The Chesterfield County Animal Shelter will not face criminal charges, but the officers involved in the months-long investigations were fired on Monday.
Late Wednesday, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released his long-awaited opinion on the incident that drew national attention.
The attorney general's spokesman, Mark Plowden, said the investigation is over, and they did not find enough evidence to show any criminal intent in the shootings of dogs outside the shelter. Plowden said there is also a section in state law that allows for guns to be used to euthanize animals when there is an absolute necessity.
The attorney general's office recommended that animal control officers Brian Burch, Kip Gulledge, Eric Donahue and Lee Carnes be fired.
The story started in March, when a shelter volunteer said she saw dead dogs buried in a field across from the Chesterfield County shelter on Goodale Road.
Tests on six dogs later confirmed they'd been shot in the head and buried there. Plowden said a total of 10 dogs were shot and dumped in a non-permitted landfill near the shelter. It's not known how long that activity had been going on.
The four accused officers had been on leave for nearly five months during the investigation. Sheriff Sam Parker said he fired them on Monday because the shelter needed a fresh start.
"It's just not going away. I felt like it was time I go ahead and relieve these guys of their duties so hopefully they can get on with their lives, and the county can maintain an animal shelter," Parker said.
Parker said the public pressure was still unrelenting, even five months after the incidents first came to light.
"These guys have paid for it long enough, and my department has paid for it long enough," he said.
A consent order from the attorney general's office now must be signed by Sheriff Parker and the Chesterfield County Council. Council members are expected to agree to the terms of the order at their next meeting on Aug 10.
Plowden said the goal wasn't only to punish the officers at the shelter, but to make sure such actions don't ever happen again.
The consent order gives members of the Humane Society the backing of a court order to inspect the Chesterfield County shelter at any time. It also requires new record-keeping measures that track the intake, adoption, illness and death of all animals at the shelter.
Also, Sheriff Parker must strictly enforce a ban on the shooting of any shelter animals as a form of euthanasia. If it happens again, he must immediately report it to the attorney general's office.
Parker said he plans to have four new animal control officers in place by the weekend. Sheriff's deputies took over the day to day operations of the animal shelter within days of the shooting incidents last spring. Since then, the number of animals brought in from the streets has soared to more than 200.
Parker said they are overwhelmed, and with a tiny budget of roughly $160,000, they need help. Parker said the time for blame and finger-pointing is over. He's looking for volunteers who will help feed and care for the animals, donating their time, money and supplies.
"You criticized us, you crucified us, now help us," Parker said. "We're asking now, if you've got an opinion, keep it to yourself. Come forward and help us."
The attorney general's office said Wednesday that this case is closed, and it does not expect to release any more information.
Chesterfield Animal Control Officers Won't Face Charges
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