Here is something to read. If you don't believe for one minute our rights to own ANY animal are being taken away, make sure you read this
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
ANIMAL CONTROL: County-contracted USDA officer accused of killing pets
Carol Broeder/Range News
Bowie residents Tommy Cooke and Linda Ray at the town meeting Monday.
By CAROL BROEDER/Arizona Range News
Bowie residents are shocked and saddened about an "animal control operation" led by the sheriff's department last week.
Wednesday, Aug. 24, at about 4 p.m., four dogs were (shot), six dogs were captured, and eight citations were issued, said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department.
"I can't believe that they brought guns into our town to chase dogs," said Bowie resident Christine Sprott, "Not drug murderers, drug dealers, or arsonists, but loose dogs. Things like this don't happen in Sierra Vista or Willcox, why is it okay in Bowie or Dos Cabezas or Pirtleville? And they did this without any warning."
"No one came to us and said, 'There is a problem and if you don't fix it, we will bring guns to your neighborhoods and fix it our way.' We should have been part of the decision-making process. For years, the dog catcher has come out, chased the dogs around, brought them to our houses, and told us to chain them up," Sprott said.
Sprott added that she is president and CEO of Rural ACCENT, Inc., a newly-formed non-profit organization, "working on increased food security, youth leadership development, and positive community change."
"The joy of living in a small town is the lack of strict incorporated rules. But now, all of a sudden, and in a violent, militant way, we are not even given a chance to make our own changes. (Wednesday) was a horrible, painful day in Bowie that only served to reinforce hatred and mistrust toward the authorities," she said.
Four animal-control officers, two sheriff's deputies, and one U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) animal-control officer carried out the detail, Capas said.
Long-time Bowie resident Mary "Mickey" Cooke gave the Range News a written account of last Wednesday's event.
She said that she was in the house watching TV and her husband was working with the computer, "when we heard a truck horn honking. My husband, Tommy, went outside."
Mary said that a female animal control officer "was standing outside her truck and said that our dogs had been outside that yard, and she was going to have to give us a ticket."
Tommy went into the house to get his driver's license, and Mary went outside to talk to the officer.
"She wrote out the tickets, and I asked her if she couldn't give use a warning. She said not in this case. I asked her what we could do. She said to tie up the dogs or put them in a cage. I told her I thought it was illegal to tie a dog up. She said use a 10-foot chain. Then they left," Cooke wrote.
"Not more than 10 or 15 minutes went by, we were still out in the yard wondering how to put the dogs up. They came back with two more officers in two different trucks. One man said he was the main control officer, and had a government man and then a deputy sheriff come up. The main officer said our dogs were in the street again and they were going to catch them," she wrote.
"Tommy said they could never catch them. They are very shy dogs and run from people. He said he was going to shoot them. Tommy started yelling and saying a few choice words at the animal control officer. Then the deputy sheriff came up and told Tommy that he wasn't the only one they were after, that they had already shot dogs across the tracks and down the road.
Mary said that she went back into the house at that time.
"The animal control officers chased the dogs all over the yard and up on the porch. By that time, Tommy was really cussing them and told them to get out of our yard. They could not shoot the dogs in our yard."
"One little dog was so scared, she ran out of the yard to get under a hay trailer that was parked outside our yard. I was on the phone with my daughter when I heard a shot, I knew they had shot the little dog," Cooke wrote.
"The other dog ran on the porch, where Tommy was, for him to save him. Tommy was still yelling at them when they picked up the dog and threw him in the truck. As the main control officer was driving away, he waved and said, 'Have a nice day,' smiling. He really seemed to enjoy his job," Cooke wrote.
Mary said that both dogs are spayed and had their shots.
Tommy said Monday that some of the agents stayed and "waited there for a couple of hours for my other dog."
Velvet Berumen, who has lived in Bowie for almost two years, said that two of the dogs shot that day were hers.
"Oso" and "Chaos," both 10 months old, were half-Labrador, half-Pit Bull.
"This is wrong. This is so wrong," she said. "They were not mean. They were not vicious. They killed the dogs 30 feet from my door. My kids and I saw the final shots."
Berumen said that the officers never knocked on their door prior to shooting the dogs.
"The shots brought me and my husband out of the house," she said.
She told the officers, "Give me citations and I'll pay them," said Berumen, adding that her dogs have never been picked up and taken to the pound, and she had never received citations for them.
Berumen said that after the dogs were killed, she received two citations for dog-at-large, but her neighbor's name is on them.
"They don't even understand English," she said.
Berumen said that her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son witnessed the last shot.
"My three-year-old son said, 'Am I next, Mommy?' The children are now traumatized. The children should not be afraid of law enforcement. I want something done. Everybody's rights were violated. Law enforcement violated everybody's rights that day."
Marci Zerkle, who has lived in Bowie for three months, had never met Velvet Berumen until Thursday night.
Zerkle, whose own dog was shot last Wednesday, said that her two-year-old daughter and her three-year-old cousin, played with Oso and Chaos every morning.
"They claimed they killed wild, feral dogs, which is not true," Zerkle said. "We're planning on having a town meeting so that this won't happen again. These were not wild animals. They were not a pack of vicious dogs killing livestock."
Zerkle said she did not witness the death of her dog, Teddy, an eight-month-old "sled dog," but her neighbors did.
"They were chasing him and he ran home and tried to hide," Zerkle said. "They killed him in the vacant field next to my property.
Zerkle said her dog had shots, had never gotten any citations, and was never picked up and taken to the pound.
She admits that there were dogs running loose in Bowie, but "we take it for granted that it was no big deal. They should have rounded up these dogs. They weren't killing chickens, chasing people or attacking livestock."
Lt. Al Tomlinson, who identified himself as the CCSO's supervisor of animal-control officers, attended a town meeting in Bowie that lasted nearly an hour Monday evening.
"These details are not done arbitrarily. Over the last 45 days, we have conducted several details around Cochise County under the same exact circumstances as we conducted the one in Bowie last Wednesday," Tomlinson said.
"These are not done just off-the-cuff. Complaints by the community and observations made by my animal-control officers in the area" trigger these details, he told the audience of nearly 40 people.
"We come into a community and every effort is made to capture the animal," said Tomlinson, adding that first they try to capture the dog with a loop stick.
"If that doesn't work, we try to coax it with food. In every area that we've done these details, there are some animals who are successfully captured. Unfortunately, there have been some animals we have not been able to catch.
Tomlinson said that when they came into Bowie, he and his officers "were chased by two fairly large dogs, who chased the trucks. I was chased."
"At that particular time, no one claimed ownership. I tried catching the animal again, and the animal growled at me. The decision was made to euthanize it," he said.
"In the last six months, we've had seven calls about vicious animals in the Bowie area. The last three were in the last 45 days. On June 7, there was a juvenile chased down the street by a wild dog. On July 27, there was a juvenile chased down the road and bitten by a dog. On Aug. 18, there was a woman who was in her yard that was bitten by an animal," Tomlinson said.
"I would rather be standing here telling you what we did instead of standing before you to explain why a child or adult was killed or mauled by a dog. If I had the two choices, I would take this choice 100 percent of the time," he said.
Tomlinson said the USDA animal control officer is assigned to the sheriff's department on a part-time basis. "He is contracted by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. We use him as a last resort. He is on the detail with us not only to help us capture the animal, but also for our protection. By Arizona law, I cannot shoot an animal unless it comes at me or if it endangers someone else.
"The only one authorized to shoot an animal is the USDA officer."
"There's a lot of rumors floating around. We did not shoot ten dogs, we did not run over any dogs," Tomlinson said. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture officer fired four rounds, and there were four dogs euthanized."
"There were about seven children in the road that witnessed a dog being run over twice, and four of them were my children," a Bowie woman said.
"We did not run over a dog," Tomlinson said.
Eleven-year-old Esteban Juarez said, "I saw it, and I have a few friends, they saw it, too. I was standing in the street and there was a dog I saw them drag out, run over it, and back up."
"Under polygraph, I will tell you that there were no dogs that the CCSO and its officers ran over," Tomlinson said.
"It was the animal control truck," people in the audience chimed in.
"You say that only four shots were taken, but three of them were in my dog," Berumen said.
Tomlinson reiterated that only four rounds were fired in Bowie.
"There aren't many things in this world we can guarantee, but I can guarantee you a 100-percent solution to this issue," Tomlinson said as he distributed two documents - 21 pages of county animal laws and eight pages of state animal laws. "If the laws are followed, the dogs are properly vaccinated and tied up or in the yards, then we will not be back. Unfortunately, the dog problem in the county has reached epidemic proportions. The county contracts with three animal shelters -- Huachuca City, Willcox, and Douglas. They are full on a constant basis. The Willcox shelter is full. Under state law, we have to wait 72 hours before the animals are euthanized. As far as bringing any more to the pound, we're doing it on a daily basis."
"If these guidelines are followed, my ACO's and I will not be back in Bowie under these circumstances again," Tomlinson said. "That's a promise that I can make. This morning my ACO was here to pick up animals, and she said there were dogs running again. This is a 100-percent solution."
Bowie resident Sidney Brooks asked Tomlinson what gives the USDA animal control officer authority to kill the animals.
"He is a predator control officer. We use him as a tool of last resort," Tomlinson said. "I'll contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ask for a specific statute."
Tomlinson said that he did not volunteer to become part of the animal control division, he was assigned by Sheriff Larry Dever.
"I truly regret what we are doing and I mean that from the bottom of my heart," he said. "I myself own two animals."
"There are people in this area who have called us and thanked us for what we did," Tomlinson said.
"I think all of us have to take responsibility for this, not just the sheriff's department," one woman said.
"I don't like what was done, I don't think any animal should be shot. But each and every one of us when we get a pet have to take responsibility for it, just like we do our children. Would we turn our children to run in packs?"
"There are no packs in Bowie," another woman said.
"We have packs around Bowie, and that's what they're trying to control," the first woman replied.
Animal control operations were conducted recently in Pirtleville, Naco, and Dos Cabezas, where a total of nine dogs were captured, 26 were shot and killed, and 30 citations were issued, said Alma Barth, CCSO spokeswoman.
"Every single animal is being tested for bubonic plague," which ticks may be carrying, Capas said.
Since no results came back from the Tucson lab, it is presumed that plague was not found, she said.
The sheriff's department would not receive the results unless they are positive.
At about 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, in Winchester Estates (Perra Flaca, 20 miles north of Willcox), 12 dogs were captured, 11 dogs were shot, and four citations were issued, for "a total of 23 dogs running wild," Capas said.
Copyright Â© 2005Arizona Range News.