Aleta Higginbotham said she never dreamed when she signed her dogs over to Richmond County Animal Control officers Monday that she was signing their death certificates.
Ms. Higginbotham said she ar-rived at her Roy Lane residence at about 11:30 a.m. Monday to find animal control officers in her yard trying to catch E.D., her 4-year-old Australian shepherd-chow mix. They had already placed E.D.'s four puppies in an animal control truck, Ms. Higginbotham said.
E.D. lost weight after her puppies were born eight weeks ago and had slipped her chain and had been running loose. A neighbor had called animal control to complain, Ms. Higginbotham said.
Because she was frightened, Ms. Higginbotham said, E.D. was growling at the officers, who were trying to capture her with a catch pole - a pole with a noose on the end.
"I put her in the utility room and told them they could have the puppies but not E.D.," she said. "They told me I could either let them have her or get a citation and a $1,000 fine. I signed the paper, but I planned to adopt her from animal control Tuesday morning."
When Ms. Higginbotham's friend Sandra Cavender showed up Tuesday morning with $35 to adopt E.D., she learned the dog and puppies had been euthanized on orders from Director Bonnie Bragdon immediately after the officers returned with them to animal control.
Dr. Bragdon said she authorized that E.D. and the puppies be euthanized right away because one of the officers told her the dog was difficult to catch and because the shelter already has too many puppies.
She said E.D. was not adoptable and that animal control does not have time or space to rehabilitate dogs.
Although there are no puppies to adopt at the shelter, there are many in quarantine, she said. Normally, puppies are vaccinated and quarantined before they are put up for adoption, Dr. Bragdon said.
"We do indeed put dogs down if they become a nuisance," she said. "It doesn't mean they have to go out and bite somebody. It doesn't mean they have to go out and chase people. But if they cannot be confined to a yard, I don't feel right about adopting it out to somebody else who's going to have the same problems."
Once an owner signs a dog over to animal control in lieu of being cited and receiving a date in court, the animal becomes the property of the county and animal control officials determine what to do with it.
Dr. Bragdon said she did not see the mother or the puppies before giving the order to have them killed, but that she determined the puppies were not weaned and could not live without their mother. Ms. Higginbotham, however, said the puppies were weaned and that she had already given two others away.
Dr. Bragdon said she had three complaints in the past year by a neighbor about loose dogs from Ms. Higginbotham's residence on the 1900 block of Roy's Lane.
From the entire Roy's Lane neighborhood, Dr. Bragdon said, there have been 11 complaints in the past year.
Ms. Higginbotham said animal control officers had left a note on her door only one time about her dog running loose.
Dr. Bragdon said some people neglect their animals, failing to have them vaccinated, dewormed, or spayed. Some don't even give them names or train them to come when called, she said.
Dr. Bragdon said The Augusta Chronicle should talk with others who have dealt with animal control recently, such as the owner whose dog's leg she put in a splint and medicated for pain last weekend.
Ms. Higginbotham said E.D. had been vaccinated and had been seen by Hephzibah veterinarian Dr. Bruce Gradous.
She said she saw one of the animal control officers who picked up E.D. at a traffic light Tuesday afternoon.
"I said, `You're the one who killed my dog,"' she said. "He just laughed. They don't care."
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.