More Trouble at Tulare County Animal Control

A family pet named Clyde, embroiled in a vicious dog case, was recently stolen from Tulare County Animal Control (TCAC).

“Sometime during the evening of January 4, or morning of January 5, someone cut the fences at the adjacent building and then broke into the Animal Control facility. They cut into the dog’s kennel, took the animal, and at this time the dog’s location remains unknown. No other animals were harmed or stolen and no other property was removed from the animal control facility.” according to County Media Officer, Melissa Withnell.

Wendy Jones, the dog’s owner, is pleading for information concerning Clyde’s whereabouts and safety. Many times fighting back tears from the exhaustion of a legal battle, and the loss of her dog, Jones explained how she had just filed papers at Tulare County Superior Court concerning Clyde when she heard of the break-in at TCAC. After seeing the story on the news, friends called Jones on the January 5 to tell her that her dog had been stolen. Jones is in a fight with the county, which has declared the dog a menace to society and has ordered the dog to be euthanized.

Trouble started for Jones’ family when, on October 28 of last year, Clyde bit Jones’ grandson. Jones’ 18 month-old grandson took some of the dog’s food when Clyde had been put in a separate room to eat. The dog bit the child on the face, going down to the muscle and requiring stitches on his mouth and eye area. The wounds are healing and further surgery does not appear to be required.

It is now incumbent on Jones to prove that Clyde is not a danger to society and did not have a history of biting or vicious behavior. According to Jones, Clyde is a family pet that plays with people, cats, and other dogs. He rides in the shopping carts on family shopping trips, and goes to work with the family.

“We’d be robbed if someone tried to break in and Clyde was guarding the house,” said Jones.

The dog has no prior incidents of vicious behavior or of biting. The county and the child’s mother disagree. The county wants to put the dog down and the 18 month-old child’s mother is fighting for full custody of her son. The child’s mother and father are not married and do not live together.

There have been three hearings concerning Clyde’s fate. Jones had an opportunity at the first hearing to present pictures and evidence proving the dog was not a menace. She felt that she got a fair hearing and that the officer would be impartial. That hearing was invalidated by county council before a decision was rendered.

At a second hearing, it was determined that the dog was a menace to society and the dog was ordered to be euthanized. Jones appealed the case. In the event that Jones had lost her appeal she would have five days to file papers with the Tulare County Superior Court to request a trial.

Before she received the decision on her appeal, on the morning of January 2, Deputy Young of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and an off-duty animal control officer in uniform, Chris Carothers, showed up at the kennel to seize her dog, Jones said. The kennel is next door to her home.

Coincidently, this was at the exact same time that Sheriff Boudreaux was being sworn in outside the county courthouse, Jones said. Although the deputy and animal control officer did not have a court order to take the dog, the kennel owner felt obligated to hand Clyde over because the deputy told him to do so. When the kennel operator brought Clyde out on his leash, the dog thought everyone was there to see him and immediately started licking Carothers’ hand. The dog was loaded into the animal control truck and taken to the TCAC facility in Visalia.

Jones telephoned the Sheriff’s Department and asked who was assigned to go the kennel and collect Clyde. She was told that nobody was given such an assignment. She also discovered that Carothers was not scheduled to work at TCAC that day.

Jones, a 20- year employee of TCAC who worked at the Lindsay facility, is familiar with the rules and codes that need to be followed when owning a dog. In the process of dealing with TCAC concerning Clyde, she said that the staff knowingly disseminated incorrect information and threatened her
Jones characterized the staff as, “not doing the proper documentation, not following facility protocol, not following the law. They are corrupt and it has gotten worse.” Basically, she said, they are “running rogue.”

Jones retired from TCAC in 2009.

During a meeting with Tim Lutz, director of Fiscal Operations, Health and Human Services Agency, and TCAC supervisor, he apologized to Jones for TCAC staffs’ behavior, she said. He told her, unfortunately, that HHSA has inherited their current staff and that the TCAC manager sometimes gets caught up in the drama going on out there, she said.

This is the second major incident to hit TCAC in the span of six weeks. It was reported in the November 10 Valley Voice that two former TCAC employees, retired USMC Major Paul Grenseman and Julia Jimenez, filed suit in Tulare County Superior Court against five Tulare County employees, including Lutz. The plaintiffs are suing the county for discrimination, racial/ethnic and sexual harassment, failure to prevent discrimination and failure to prevent harassment as well retaliation for objecting to, speaking out against, and complaining of illegal discrimination and harassment. That case is pending.

At press time the dog is still missing and a court case has been filed to save Clyde’s life–if he is still alive. A court date is pending until it is determined if Jones qualifies for a waiver of the $435 filing fee. Jones said, she has all of the documentation to back up her case but cannot afford a lawyer.

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