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MEDIA RELEASE: Outrage Mounting Over Shooting of Impounded Dogs in Mississippi

MEDIA RELEASE: Outrage Mounting Over Shooting of Impounded Dogs in Mississippi

WINONA, Miss. (March 16, 2023) — In Defense of Animals, the international animal protection organization operating Hope Animal Sanctuary and Justice for Animals Campaign in Mississippi, and the Winona Animal Advocacy Group (WAAG) are calling for accountability and change after an Animal Control Officer shot several dogs who were impounded by the city. 

“I am one of hundreds of heartbroken Winona residents,” said Doll Stanley Justice for Animals Campaign Senior Campaigner for In Defense of Animals, who has rescued Winona’s animals for 30 years. “Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels need to show good faith and say how many dogs were shot, and ensure this will never happen again.”

 

 

At a meeting of the Winona Board of Alderpersons on March 8, 2023, Winona Police Chief Roshaun Daniels announced that animal control services would become a division of the police department. Chief Daniels introduced his new-hire Animal Control Officer Vidal Anderson, son-in-law to Mayor Aaron Dees. 

When introducing Anderson, Chief Daniels met with agreement from city officials and attendees when he expressed the challenges posed by stray dogs wandering through yards and traffic. Chief Daniels was concerned that the city pound was at capacity and most of the dogs had been impounded far beyond the city’s 10-day holding period. The city facility is in great disrepair and has only six runs, limiting the number of dogs and their stay. For years, city officials have discussed seeking grants to build a new facility. 

On March 9, ACO Anderson and an inmate, who should not have been charged with this cruel task, were seen unloading four dogs from the city truck, tethering them, and then shooting them. 

An unnamed witness told In Defense of Animals, “One, a small black dog was wagging his tail as he was shot.” The witness shared photos showing pools of blood on the ground where the dogs were shot.

Stanley immediately wrote a letter to Mayor Dees and copied City Attorney Adam Kirk. She noted the possible statutes relating to the legality of shooting dogs, and raised ethical concerns. 

Stanley and WAAG member Carol Griffin uncovered two of the dogs shot and disposed of in the city dumps, which is a misdemeanor offense. There were more bags mixed in with discarded furniture pieces and general trash.

On March 10, Stanley, Griffin, Griffin’s daughter Gwen Neill, and Alderman Mickey Austin met with Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels. Mayor Dees first said Chief Daniels instructed a police officer to shoot the dogs. However, ACO Anderson sold himself out that evening, posting a confession on social media that he shot the dogs. At this intense meeting both the mayor and the chief disclosed that it was ACO Anderson who shot the dogs. Chief Daniels threatened to arrest Neill for disrespecting him. Alderman Austin commented on Chief Daniels’ attitude.

The mayor’s account of the meeting didn’t agree with Alderman Austin’s wife. She posted a statement on social media sharing that Alderman Austin was not representing the city at the meeting, but was wanting answers for the shocking revelation that the city began shooting dogs. The mayor said it was to save money. Records confirm that the previous ACO used veterinary services to kill unclaimed and unwanted dogs.

Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels agreed to implement a humane policy to kill unadopted dogs, and Chief Daniels apologized for their decision to have the dogs shot. 

Stanley commented, ”An apology is positive, but ACO Anderson and Chief must be terminated. Animal care services must be placed back under the mayor, not the police department.”

Former Mayor Jerry Flowers rejected allegations that prior administrations allowed the shooting of the city’s impounded dogs, stating, “During my 14 years as mayor of Winona, our animal control officer never executed any dog with a gun with my knowledge. We fed and housed the dogs for a minimum of 10 days. We went to great extents to find homes for our sheltered animals. When efforts to place dogs were exhausted, and it was cruel to continue to confine them without hope, they were humanely euthanized by a veterinarian.” 

Four dogs were initially admitted as shot, which later rose to six, but citizens now know the shelter was full. Witness Andreas Woods told WAAG he and other witnesses saw the ACO shoot the dogs and put their bodies in a dumpster, including a mom and pups who were in the shelter on March 1st shot. He heard 8 gunshots.

Video: Witness interview

Animals advocates and citizens at large are venting the emotions that seethed for days. WTVA spoke to outraged residents, including Woods, who kept watch outside the pound to ensure it didn’t happen again.

 

 

While the mayor and chief may be content to make an apology, their actions are just too wrong to avoid disciplinary action. There are rumblings for prosecution. Authorities have been asked to determine if the antiquated statute instructing law officers to “kill, or destroy” isn’t trumped by a recent statute enacted to protect dogs and cats from cruelty. In Defense of Animals and WAAG have requested Sheriff Jeff Thompkins investigate the possible crimes.

The Board of Aldermen has been asked to advocate for the city’s animals and to vote for administrative discipline for Chief Daniels and fire or reassign ACO Anderson to another city position.

Whatever the outcome of this fiasco, it is certain that confidence and trust have been lost and aren’t likely to be regained.

“We need a major overhaul of our animal treatment here in Winona, from the top down and bottom up,” explained Stanley. “I urge the mayor to replace the outdated ‘Animal Control’ model with ‘Animal Care.’ And I urge Winona residents to stop allowing unneutered dogs to roam because it’s a death sentence, either at the pound or on our roads.”

 

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Images: https://bit.ly/WinonaACO

Contact: Doll Stanley, [email protected], (662) 809-4483


Letter: 


March 9, 2023


Mayor Aaron Dees 

Office of the Mayor

116 N Quitman Street

Winona, Mississippi 38967


CC Winona City Attorney Adam Kirk


Mayor Aaron Dees,


I am writing to you regarding an astounding report I received today. A witness who identified ACO Officer Vidal Anderson and an inmate unloading dogs, shooting and bagging them. One dog, a tail-wagging small dog, was taken off the truck and shot as she wagged her tail at the shooter. This Morning there are no dogs at the shelter and Dr. Daniel Hill has not euthanized any dogs for the city. 

I have so many reactions to this undisputed report by independent witnesses that I’m unsure where to begin. I’ll start with the legalities of these slayings.

Mississippi State Statute MSSS 41-53-11 allows for dogs at large over the age of three (3) months to be killed after a five-day holding period. While the dogs at the shelter were held far beyond the five-day holding period, they deserved a humane death.

I would need to research Winona’s city ordinance to learn if I’m correct that It’s illegal to fire a weapon within city limits unless the shooter is a law enforcement officer responding to firing. In obedience to the law, officers have declined mercy killings for this reason.

Animal control officers have been convicted of shooting dogs, including a past Canton, MS ACO. Currently, MSSS 97-41-16 (2) (a) Shooting a dog that is not endangering life or property is a felony.

I believe that the Bissell Foundation was to be Winona’s benefactor with a $50,000 grant. Knowing Cathy Bissel, I know that she will not fund a municipal impoundment facility that is reported to shoot innocent dogs who, by no choice of theirs, have been cast aside to the mercy and mercilessness of a challenged society.

I am asking that the offender, ACO, or police officer be identified and be penalized withsuspension until the ACO is trained in humane animal control methodology. It must fall on the police department to fill the position until the ACO is certified. The city must make a public apology. Whisperings undermine respect and authority.

Here forward, it must be a city policy for every dog caught or surrendered to be immediately photographed on a city phone and be texted or emailed to a city database of dogs taken by the city—the date, time, location, and final disposition. If the dogs are not adopted or transported, they must be euthanized by a veterinarian. Though mostly unclaimed dogs are “property,” all government agencies must treat them as belonging to a citizen until the state-mandated five-day holding period is up.

I believe that it’s fair to give the city a week to respond positively. I trust you will act in good faith. I will hold my media release until then.


Sincerely,


Doll Stanley, Senior Campaigner

In Defense of Animals

Justice for Animals Campaign

[email protected]

(662) 809-4483

 

In Defense of Animals’ Justice for Animals Campaign has worked actively with law enforcement, court officials, and citizens of Mississippi for the prevention and prosecution of animal cruelty under existing statutes and ordinances and for the passage of laws that civilized societies should afford their most vulnerable creatures for 30 years.

Hope Animal Sanctuary was established in Carroll County by In Defense of Animals in 1993. Each year, it rescues and rehabilitates around 500 of the Deep South’s most abused animals. www.idausa.org/hopeanimalsanctuary

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in California with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of fighting for animals, their advocates, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi. www.idausa.org/justice4animals


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