Recent events with the Caruthersville Humane Society concerning their displacement from the city facility have raised questions of wrongdoing by the City of Caruthersville’s animal control officer, Donnie Pickens.
Complaints to city officials, made by the Humane Society as recently as March of this year, have gone without investigation.
City manager Terry Rushing indicated in a recent interview that the Carutherville Humane Society had failed to provide proof to back up their claims that the city animal control officer had done anything wrong. He made this claim even though three CHS board members had met with Rushing in March and presented him with a folder full of proof he claims he never received.
In fact, well documented complaints about the city animal control officer date back months prior to the March 2012 meeting between Rushing and CHS board members; as far back as at least May 2011. Complaints the City of Caruthersville is well aware of.
One such incident was immediately reported to officials during the 2011 flood.
May 2011, animal control officer Donnie Pickens placed a call to the Emergency and Disaster team to do an immediate check and pick up of a horse in rural Pemiscot County. Fearing rising flood waters may reach the area the horse was located in, emergency personnel went to the location Pickens had given them and found a horse down in a pasture.
The horse, near death, was malnourished and severely septic. Rescue teams had a hard time getting the horse to its feet but did manage to do so and it was transported to the emergency shelter set up in Kennett, Mo.
The horse was examined by a veterinarian with the disaster crew and found to be in such bad condition that euthanasia was initially recommended.
Pickens was then contacted by the Humane Society and asked why the horse was in such bad shape and she indicated that the horse was old and sick.
She was then asked to sign a surrender form, a document stating ownership of an animal and the surrender of said animal to the Humane Society, so that the horse could legally be euthanized.
Pickens filled out the form agreeing to the surrender; the same form she deals with on a regular basis in her job.
On the form she indicated that the mare’s name was Peaches, she was owned, but left blank all other sections including “vet” and other vital information.
The form was signed by Pickens and witnessed on May 9, 2011. (See a copy of the surrender form in the attached slideshow)
Shortly after Pickens surrendered Peaches, a second veterinarian examined the 5 year old Palomino mare. He too agreed that the horse was severely malnourished but found a nail in one of its hooves, which had caused the severe infection.
The second veterinarian did not agree that euthanasia was necessary and was fairly certain Peaches could be successfully treated and make a full recovery.
After discussing the matter with the Humane Society it was determined that the horse would receive treatment and they would see how things went.
The nail was removed and Peaches underwent a series of antibiotics and treatment for the infected hoof. Peaches was then placed in foster care so that she could be watched over closely. She responded well to treatment.
Looking into the horse’s ownership, the team discovered that Pickens had taken possession of Peaches and another horse she had discovered wandering loose inside the city limits of Caruthersville, several months earlier.
Eye witness accounts state that when picked up by Pickens, the horses were both in good condition being an appropriate weight and appearing in general good health.
During those months that Pickens owned the horses, no veterinarian records can be found for either animal. As indicated on the surrender form, Peaches had not seen a vet.
The whereabouts of the other horse Pickens had picked up with Peaches remains unknown.
It was stated by emergency veterinarians, that had a vet seen Peaches when she first became ill, the nail would have been discovered and the subsequent infection could have been avoided. It was equally as obvious that the injury and infection occurred during the time the horse was in Pickens’ care.
A complaint was then filed with officials, against Donnie Pickens, for failing to medically treat an animal and provide adequate care of said animal.
Once Pickens became aware of the complaint, she immediately denied ownership of the mare. When confronted with the surrender form that she had filled out and signed, she claimed she had been tricked into doing so.
Peaches has made a full recovery. Under the care of the Humane Society’s fosters, a lot of love, and thousands of dollars in veterinary care, Peaches is now a healthy and happy animal.
Since the filing of the complaint no investigation has been conducted and charges against Pickens have never been filed.
“Well it strikes me that the horse became ill in Pickens care due to neglect, therefor she should be cited for cruelty at the very least. Thank God for the second vets opinion, otherwise Peaches would have been running over Rainbow’s Bridge, too soon! I can’t understand why she hasn’t been charged. If it were anyone else who had caused a mare to go down due to infection because of neglect, I’m sure they would pay for their crime!”
Please note that the City of Caruthersville Animal Control and the Caruthersville Humane Societyare two separate entities that once operated out of the same facility.