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Investigation of cruelty underway at Ohio's Franklin County Dog Shelter

Meet Lara the adorable pit bull mix available for adoption at the Franklin County Dog Shelter
Franklin County Dogs

At a Franklin County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night, President Marilyn Brown announced an investigation has been launched into questions and allegations about shelter practices at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center in Columbus, reported the Columbus Dispatch.

According to rescue volunteers, the shelter's veterinarian Dr. Vincent Morton has mistakenly euthanized dogs already adopted, taunted dogs to become aggressive so they would fail their behavior assessments, refuse to treat sick dogs while letting them languish in pain, and euthanizing too many dogs.

In an email to the Dispatch, the assistant director of the shelter, Deborah Finelli defined how the shelter evaluates the dogs:

“To be selected for adoption, all dogs 6 months and older must pass a behavior assessment, which evaluates the dog’s ability to be safely handled, reaction to people and other dogs and any situations that might provoke aggressive behavior.

“No dog that is perceived to be a threat to the safety of other dogs or humans will be permitted to be sent to rescue and/or foster, or placed on the adoption floor.”

Elizabeth Lessner, founder of Columbus Food League and a pit bull rescue advocate, however questions the shelter and its practices. An April 5 entry on Lessner's blog includes copies of disturbing incident reports which include allegations of discrimination, animal cruelty, sexual harassment, and of dogs and volunteers being intimidated and forbidden to return to the shelter.

One particular entry states:

"I was a volunteer in the clinic. I was holding a small dog on the exam table. Dr. Morton came up behind the dog and startled it. She turn her head, no teeth, no aggression, then immediately turned back and began licking me. Dr. Morton told me to take the dog back to the run and he marked her for euthanasia. I immediately left the clinic and went to the Assistant Director (Director was not in) and complained – LOUDLY. The dog ended up going to rescue. I, on the other hand, have never been allowed to volunteer in the clinic again."

Another entry, equally as disturbing stated:

“I took a dog into the clinic because I found a seeping bite wound on his neck. Dr Morton told the vet tech to start him on medication but refused to look at him. I have seen dogs that were brought in after being hit by cars and sit for days before he’ll look at them. He does walk throughs (sic) each morning and stands in front of the cages starting down at the dogs in a threatening manner and even holds his fist up to the cage to try to get an aggressive response. There was a very pregnant female dog that he handled roughly in clinic, she flipped her head towards him but never tried to bite, he ordered her to be euthanized immediately.”

Lessner wants the county to adopt clear policies about euthanasia and adoption procedures.

According to NBC4, Lessner explains her concerns:

"We're seeing dogs being mistakenly euthanized. We're seeing the vet threaten and intimidate dogs in order to fail them. We're also seeing the vet run medical tests so that he can fail dogs. We're just seeing the opposite of compassion."

Click here for the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center's Facebook page.

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