JONESVILLE - The Lee County dog pound is temporarily closed after Animal Control Officer Wayne Martin was indefinitely suspended on Wednesday.
Sheriff Gary Parsons, who supervises animal control department employees, said he and County Administrator Dane Poe jointly agreed to the suspension Wednesday morning after a visit to the pound by a state veterinarian's office worker.
The suspension is "effective until we can make a determination if further action is necessary," said the sheriff.
Parsons said the Wednesday visit by the state vet's office was a follow-up visit to a routine inspection visit about two weeks ago during which the worker found issues that had been discussed with Martin. On Wednesday, the worker determined that animals were not being properly euthanized, the sheriff said.
Poe said state law requires no more than one animal be euthanized in a gas box without separation, but the officer found more than one animal in the box without separation.
Martin is certified in the use of the gas box, he said.
Poe said the state vet's findings were relayed to him verbally but a written report is not yet available, and he declined comment until the complete report has been submitted to his office. The administrator estimated that will take four to five days at a minimum, based on past experience with inspections from that office.
"Needless to say, we felt the findings were severe enough to take action immediately," he said.
Poe said since assistant animal warden John Shubert resigned effective March 23, the animal control office is without personnel to operate the pound and answer calls. Animals in the facility will be cared for by other county personnel, but no staff will be on hand to take in animals that are being dropped off or to answer animal control calls, he said.
As for the animals at the pound, Poe said they will be held the time required by law and that he intends to check with the Lee County Animal League to see if members can care for them.
"We will hold them until at least Monday, then we will seek to dispose of them by legal means," he said. "We won't be able to pick up strays or to handle calls for the time being."
If any animals have to be euthanized while the county is without a certified animal control officer, it will have to either use the services of a licensed veterinarian or take them to another pound, said Poe.
Poe said during the March inspection, the state vet's office had recommended corrective action on several minor items including a minor leak in a corner seal of the gas box, record keeping, record custody, sealing on the kennel floors and small gaps in kennel doors that may have allowed smaller puppies to escape. The state vet had also recommended that animals in need of veterinary care should be given that care when animals were in county custody. Those issues were being addressed and Wednesday's visit was the second follow-up to that visit.
Of those concerns, the most severe was the seal breach, but that had been repaired, the box tested and recertified for use, he said.
The administrator is hopeful the pound closure won't be lengthy. He noted the county has already advertised for applications to fill Shubert's position and those are due on April 16. Since the board of supervisors meet on April 17, and supervisors hire for that position, he's hopeful a recessed meeting for the purpose of conducting interviews can be scheduled during that meeting and at least one officer can be hired in a timely manner.