10/07/08 — Committee set up to eye dog handling policies in MO

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Committee set up to eye dog handling policies in MO

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 7, 2008 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- It took town commissioners about 25 minutes Monday night to dispose of a two-item agenda that included some harsh words from a Duplin County man, approval of a state airport grant and a board appointment.

Less than a half dozen spectators were on hand to hear Rick Summerlin dress down the town for its handling of a dog-shooting incident and Mayor Ray McDonald Sr.'s response.

"These police don't need training, they need common sense," Summerlin said during the public comments portion of the meeting. "Something has got to be done about it and done quick. I am infuriated about such conduct."

Summerlin was referring to a Sept. 18 incident in which Mount Olive police responded to a call from a woman who said a vicious dog had chased her into her house. The dog was killed by two shotgun blasts.

Summerlin said two officers were involved and the police chief, who later backed them up by supporting them.

Summerlin said he wanted to know who else was involved in the case and who had investigated it. He said there appeared to be criminal charges and civil liabilities involved.

McDonald moved the board through the rest of the brief agenda before responding to Summerlin and then only after several board members had commented.

Commissioners Hosea Manley, Kenny Talton and Ray Thompson all agreed that the shooting was a "tragic situation." They all expressed regret and said the town was working to ensure it would not happen again.

"There are lessons to be learned," Talton said.

McDonald told Summerlin that "there was more to the story."

McDonald said he, too, had taken the dog's side, but that the more he got into it, the more he found out that the dog had been a problem.

McDonald said he first had been told children had been nearby when the dog was shot.

"I found out later that was not the case," he said.

McDonald said police had been hampered by a lack of clear-cut guidelines and lack of proper equipment.

McDonald said everyone makes mistakes. He said there was nothing the town could do to bring the dog back, "but we can do something to keep it from happening again."

Summerlin responded that less than a year ago a black bear had wandered into Goldsboro. He said police officers didn't get "trigger happy" and had used "sound judgment."

The bear was tranquilized and relocated, he said.

McDonald said the two people who have been the "nicest and most reasonable" to deal with have been the man and woman who owned the dog.

"Everybody has got some responsibility for what happened," he said.

In an interview after the meeting, McDonald said a committee has been appointed to look at town policies and ordinances on dogs. The committee includes Melanie Ladd, chairman, who does animal rescue; Irene Patten, a retired Mount Olive College professor; local veterinarians Dr. Mark Sasser and Dr. Amy Moye; McDonald; and Colby Mangum, who had the dog, and Michael Kicia, who owned the dog.

McDonald said he was pleased with the committee.

"I feel something good will come out of it," he said.

The committee has held an organizational meeting and will meet again Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

In agenda action, commissioners approved a $336,240 grant agreement with the state Department of Transportation. The grant will help pay for expanding the Mount Olive airport runway to 5,000 feet.

The expansion will allow the airport to better accommodate small jet planes, McDonald said.

He said the planes can land on 3,700-foot runways, but cannot take off with a load.

The project is expected to cost $373,601 and includes paving, grading, drainage, lighting and navigational aids.

The town will be responsible for the difference and budgeted for it in the town's 2008-09 budget.

In the only other vote, the board appointed Commis-sioners Kenny Talton and Gene Lee to the Local Firefighters Relief Fund.