Littlefield: Pet Company "spreading disease and disappointment"
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – A new voice has emerged in the case of alleged animal cruelty at a Chattanooga pet store, the city mayor.
In a strongly worded, open letter released Thursday afternoon, Mayor Ron Littlefield says that the Chattanooga courts should not be intimidated by "corporate bullying tactics".
Mayor Littlefield says that the evidence of the violations is "compelling and recorded in graphic detail" and that The Pet Company was spreading "disease and disappointment among the citizens of Chattanooga."
Officials from the McKamey Animal Shelter, along with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, raided The Pet Company in Hamilton Place Mall on June 15th, seizing all of the animals in the store.
Since the day of the raid, McKamey and The Pet Company have been legal battles over custody of the animals and payment for the housing and treatment of the sick animals.
Wednesday, Chattanooga Judge Sherry Paty delayed a decision on restitution. McKamey is seeking more than $40,000 for the housing and treatment of the animals seized in the raid.
Mayor Littlefield's letter in it's entirety:
In response to inquiries by a number of concerned citizens, I must say that I am totally frustrated by the slow, soft and reluctant pace of justice in the case of The Pet Company.
Transcribed testimony from the original hearing has clearly established that the conditions existing at the Pet Company were hot, dirty and generally disgusting on June 15, 2010 - the date that animals were seized and removed from the premises. The Court has received evidence that the air conditioning in the store had been malfunctioning for three weeks, cages were in poor condition with cracks in the grates or trays that would allow urine or feces to flow down onto animals below and sick animals were not properly isolated or cared for. Specifically, the court records that "A German Shepherd was in isolation with no water" and that several of the animals tested positive for giardia – a serious and contagious parasitic infection.
There are other charges involving violations such as outdated and mishandled medications, poorly trained staff, nonexistent training manuals and a general absence of management and care. The evidence supporting the 90 violations is compelling and recorded in graphic detail, yet there seems to be an air of acceptance and willingness to be intimidated by the company's lawyers. I understand that the court must be careful not to discourage private enterprise or drive a company out of business. Employees who are attempting to protect helpless animals who have clearly been mistreated by a business in this city cannot be so timid. Where public health and the welfare of citizens and animals is involved, I must maintain that we should do the right thing in spite of corporate bullying tactics.
Setting aside all the legal rhetoric and arguments about the exact wording of the definition of what constitutes "cruelty" and "neglect", one fact is glaringly obvious:
The Pet Company was marketing sick and dying animals at their poorly maintained store in Hamilton Place with inadequate concern that they were spreading disease and disappointment among the citizens of Chattanooga.
The McKamey Center is the city's animal enforcement division. And is therefore, fully responsible for ensuring that the city codes for animal safety and welfare are adhered to by citizens, as well as corporations.
If not for intervention by staff of The McKamey Center, the practice doubtlessly would have continued. Does anyone believe that the actions removing animals from the documented conditions by McKamey and the State of Tennessee (blessed by a local court) were excessive? Why then does it appear that McKamey is on the defensive and the company that permitted the conditions that led to the corrective action is being granted what can only be characterized as amazing grace and remarkable legal latitude?
With all of this said, I must also note that the company is trying to avoid the cost of mishandling their responsibilities. Trying to paint themselves as the victim, the company is attempting to leave McKamey and the citizens of Chattanooga holding the bag for the $40,000 bill for housing and veterinary care for these mistreated animals.
Any person who has ever loved an animal or had a child experience the death of a family pet or anyone who simply pays taxes and expects government to act when action is called for should not accept such calloused behavior from a private enterprise as "business as usual". Our responsibility is to protect our citizens and where the health and welfare of our citizens is in conflict with the profit motives of a New Jersey corporation, I stand with our families.