ROGERSVILLE — Video surveillance of a man abandoning a dog in the parking lot of the Hawkins County Humane Society is causing quite a stir on social media, although the man has now come forward to offer his side of the story.
The incident occurred Saturday afternoon shortly after 1:30 when, according to HCHS surveillance video, a man in a white Toyota pickup pulled into the parking lot and got out of the vehicle.
HCHS manager Sandy Behnke said she hasn’t released portions of the video which show the man’s face due to her request for an investigation by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.
Behnke told the Times News that the man let the dog out of the truck without a leash, walked to the lobby entrance of the shelter which was locked, but never knocked on the door or tried to get the attention of staff.
Although the shelter is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, at the time the shelter was closed and posted under quarantine due to a dog illness, Behnke said.
The man walked away from the door and got into his truck, with the loose dog following him and jumping on him. The man had to push the dog away to get into the truck, Behnke said.
As the driver pulled out onto Highway 11-W and turned west toward Rogersville, the dog chased after him.
“Apparently the dog loved him,” Behnke said. “He didn’t deserve it.”
At that point, HCHS staff had seen what happened and were able to chase down the dog, which they subsequently named Rawhide and returned him to the shelter.
As of Wednesday evening, no one knows the man’s name, although the HCHS does have clear video of his face.
The other side of the story
The HCHS posted edited video and photos of the dog abandonment on its Facebook page, which drew a huge response ranging from severe criticism to outrage.
As a result, the man contacted the HCHS by phone and then sent a letter by email that was supposedly written by an unidentified attorney.
The man’s letter states that the dog wasn’t his, that he had found it as a stray and kept it for two weeks to save its life.
The letter further states the man couldn’t keep the dog for two reasons: 1. He was called out of town for a job indefinitely. 2. The dog was aggressive towards his smaller dog.
“The dog was in more danger where it was with exposure to starvation, other dogs, vehicular traffic and coyotes. The dog was brought to the shelter during working hours with the understanding it would be admitted. When it was not, the false impression was given that the man had abandoned his own dog rather than trying to rescue a stray. A local vet has vouched for this man, stating he is an extremely conscientious pet owner who would never mistreat any animal. The man wanted to assure others he loves dogs as much as they do, understood their response, and said he didn’t mind being thought of temporarily as the bad guy since in the end it helped get the dog adopted, which was the goal in the first place.”
Law enforcement’s response
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson has asked the HCHS to file a report with his office, and the incident will be investigated.
HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen told the Times News on Wednesday there is a law against “animal abandonment,” but there will have to be an investigation before he can comment on the facts of this specific case.
Behnke asked for the HCSO investigation, although she spoke to the man and believes his story.
“He should have known better”
Behnke also believes any responsible adult should know better than to turn a dog loose in the Humane Society parking lot and drive away, especially with the dog chasing him down the highway.
“We were shut down and under quarantine due to a dog being sick, and I noticed a truck pulling out of our parking lot and a dog chasing it,” Behnke said. “I yelled (for volunteers) Emily and Laura, and I was running down the highway after this dog swerving in and out of cars chasing this truck. Finally we got the dog corralled to the side of the road, and got him back to the shelter.”
The HCHS has had puppies left in a box before, dogs tied to the fence and dogs put over the fence.
That’s not an ideal situation, but Behnke understands if a person can’t take care of the dog, they’re going to do what they’ve got to do.
“But we’re inside the building and he pulled in and dumped a loose dog in the parking lot — and then the dog is chasing him,” Behnke added. "Obviously that’s not the right way to do it. If he had tied the dog to a tree in the shade, I would have felt a lot better about it.”
Rawhide will be offered for adoption
Behnke said Rawhide is about 2 years old and in good health, and he’s going to be neutered next week.
She said he’s a loving, affectionate dog.
Since arriving at the shelter, he received his shots and was wormed and is expected to be available for adoption in about two weeks.