By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News
An animal control officer has been pulled off the streets after Dallas city officials concluded he acted inappropriately when he tried to force a dog with shattered legs to stand up and walk, and then dragged it to an animal control vehicle.
The Labrador retriever mix was euthanized a short time later at a city facility.
Charles Jackson, who has worked as an animal control officer for about four years, could face disciplinary action over Tuesday afternoon's incident, which has outraged animal rescue advocates. Jackson could not be reached for comment.
"I'm very saddened that a dog should have to go through that right before he's euthanized," said Judi Burnett, an animal rescue advocate with Companions for Life.
Dallas police Senior Cpl. Joshua Merkel documented what happened about 12:30 p.m. after he and another officer were called to a report of an injured dog on Interstate 30 near Grand Avenue.
The officers found the dog with shattered rear legs and internal bleeding, his report stated. Jackson and another animal control officer were sent to the scene.
"The animal control officer muzzled the injured dog and attempted to get (the) dog to stand and walk to (the) animal control vehicle," Merkel wrote. "The dog whimpered in pain ... at which time the animal control officer began dragging the injured dog to the animal control vehicle and picking it up by grabbing the dog's rear fur. The dog again whimpered and the animal control officer dropped the dog."
Seeing that the animal control officer was causing the 55-pound tan-colored dog "unnecessary pain," Merkel intervened and helped place the injured dog into the animal control vehicle, the report said.
Merkel's supervisors instructed him not to talk to the media.
"It was inappropriate to have used the catch pole in this incident because the animal was wounded and could not walk," said Joey Zapata, director of the code compliance division, which includes animal services.
The incident marked the latest controversy to buffet the troubled Dallas animal services department, which only weeks ago saw shelter manager Tyrone McGill indicted on charges of felony animal cruelty after authorities said he ignored the plaintive crying of a cat trapped in a wall at the shelter until it starved to death. He remains on administrative leave.
A short time later, the department's highest-ranking manager, Kent Robertson, resigned, citing impending city layoffs.
Another animal control employee, Donnie Jones, is also on administrative leave over a separate incident where a cat was injured after Jones used a catch pole on it in late August. The devices are not supposed to be used on cats.
Jones had been previously counseled after he left two severely burned dogs in kennels rather than notifying someone in 2009.
"We have a terrible situation over there," said Elaine Munch, president of the Metroplex Animal Coalition, a coalition of 52 animal rescue groups in the Dallas area. "The ship is rudderless at Dallas animal services."
Zapata said he and his staff take the concerns of animal rescue advocates seriously.
"That's why in every instance we are taking appropriate action, including putting employees on administrative leave, conducting full investigations and cooperating with any criminal investigations," Zapata said. "At the same time, we are taking steps to make sure that we have a good management structure at the shelter."
Zapata said the department's procedures do not speak to exactly how an injured animal should be handled, but do state that animal control officers should transport the animal to veterinary treatment as quickly as possible. He said animal control officers do not routinely carry tranquilizer drugs in the field.
The dog in Tuesday's incident was microchipped, indicating that it was someone's pet, he said. The department will attempt to contact the owner to let him know of the dog's death, Zapata said.
"The police officer did the right thing," he said. "We need to have that kind of feedback whenever something is handled inappropriately."