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Rescues question County’s euthanize policy
Honeybadger was euthanized on September 10.

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series on Liberty County Animal Control and their new and current policies that are being questioned by rescues.

Honeybadger, a Pit-Bull mix, spent her last hours of life inside Liberty County Animal Control. Through no fault of her own, the abandoned and pregnant female dog, described as a bit aggressive, was euthanized Sept. 10.

The last-minute fight by Carpathia Paws and the Underground Tailroad, to save Honeybadger garnered attention on social media. Why did she have to be euthanized when there was still plenty of kennel space at the facility?

“She was killed because her time was up,” Carpathia Paws Vice President Maryann Smith.

“Dealing with Animal Control has always been a challenge at best, but we made it work for the sake of the animals,” Smith continued. “Underground Tailroad will no longer pull animals from Liberty County Animal Control unless there is a change of policy regarding euthanasia of adoptable animals when there is kennel space available. The result will be hundreds and hundreds of animals needlessly rotting in the landfill instead of living out their lives in happy homes. The County Administrator has the ability to change the policy but refuses to do so.” 

Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown, who spoke with the Courier Sept. 15 and to the Commissioners’ during their Sept. 17 meeting said, “The goal is to never have to try and put an animal to sleep. We will do whatever possible, short of saying that we will not guarantee you that one cannot be put to sleep.”

Brown said the animals are well cared for, and that there are four rescues that have county contracts to pull animals from LCAC the minute the animal arrives.

Brown explained the intake process to the Courier and Commissioners and said that Honeybadger had been on the roster for 17 days and no one placed a hold for her. He also said the dog had been deemed aggressive and non-adoptable.

“If we let a dog be adopted out and it turns out its aggressive, it is our liability,” Brown said. “But if any agency had a different opinion and wanted to tag the animal all they had to do is pick it up or let us know and we would have delivered the dog to them.”

Brown said their newly written policies, effective August of this year, replaced former operational procedures written in 2017, and extend state required hold times.

Most animals are now held 15 to 17 days before they are euthanized. But Brown noted that animals can be pulled from LCAC the minute they arrive at the facility.

 “Any time after day one they can tag it. No one tagged that dog,” he said.

“That’s because they labeled her as aggressive,” Smith explained. “They later described her as getting better. Let me reiterate that she was killed because her time was up. She could have been a dog with no issues, but her time was up.”

Smith and Underground Tailroad founder Rebecca Needham have both said it’s not about the hold times. It’s about euthanizing the animals when LCAC still has plenty of open kennel space that is the issue.

After watching the Commission meeting via their online feed, Needham wrote a letter rebutting many things Brown said about LCAC and their policies. One thing she clarified was why she will no longer assist at LCAC.

“Mr. Brown states in his presentation that I stopped networking the cats and dogs at Liberty County because you were going to euthanize animals (specifically “Honeybadger”, the dog in question). This is absolutely not true,” Needham said. “Furthermore, an associate of mine who recently met with the new AC Director, Mr. Marrero, informed me that he was told I would not network Liberty County Animal Control unless I had a guarantee that no animal would be euthanized. This is another untruth. I stopped networking Liberty County Animal Control after 2 years because you switched from the best practice of “euthanizing when space is needed” to “euthanizing after x days no matter how much space is available.”

Needham reiterated it was the County’s euthanasia policy she questioned.

“Longer or long hold times are not good for the animals,” she wrote. “The point of a hold time is to give potential owners a chance to find their animal, but also allow rescues to pull the animal quickly so they are not just sitting at Animal Control (and exposed to illness since you provide no vaccinations). Hold times should be as short as possible to get the animals out. However, the end of a hold time does not mean it’s time for the animal to die. It just means an animal can leave. We are debating the merit of your euthanasia policy, not your hold policy.”

Needham also claimed the personnel at LCAC are providing care that should only be provided by a licensed Veterinarian or providing unnecessary treatments on animal set to be euthanized.

In part II we’ll introduce the new Animal Control Director, Steve Marrero and review the new policies being implemented as well as future plans allowing animals to be adopted directly from LCAC. Supplemental documents and letters supplied by the County and the rescues will be available for download below:

Animal Control SOPs 2017
Animal Control New SOP 2020
0916 Letter from Savannah Humane Society
Letter To Commissioners from Tailroads
Liberty County Animal Control Power Point
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