No felonies found in dog killing case

By Michael Johnson

March 7, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office won’t file felony charges against a county employee in connection with the Feb. 14 deaths of 11 dogs at the county animal shelter.

In a letter read to the Gallia County Commissioners by Sheriff Joe Browning, County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins’ office “does not find a chargeable offense.” The case has now been turned over to Gallipolis City Solicitor/Law Director Adam R. Salisbury after the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday concluded its investigation and asked Adkins to review the case.

“I got the file at about 8:45 (Thursday) morning,” Salisbury said. “I’m the one that’s going to be evaluating the case for possible misdemeanors.”

Since an investigation is still ongoing, Salisbury said he wouldn’t answer questions about the case.

“It’s not my policy to answer questions about pending investigations,” he said. “I don’t want to try to taint the investigation. I don’t want to prevent information from coming forward, and I certainly don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression about how we go about making decisions, both in the prosecutor’s office and my office. We want the appropriate authorities investigate the case.”

For the past two weeks, the Gallia County Commission — overseers of the county animal shelter and its employees — has been seeking answers as to why 11 dogs were euthanized one day prior to a dog adoption event sponsored by the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, a local animal group that promotes animal welfare, and provides assistance and care to displaced, abandoned, or abused animals. Group members say that all 11 dogs were killed despite being properly vaccinated and slated for adoptive families.

No one has been officially charged in the dog deaths, but the employee under investigation has been openly identified during county commission meetings by members of the audience as the assistant dog warden. The alleged name of the employee linking him to the Feb. 14 dog killings has also appeared on several websites, including two Facebook pages titled “No Kill Coalition” and “Friends at the Gallia County Animal Shelter.” There is also an online petition at calling for the employee’s removal as assistant dog warden. The website identifies Lindsey Bush, of Vienna, W.Va., as the petition’s creator.

Autumn Thomas, a member of the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, asked Salisbury if it was possible to have a person arrested on a misdemeanor charge.

“I’m not saying that that’s going to happen in this case,” he said. “If you’re asking if it’s available, in general, yes you can arrest somebody (on a misdemeanor).”

Thomas then asked the commissioners about obtaining information from the employee’s personnel file.

“I think we, as a group and without wanting to interfere … we want to formally request a copy of (county employee’s) license,” Thomas said. “I don’t see where that would interfere … if you could just provide us with a copy of that.”

Board president David K. Smith referred Thomas to the prosecutor’s office.

“I don’t know if that’s a violation or that’s a document that you have a right to see,” he said. “There are certain things in a personnel file that I know we are not allowed to release. We’ll have to refer that to the prosecutor for his opinion.”

Even though Salisbury is the city’s solicitor, he said he often prosecutes cases outside the city, but within the county.

“Our jurisdiction ends at the city limits, however I do prosecute misdemeanors that are brought to be from the sheriff’s office … like this case,” he said. “I do receive a paycheck from the county commission.

“I appreciate your patience as I work through this case,” he said. “I’d rather do it right than do it fast.”