City takes action after News 12 animal cruelty investigation

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News 12 at 11 o'clock, October 3, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Allegations of animal cruelty at Richmond County Animal Control, stretching back nearly 3 months. Now, a News 12 investigation leads to action by the city.

It all started in July when one supervisor found two dogs in their pens, badly injured. The animals had not received any medical attention, not even pain medicine.

One of the dogs was picked up by animal control after it was hit by a car. The skin on the tail of the chow's hind leg, broken..

The dog was sheltered at Augusta's Animal Control Center. It was
placed under the care of Priscilla Crisler, the kennel manager. For three full days the dog sat in a pen with no medical attention, not even pain medicine.

And it wasn't alone.

The second dog is named Sweetie. She was brought in June 29 after her owner's house caught fire.

An email from the shelter's director Diane Downs', details all the wounds Sweetie had when she was impounded; including "a burn to her left ear, some hair missing from her right ear, 6 small 50 cent sized patches of hair missing from her back and sides, with one bald spot being scabbed over." Downs says the wounds were possibly caused by the fire.

For more than two full weeks, she received no medical attention. And, she got worse at the shelter, under Crisler's care.

Both dogs were put down on July 13th.

That same day, another manager, Field Supervisor Bruce McClure wrote City Administrator Fred Russell an email. In it, McClure says Crisler "failed to provide proper care" and "allowed unnecessary suffering to occur". McClure says both are violations of the county code.

City Manager Fred Russell saw all the emails. "Obviously, when you're dealing with those kind of situations you're dealing with fairly technical and fairly judgmental kinds of calls."

Under Augusta-Richmond County Code Section 4-1-27. Cruelty. The law reads "no person shall, by his act, ommission or neglect cause unjustifiable physical pain or suffering."

It goes on to say "it is unlawful for any person to fail, refuse or neglect to provide any animal in his charge or owner or"

McClure says that was grounds to charge Crisler, the city did not.

Gardner, "In the city's mind this was not animal cruelty?"

Russell, "Based on our review, no. Better judgment could have been used potentially but in my mind there was no malice. "

Off camera, Priscilla Crisler admitted to News 12 she never got in the pen to check on Sweetie for 13 days.

The shelter's Director says the oversite justified "some discipline". That email was sent August 22.

Six weeks later, still no action, until News 12 brought it to Russell's attention. "There was a miscommunication between my deputy administrator and that particular supervisor and when brought to our attention, we conferred even as late as a few minute ago, and disciplinary action will be taken."

Fred Russell wouldn't go into the details of the punishment, because he says it is a personnel matter. But, other information provided to News 12 from Director Diane Downs, indicates there are two possibilities; a verbal reprimand or a written reprimand.

The shelter handles more than 150 animals on any given day and impounded more than 14 thousand animals last year alone.

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