Lufkin shelter worker's handling of dog catches criticism

Source: Stacey Faulkner
Source: Stacey Faulkner

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A photo of a dog apparently being handled by the skin/scruff on its behind at a Lufkin animal shelter has caught the criticism of a Lufkin woman and a pop singer.

According to Rhonda McLendon, the director of animal control at Kurth Memorial Animal Shelter, she was notified of the photograph on Sunday and began a full investigation.

McLendon said the person holding the Chihuahua mix was a staff member and the person who photographed the dog were staff members. A third party, who brought the dog to the shelter, was also present.

What you can't see from the angle and quality of the photo is a purple leash that is around the dog's neck and help by the employee.

Stacey Faulkner said she showed the photograph to friends on Facebook and Twitter, and pop singer Rob Thomas re-tweeted it to his 361,000 followers.

"shameful photo found on petharbor #animalabuse by staff! Lufkin Animal Shelter, Lufkin Texas, please make it go #viral!" Thomas said on Twitter on Sunday.

"for all of you up in arms over my tweet about the possible animal abuse, please calm down. I believe it should be looked into. it wouldn't be the first time animal abuse is discovered a the very shelters that are supposed to be protecting them. if it turn out to be a hoax, then good. if not, then maybe we can ensure a person like that doesn't work with animals again," Thomas said in another Tweet.

Faulkner declined an on-camera interview, saying in a Facebook message, "to expose myself further would cause my family and myself to continue receiving the hateful comments and emails."

McLendon  says the stray was brought in and was acting fearful and snapping at the employees trying to take a picture for the website.

She said, "The one that actually picked him up said she lifted him for just a moment by the leash in the front and by the scruff in the back with is a proper method with an animal that's trying to bite."

According to McLendon this method is not harmful to the dog.

"It doesn't cause pain if you lift equally in the front and the back that's why the dog is actually upright in the picture. If she'd only picked him up by the scruff in the rear that would be completely inappropriate," said McLendon

The dog was taken to the vet to be examined to ensure there was no improper treatment. SouthWood Drive Animal Clinic, veterinarian Doug Ashburn, examined the dog and released a report stating:

"I saw no evidence of any injury to the patient related to this," Ashburn stated in the report. "The patient was very timid and could easily be a fear biter. If in the process of admitting this patient to the shelter, it became aggressive, controlling the patient in the manner depicted, may well have been appropriate for the circumstance and I did not find evidence of any injury as a result."

After conducting a full investigation and taking the dog to the vet the director at the City of Lufkin Animal Control has determined that there was no wrong doing on any part, by any of the staff.

McLendon said, "It's not resulting in any disciplinary action on staff it is resulting in a policy change where it's going to be mandatory if you have one that comes in snappy, that is fearful, that is questionable about whether of not they'll let you handle them or not for the photo then, you'll go ahead and take them immediately to a kennel or a cage and put them in there and come back in a few minutes and let them settle down."

McLendon says it was poor judgment on the employees part to use that photo instead of taking one with the dog in kennel. She says the city manager's office received 15 to 20 emails about the photo and McLendon herself also received several emails.

McLendon says that they are in the business of investigating animal abuse and hold themselves to a high standard on treatment of animals.

The shelter is looking for suggestions for a name for the Chihuahua mix. They say he is fearful, has a severe heartworm infection and will need some socialization but after some TLC they think he will make a great, adoptable pet.

Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.