UPDATE, 4:23 p.m.: Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers said he “continues to support” shelter director Curt Harrell. Harrell ordered the euthanization of the dog because he was following legal advice, the chief said.
“Under Curt’s leadership, animal saves are at record highs and euthanasia rates are at record lows,” Ayers said. “I stand by Curt’s decision about the need to euthanize the animal in question, which had become dangerous.”
The incident will not affect Harrell’s employment, Ayers said.
Original story: Gwinnett County’s animal shelter manager has been found guilty of contempt and fined $500 for euthanizing a dog that was protected under court order.
Curtis Harrell was ordered by a Gwinnett judge to pay the fine after he ordered the dog euthanized before the court order expired. The order originated from a Gwinnett County woman who had filed a lawsuit in an attempt to adopt the dog, who had been deemed dangerously aggressive by shelter staff.
Ricki’s owner had become homelesss and surrendered her last year. The owner reclaimed the dog in January, but returned Ricki to the shelter a day later, claiming the dog had bitten her daughter. Ricki was labeled aggressive, meaning she would not be permitted to be adopted by someone else, said Ed Furr, an attorney for Lisa Musser, who had been trying to adopt Ricki.
“Lisa Musser was willing to adopt the dog and give the dog a home,” Furr said.
Furr and Musser had asked Harrell if Musser could adopt the dog. Musser knew Ricki to be sweet and had seen videos of the dog playing gently with small children, her attorney said. According to Furr, Harrell did not plan on allowing Ricki to be adopted.
“He said the dog wouldn’t leave his facility alive,” Furr said.
Musser filed a lawsuit Feb. 3 to clear the way for her to adopt Ricki. A court order legally barred the shelter from euthanizing the dog through the beginning of March. After the court decided Musser had no right to the dog in late February, Ricki was euthanized before the court order expired.
Furr said his client was satisfied with the guilty verdict for Harrell.
“He was held to the same standard as the rest of us,” Furr said.
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