Becky Marsh was getting ready Saturday to drive to Appomattox to pick up a dog named Sam from the Appomattox County Public Animal Shelter when she received a text message from a volunteer there asking if she already had gotten the dog.
The Timberlake resident found out the next day Sam had been euthanized.
When the Friends of Appomattox County Public Animal Shelter posted the dog’s story on its Facebook page Monday morning, it kicked off a firestorm of comments and calls to action to Appomattox County leaders.
Sam had been at the shelter since February after his former owner surrendered him, according to the friends’ Facebook page. The cover photo on its page said “rest in peace, sweet Sam” as of Monday evening.
Facebook video of Sam from Friends of the Appomattox County Public Animal Shelter
The shelter volunteers had lined up Marsh to adopt Sam.
“I had previously, several years ago, adopted a dog there similar to Sam. She was very shy and timid … actually was scheduled to be put down, when I learned something about her,” Marsh said by phone Monday afternoon.
County Administrator Susan Adams said she learned about the events over the weekend via Facebook posts Monday morning.
Adams said she was unaware of any euthanasia performed on any animals at the shelter and immediately contacted county staff for information.
“Unfortunately, my initial findings were that an animal was taken to a physician last Friday and euthanasia was performed,” she wrote in an email to The News & Advance Monday.
Micki Caifano, Appomattox County Animal Control Officer, did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Caifano was hired by the county in June after the previous officer retired.
Adams said early Monday afternoon she will conduct an investigation into the matter and had not yet had discussed it with Caifano, who she said was out on a separate animal cruelty investigation Monday.
Piney Mountain Supervisor Sara Carter said Monday evening she received almost 26 emails and one text message about the incident.
“If there are open runs and not a vicious animal, we should not be euthanizing animals,” she said Monday evening.
Appomattox County supervisors went into closed session after their regular meeting Monday to discuss letting the shelter be taken over by a private organization and the county rent out the facility similar to the arrangement the City of Lynchburg has with the Lynchburg Humane Society. The second item for the closed session was personnel-related, County Attorney J.G. Overstreet said.
Marsh was originally supposed to pick up Sam and see him for the first time on Sept. 10, but was unable to and rescheduled the pickup for the next weekend.
“No one let me know there was any urgency,” she said.
When asked if she had been notified if Sam had any behavioral problems or a bite history, Marsh said she would not have adopted Sam if he did.
Marsh said she was contacted by one of the volunteers in Appomattox about adopting Sam because of the similarities to her other adopted dog, Rosie.
“I’m sad, confused, and angry. When I adopted the first dog … her time was up but the animal control officer called me to confirm [I was going to adopt] and set up time. After we had that conversation, he spared her. This time, no one was told anything,” Marsh said. “Suddenly, what appeared to be a perfectly healthy dog that had a home, someone was coming, was gone. No one can find out a reason why.”
In 2015, the Appomattox County shelter reported taking in 527 animals to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees animal shelters.
Of those 527 animals, 144 were euthanized, five died in the facility, 191 were transferred to another Virginia agency, 127 were adopted and 31 were reclaimed by their owner. The shelter still had 22 animals in the facility as of Dec. 31, 2015, according to the VDACS website.
The percentage of animals euthanized in Appomattox, which was about 27 percent in 2015, is down from 32 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2013.
Adams previously told The News & Advance, the county follows the state regulations on euthanasia at animal shelters.
According to Virginia state code, animals shall be kept for no less than five days, which starts the day after the animal is confined in a facility. If identification is found on the animal, the animal is given an additional five days to be claimed by the rightful owner.
After the holding period, the animal is deemed abandoned and becomes the property of the animal shelter.