Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler said the county’s animal control officer has been disciplined following an incident in which he shot and killed a dog.
The director of the county’s animal shelter filed a complaint against Russell Parker, Fayette animal control officer, following the incident last month. The complaint said Parker is not trained with firearms and had to fire multiple shots, causing the dog to suffer.
On March 11, Parker was called to a home along Elizabeth Street in Oak Hill, where a 145-pound chow mix-breed dog attacked a 13-year-old boy, Kessler said. The dog left severe injuries on the boy’s leg, requiring 21 stitches.
The dog was known to roam the area and had attacked people before, Kessler said. The dog’s owner told Parker that the dog was never tested for rabies and she requested the dog be euthanized. Parker took the dog to the animal shelter.
The next day an employee at the Fayette County Health Department told Parker it needed to be quickly euthanized and its head sent to Charleston for rabies testing. This would save doctors from having to perform a lengthy and painful vaccination on the boy, Kessler said.
Only one employee at the Fayette County Animal Control Center, operated by the Humane Society, is licensed to euthanize animals. That employee told Parker she wouldn’t be able to kill the dog until later that afternoon.
Parker said he felt a sense of urgency and did not want to wait on the licensed employee. He drove to the animal shelter, shot the dog and later removed its head. State law permits animal euthanization by firearm, Kessler said.
Carrie Carr, director of the Fayette County Animal Control Center, filed an animal cruelty complaint against Parker March 13. Carr said the dog’s owner paid a veterinary hospital to humanely euthanize the dog. When the owner called the shelter to have the dog moved, she learned that Parker already shot it and removed its head. Parker is not trained to use firearms and did not use the proper caliber gun in accordance with the law, according to Carr’s complaint.
Parker used a small-caliber rifle and it took at least three shots to kill the dog, Kessler said. Kessler talked with Fayette County Prosecutor Carl Harris and they later agreed that Parker did not break any laws.
Parker felt he was acting in the injured boy’s best interests, Kessler said, and did not mean to be malicious or cause the dog unnecessary suffering.
“This botched euthanization was a result of Animal Control Officer Parker’s decision to use a firearm of insufficient caliber, not unlike a trained medical professional missing a vein while attempting to inject medication and being forced to try another location, thereby causing pain and suffering to a patient,” Kessler said.
Parker was disciplined internally and is still employed with the sheriff’s department. He has worked for the department more than 10 years and has no previous complaints against him. Kessler discussed the incident with Parker and said he is enforcing policies to prevent similar incidents from happening. Kessler said he regrets that it happened but doesn’t believe the incident warranted Parker’s termination.
“I’m certainly not defending what he did, and if an incident even remotely similar to this occurs in the future then I would certainly dismiss him from his employment,” Kessler said.
Carr did not return phone messages Friday.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.