Remove Manager Curt Harrell from Gwinnett County, GA Animal Control
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On March 21, 2017, Section Manager, Curt Harrell, of Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement, in Lawrenceville, GA, was found GUILTY of Criminal Contempt for ordering a dog (Riku aka Ricki) to be put to death despite a judge's court order.
We the people of Gwinnett County, GA can no longer entrust the responsibility, care, and safe keeping of the animals housed at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter under the supervision of Curt Harrell. It is time for him to be terminated.
This type of leadership to the taxpayers and voters of Gwinnett is unacceptable! There is an undeniable link between the humane treatment of animals and safe, fiscally responsible communities.
Open records requests show that Curt Harrell left his employment at Johns Creek Police Dept amid allegations of:
1. Growing citizen complaints
2. Lack of accountability, leadership, decision making and morale
3. Growing concerns of other Supervisors and Officers within the department
4. An incident involving Curt Harrell that prompted his supervisor to place him on administrative leave. He resigned one month later.
Clearly, Curt should not be in the leadership role that is required of him to make decisions that improve the welfare and humane treatment of the animals of Gwinnett County.
* The following is from a report by FOX5 Atlanta Reporter Randy Travis
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - A judge found Gwinnett County Animal Services director Curt Harrell guilty of criminal contempt after killing a dog in spite of a restraining order.. He was fined $500 but not given any jail time.
The ruling came during an extraordinary contempt hearing where Harrell was the only witness, admitting he did order an 18-month old lab mix be put to sleep after getting legal advice from county attorneys.
“We had to make a decision for the betterment of the community,” Harrell testified.
In February, animal advocates convinced Judge Warren Davis to issue a restraining order that blocked Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement from euthanizing Riku, believing that the shelter was moving too fast to kill her. Riku had two licensed rescue groups that had expressed willingness to take Riku and have her assessed by trainers, away from the shelter. If the trainers and behaviorists determinted Riku was dangerous, the advovates unanimously agreed to have Riku humanely euthanized.
A few weeks later judge Davis told both sides he was not going to keep the restraining order in place, but he wanted each to submit proposed orders first in case the dog's advocates wanted to appeal. Three days later Riku was killed, before any order was signed that would have legally allowing that to happen.
“I do find that you violated the court order and you shouldn't have done so,” ruled Davis from the bench. “You made a conscious deliberate decision. In my mind I find it willful.”
Harrell will appeal. His one-year anniversary as animal services director comes next week.
Shelter records indicate that employees worried about her aggressive nature. The dog was originally surrendered by a woman after her family had become homeless. She got Riku back a few weeks later, hoping to place it in a private kennel, but records show the kennel refused because of the dog's bad behavior.
Then Riku bit the woman's daughter (believed to be 21 years old) while reaching into Riku's bowl. The owner brought Riku back to the shelter as second time for good.
Noted animal behaviorist Victoria Stilwell evaluated Riku and wrote she should be kept away from children because she was still a bite risk.
However, advocates like Lisa Musser still asked the court to help, believing the shelter had given up too soon.
“I never expected it to turn into all of this,” she admitted. “I was just trying to save one dog there. But it would benefit the animals if both sides could find a way to come together peacefully and work together for the sake of the animals.”
Embattled Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Manager Curt Harrell works under the police department. His boss, Chief Butch Ayers, issued this statement about the March 21 finding that Harrell is guilty of criminal contempt for ordering a dog put to death despite a judge's court order. Bottom line: Harrell's job is safe.
"I continue to support Curt Harrell, his management team and Animal Welfare Unit employees. Together, they have made operational improvements that have resulted in remarkable statistics and exceptional public service. Under Curt’s leadership, animal saves are at record highs and euthanasia rates are at record lows. I stand by Curt’s decision about the need to euthanize the animal in question, which had become dangerous. I have deep respect for Judge Warren Davis and I respect the decision of the Court, but the unfortunate error in timing that led to the judge’s ruling was the result of Curt’s following legal advice and it will not impact his employment."
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