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Monday, January 14, 2008

Benton County Animal Shelter Closed by Local Law Enforcement

In a series of events and controversy surrounding the County Animal Shelter, Friday's latest situation has resulted in the closure of the facility pending a criminal investigation.

Problems with the shelter have been ongoing since October, when the county's animal control officer, Jacqueline Marie Boyett, was arrested for simple possession of marijuana after local law enforcement officers received information that shelter employees were selling marijuana and prescription drugs on county property. Drug paraphernalia was also discovered in two county vehicles as a result of a K-9 search of the facility.

In a related incident the same day, another employee, Vanessa Walker was arrested for driving on a suspended license when she responded in a county vehicle in response to a call concerning an animal that had been struck by a vehicle.

Rumors began circulating in November that a number of puppies had died of poor living conditions and cold weather. Local veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Paschall stated that she was unaware of any deaths of dogs at the shelter due to anything other than parvovirus. County Mayor Jimmy Wiseman stated that the animals were well taken care of, fed and watered twice a day, and their pens cleaned on a daily basis.

Troubles with the animal shelter came to a head this past week, however, when a local woman, Tracy Merrell, received an anonymous phone call from someone who told her that her dog, which had been missing since November 15th, was at the Huntingdon, TN home of animal control officer Boyett, whom the caller claimed had been using the pit bull for stud services. Merrell drove to Boyett's home to discover her dog, Kid, tied in the back yard, at which point she contacted the Carroll County Sheriff's Department. The dog was returned to Merrell, and Boyett was relieved of her duties at the shelter.

All of this has led to the latest problem with the animal shelter, which has resulted in it's closure and the pending investigation and possible criminal charges that may reach as high as the seat of the county mayor. Camden Police Chief George Smith and a city investigator responded to a call from a concerned citizen that the animals at the shelter were not being cared for.

A concerned citizen's call to Camden police Friday afternoon led to the discovery of 12 dead dogs and other neglected animals at the Benton County Animal Shelter.

Camden Police Chief George Smith said Friday night that there will be charges. Police will talk with the prosecutor on Monday, he said. The investigation is continuing.

"I think it was just neglect," Smith said. "Who dropped the ball? I don't know. We're going to pick it up and pass it
to somebody, and whoever catches it is who we're going to charge."

Reports indicate that there were a number of cats being held in cages that were too small and that they were lying in their own waste, and that there were several bags of unopened food found on the ground outside the facility. Reports also indicate there was no food or water in the cages with the animals.

Dr. Paschall took a number of the animals into care at her veterinary clinic and is investigating the cause of death of the dogs found in the shelter. Others were taken to Jackson, TN, to the West TN Animal Rescue, Inc, facility to be cared for. Volunteers turned out over the weekend to clean the facility.

Protesters picketed the Benton County courthouse this morning demanding the resignation of Mayor Wiseman.

More on this story as it develops.

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man