My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Dogs Deserve Better, Inc., Smithfield, VA, USA
State orders Surry dog rescue to place 8 dogs into foster care
September 27, 2012
SURRY – The state has directed Tamira Thayne, executive director of Dogs Deserve Better Inc., to place the organization's eight remaining dogs at the Good Newz Rehab Center into foster care by Sept. 30.
But that deadline is on hold while her attorney, Fred Taylor, works with Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services officials, said Thayne. Elaine Lidholm, an agency spokeswoman, declined to discuss the deadline or other details of the state's ongoing probe into the anti-chaining dog rescue organization based out of the Surry County house where Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick once ran a dogfighting operation.
The organization is not accepting any new chained dogs, Thayne said.
Thayne was charged with two misdemeanors — one count each of animal cruelty and inadequate care of animals — on Aug, 28, just days after a state veterinary and Surry Animal Control made an unannounced visit on Aug. 23. Thayne's trial is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Surry General District Court.
Dogs Deserve Better has been operating without the state's required approval since opening in June 2011, with records showing that least 30 dogs have been confined during that time, according to a Sept. 10 letter to Thayne from Daniel Kovich, a program manager with the state veterinary's office. Although the state reported giving her staff a verbal directive to stop accepting new chained dogs during a Jan. 25 inspection, Thayne said she never received the message.
According to the state's letter, the facility is violating some of the state's safe shelter laws because dogs are housed in groups inside the house and moved into different rooms of the house in response to aggression.
The state also referenced one dog fight that resulted in a $1,200 veterinarian bill, two dogs having been treated after being bitten by snake on overgrown property, and groups of dogs being kept in the kitchen with "direct access" to hazardous items including knives, glassware, small appliances and alcohol.
In his report, Kovich also noted that three bottles of pepper spray were found inside the house, one of which had been discharged.
While serving a search warrant on Aug. 27, Surry County deputies seized nine cans of pepper spray from the house, along with two Tasers, computers, vet records and a 1-year-old pit bull, according to search warrants. Ten days later, the courts awarded custody of the dog, Jada, back to Dogs Deserve Better.
"Use of pepper spray as a deterrent to aggression is in no way an appropriate husbandry practice in an animal shelter environment," according to Kovich's letter. "Negative interactions should be prevented from occurring in the first place."
The state and local investigation was spurred partially after several former employees, including former office manager Deana Whitfield, emailed pictures and complaints to Surry Animal Control in July. Whitfield and Dogs Deserve Better parted ways in late June, about one month after Whitfield filed an anonymous complaint alleging unsafe working conditions with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The May 21 complaint says that employees are not trained or equipped to safely deal with dog fights, that a single employee is frequently left alone in open rooms with large numbers of uncaged dogs, and that employees have not been trained to use the pepper spray provided to break up dog fights. The OSHA complaint was closed without an on-site inspection after Thayne had an additional on-site training class for employees.
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