Hardister responds to beagle enclosure outcry
On July 17, Captain Van Loveland of Forsyth County Animal Services responded to reports of beagles housed in allegedly inhumane conditions at a Winston-Salem residence. Yesterday, Christina Howell, the Forsyth Sheriff’s Department public affairs officer, told YES! Weekly that no violations were found.
“Yes, we have received complaints,” Howell said. “The majority of them came after photos [of the enclosure] were shared on social media. Yesterday, the commander of the animal services division actually went out to check to make sure it was correct. There was no violation of law or ordinance. The animals have shade, water and are being fed.”
Howell also stated that despite social media claims to the contrary, the dogs alleged status as hunting beagles does not change or lessen their owner’s responsibility for their care and housing.
“I believe that came into the conversation because the animals are being kept in elevated cages. That is, from my understanding, one of the recommendations from the ASPCA and a couple of other well-respected sources. They do recommend that hunting beagles be kept up off the ground.”
Social media photos depict three wooden box-like structures with rectangular openings. The structures appear to be raised several feet above the ground above a base or platform made of muddy wooden boards. The structures appear to be inside a chain-link enclosure. From the photo, it is unclear if what seems to be openings in the structures are in some way screened or closed off, or if they allow free passage. But they are open, and there is no indication of any way a dog could exit the enclosure without leaping to the ground. The structures appear to have metallic roofs.
Public affairs officer Howell confirmed that the structures in the photo were the ones inspected by Captain Loveland. She stated that the enclosures are not evidence of a violation. “The ordinance states that any animal in such an enclosure must be able to make ‘normal body movements.’ Those enclosures meet that requirement.”
One social media post expressing concern about the welfare of any dogs being kept in these enclosures was from the North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare Super PAC. According to the organization’s website, NCVAW was formed in 2004, became a state-wide political action committee in 2012, and a super PAC on March 1, 2019. “Our objective is to advocate for common-sense animal welfare laws through education, legislation, and public policy.”
A Thursday afternoon post on the NCVAW’s Facebook post included the much-shared photo and urged those concerned to “call your local representatives, the mayor, city council, county commissioners, etc. and register a complaint and demand action to change the animal welfare laws in Winston Salem.” It also stated that state law does not recognize this situation as an example of animal cruelty, adding that Captain Loveland “can’t enforce laws that do not exist or do not have a clear definition of what ‘shade’ means . . . . Currently, the roof is providing shade [and] there are no laws or ordinances that say temps inside those boxes can’t exceed X degrees.”
Several Facebook shares of the photo tagged North Carolina house majority whip, Jon Hardister (R-59). When YES! Weekly called Hardister on Friday morning, he said that he’d noticed the tags but not had a chance to read them yet, and asked to be re-tagged in one which had a confirmed photo of the site “so that it will be at the top of my notifications when I’m able to check them in a few minutes.”
Hardister responded and posted the following comment:
“I saw the initial tag but I didn’t have a chance to review the content. The photo is concerning to me. There are several questions that need to be answered. How long are the animals kept in these enclosures? How do they get in and out? Is there adequate shade available elsewhere in the lot? It appears as if these enclosures would become very hot in the summer heat with sunshine on the roof. I’m going to ask my assistant, Juan Pleitez, to contact General Assembly staff to ascertain exactly what the state laws are as it relates to human treatment of animals in an outdoor area, specifically as it relates to small enclosures that would be difficult for the animal to enter or exit unassisted (as the photos seem to suggest). I am in support of making sure that animals are provided with adequate shelter, especially in the heat, as well as food and water.”