C. Humane Society Pres. told me to "PLEASE STOP" when I was summarizing news on this issue in emails. She will not respond to me. As a volunteer of 2 years, I have done my job every week, 2 days a week, without being reminded or faltering; in fact, I created conditions for this job to even exist which is that Walmart gives us pet food they can't sell. I was even able to connect another volunteer who has been contributing several hours weekly including getting a 2nd Walmart to donate weekly. I'd have hoped for some respect! At the annual DCGS meeting, we were NOT told about losing the free spay/neuter program & were left to our own devices to find out crucial information on this bad situation. CORRUPTION is PREVAILING, so let's fight it!
Joanie Wilson February 10, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Why dont we protest and make our voices heard.Would love to get one going...Please help....
Rebekah Mattox February 10, 2013 at 05:37 PM
JOANIE: I'm in! But we need somebody who knows how to organize a protest!
joey casey February 10, 2013 at 06:21 PM
I am free to picket on sundays and mondays and all night every night. I want smith, worthan, and all of them gone. Along with all of the crooked cops and dumb laws. They have made our planet a cesspool of greed, power, and stupidity. And hate.
Rebekah Mattox February 10, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I agree , Joey. I would hope that the nonprofit, Southern Hope, who stopped the free spay-neuter bc of Smith would help w/the protest.We canNOT expect help from the Humane Society, and we do NOT know WHY!
Joanie Wilson February 10, 2013 at 11:29 PM
I was looking on the internet and it says we have to pay for a license to protest which I would say the crazy county of Douglasville would have to approve where and when,I say either right in front of the animal shelter and then at the courthouse,next time we have the right to vote,we need to get out these losers.My question is whos backing Rick Smith how did he come from Missouri to our town,someones backing him.Its time to find out who...You are welcome to email maybe we could all put our minds together and get rid of the trash..happyma88@yahoo.com Please send me your thoughts...
Janice Goad February 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Joanie, there's no point in protesting AT THE SHELTER because it would be like preaching to the choir. Why pay to demonstrate in front of Rick Smith and his wife? Your complaint is with the decision of the BOC to HIRE this regressive ignoramus, so protest wherever the commissioners hang out. Aren't their offices at the courthouse? Do it there. Maybe it could be at a time there's a big trial going on so the media will already be there. Or maybe you'll be denied permission to protest -- which would be GREAT!!! THEN you'd really have a newsmaking event!!!
Kathy Smith February 11, 2013 at 02:37 AM
with the high kill rate and them wanting to kill the cats before even being shown to the public it truly makes me wonder if they are selling the cats and dogs to China on the black market for meat! It makes me wonder. They say that China loves dog and cat meat. I know this sounds so bad and unthinkable but there is a demand and market for this!
Richard Nichols February 11, 2013 at 04:23 AM
As with others posting here, I am disturbed that this DC Animal Shelter series of issues has become a sore spot in Douglas County, GA. When we lost our cat last April, Carl & Tammy Pyrdum were very supportive in helping us find her. We noticed how much they cared for the animals and pet lovers. Obviously, their hearts are in this struggle. I'm also surprised that the commissioners haven't communicated their positions well or sought to compromise (aren't people supposed to work together when they disagree about major issues)? I have a suggestion for those who love animals & are emotionally & spiritually sickened over this . . . I know it's disheartening to do good in this world but have your efforts devalued by headstrong people. Here's my suggestion. I know it isn't an easy one. It would require a lot of work. What is keeping you caring people from starting up your own animal rescue non-profit organization & gaining the power to overcome this unfortunate situation? Search Google for "start an animal shelter." You will find a wealth of information on getting your own act together. Read this: http://www.sarasanctuary.org/newsite/content/general_info/start_sanc.php. That's my two cents for now. Please stop and think about what it really takes to make the world a better place and be the change that you want to see. Pointing out injustice won't make it go away. You have the power to organize something much better than what you are protesting about--just my opinion. Thanks!
joey casey February 11, 2013 at 05:06 AM
The humane society is as corrupt as smith, worthan, obama, osama, etc. They tell us snakes are destroying the everglades. Thats like saying snakes are destroying rainforests. And Pit bulls are destroying humans. When in fact it is people and ignorance that is the ultimate destructor. I want to gather people and picket downtown douglasville.
Janice Goad February 11, 2013 at 05:08 AM
Mr. Nichols, under different circumstances your suggestion might be a very good one -- if there were a group who simply thought "We could do this better", for example -- and Lord knows, hardly anybody could do worse than what's happening now. And certainly there must be a more visible and easily accessible location in Douglas County that would be better suited to encourage people to drop in and see the animals, interact with them, to boost adoption numbers -- which was one of the observations in the Lifeline evaluation, in fact. But it's more than just wanting to do it better. I followed your link, and what was immediately very clear was two major requirements -- time and money. Many people volunteer their time because they simply don't have the money, or perhaps feel that what they can give is not enough to have much effect. And in today's economy, being able to afford such an undertaking is extremely ambitious. And more importantly, time is a factor. The animals are in jeopardy NOW, not six months or a year or two years from now. But of primary importance is that we are already paying for a shelter, all of us -- THIS ONE -- and it should work for us and for the animals. It WAS working, so we know it can. I can't even begin to address your idealism, but I have to say I'm offended that you think this matter is an "unfortunate situation" that we just need to simmer down and figure out a way to overcome. I wish it were that simple.
Rebekah Mattox February 11, 2013 at 05:48 AM
Richard Nichols: Plz make your comments about Carl known to all county commissioners. Ms. Goad is right--animals need us NOW. Joey Casey is right--the Humane Society is CORRUPT even to the point of infringing on the right of free speech by members w/shaming, shunning, & directly ordering to be quiet: WHY?! DCHS is caring more about "hurting the Hum Soc" than stopping the regression of lost progress and all other reports by RELIABLE SOURCES about the problems w/Smith. I will again say that my heart goes out to Mrs. Rick Smith. She's married to a tw0-faced phony.
Rebekah Mattox February 11, 2013 at 06:03 AM
Richard Nichols: I should have said Carl & Tammy. We need Carl reinstated on the advisrory board. And we need Tracy & M. Pope apologized to & invited back. M. Pope needs to replace R. Smith. And Mrs. R. Smith needs to find a better husband...
Kathy Smith February 11, 2013 at 07:11 PM
also even if mr IDEALISTIC Nichols does get his recommendation thru, it does not fix the problem of the central paid for by tax dollars animal control fixed. It STILL would be an issue and the animals there would still be suffering. PERIOD!
Sharon L. Kovach February 11, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Another fine example of being home cooked in Douglas County!!!! Hide you dogs, cats, gerbils and mice. The grim reaper has settled in (with the praise of the BOC) at Douglas County Animal Shelter!!! Poor fur babies!!!!
Marsi Thrash February 11, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Has Smith ever publicly stated HOW he plans to keep the kill rate down? Has anyone contacted rescue groups in MO and asked how they interacted with Smith, gotten their opinion? I don't like the perception of duck & weave by the politicians and the shroud of secrecy that seems to be coming from the shelter. Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing.
James Bell February 11, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Protest? One call... that's all!
Rebekah Mattox February 11, 2013 at 09:39 PM
M. Thrash:Based on the informed people who r commenting, I doubt it. Please email your county commssioner & copy to Tom Worthan who also has a Facebook page. Also, the Humane Society is playing corrupted duck & weave, & I have been told that the donations I pick up twice weekly are being considered to be stopped due to the behavior of the Humane Society leadership relative to R. Smith.
Rebekah Mattox February 11, 2013 at 09:40 PM
J. Bell: AGREED!
Joanie Wilson February 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Okay I have came up with the perfect protest site,Feb.20th at the Animal Advisory Board meeting 5 to 7p.m.Whos with me,if I can get atleast 20 people we will be ago,I would like more but 20 is a start.I have to have confirmations,before I go get the permit also I will call channel 11 and see if they would be interested,email me at happyma88@yahoo.com.Rebekkah thanks for your email...Come on people lets do whats right!!!!!!!!!!!
Janice Goad February 12, 2013 at 12:10 AM
That's an excellent question, Marsi, and I would think -- as a taxpayer -- that whatever representative of MY county government responsible for the interview and hiring of Rick Smith would have asked it of him prior to his move to GA. Our shelter was in a progressive mode and people were happy with it, so one would think that continuing the improvements would be a priority item in the job qualifications. That would probably be a question best directed toward our Commission Chairman or the County Manager. I've been a business owner and hired many people over the years, and I DID ask that kind of questions as they pertained to the position being filled. And I followed up by checking references, too. I'd love to know the answers to both "Did you ask him this?" and "What was his answer?" I suspect those would then be followed by "What the HELL were you thinking?"
Rebekah Mattox February 12, 2013 at 01:42 AM
Y-w & I'm w/y'all! THANKS JOANIE!!!
Carolyn Kohler February 14, 2013 at 02:44 AM
You Rick Smith seem to be a bad apple in the bunch of good positive upbeat caring folks at the DC Humane Shelter. The homeless animals didn't ask to be born any more than you did. You needed the help given to you in life to grow up and be on your way and these animals need the help the staff and public have to offer to live and be on their way. Appolizing and turning from your wrong ways and working with a honest staff is your next step in doing the job thats in the best interenst of the animals you've been put in charge to care for. Please, rethink you choices.
Rebekah Mattox February 14, 2013 at 03:37 AM
C. Kohler: hope you'll email him your comments" animalshelter@co.douglas.ga.us
Morgan Chadwick February 14, 2013 at 07:29 PM
The good ole boy system is alive and well in Georgia. Instead of owning up to a mistake, they protect their own. Killing for no reason is senseless but these people still view animals as just animals and not family pets, loving, living, breathings things. They pay for the ignorance with their lives. It is not the fault of the animals being killed, it is the fault of the humans who brought them into this world, didn't take care of them and would rather kill them then be bothered. We are a barbaric society and this commission and this Rick Smith should be ashamed of the lessons they are passing down to other generations. We should be doing all we can do fix as many pets as possible and kill as few as possible. Ignorance is bliss to many and apparently this commission loves to bask in it.
Tammy Rakestraw Pyrdum March 09, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Here are his numbers from 2008-2012 , provided by the St.Jo Mo Department of Health , Mr. Smith's former boss. Animals Reclaimed 2706, Animals Adopted 3490, Animals Rescued 144, Animals Euthanized 9658. The percentages are as follows: 15.8% Reclaimed, 20.41% Adopted, 6.44% DOA,.843 % Rescued and 56.48% Euthanized. The stats no not lie. Over a five year period almost 57% of the animals at the St. Joesph Mo shelter were euthanized. Only 144 were rescued during that time period. There is NOTHING acceptable about the above numbers. More than HALF of the animals that came into the shelter during that time period were put down. Very sad for the animals. After the killing of 30 animals this week, Douglas County is headed in the same direction.
NkWhistleBlower March 20, 2013 at 07:24 AM
I'm for the side against the no kill bunch. Because I've done my research on the NKers - and I know they are in cahoots with the dog breeders. Yes, NKers, word is spreading pretty quickly - and you guys are so obvious with your tactics, it's not hard to spot your group - they are always stirring chaos and covertly attempting to get (humane) shelter directors fired - so you can get one of your NK people in the door. Not just in Douglas Co, Georgia but nationwide. You guys want Smith out because he won't bow down and do things the NK way - which is also known as the dog breeders way. NK is akin to satan - seeking who you can deceive and devour - all in the name of lost dog registration revenue. Wonder if the people of Douglas Co are aware of a certain no kill org down in Florida who has a dog breeder for a Vice President? Yep, word IS getting around, my dear lit'l nk dog breeders.


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