An incensed and angry pet owner emotionally, but calmly addressed the Miami City Council at last week's regular meeting about the mishandling of her dog after it was discovered injured and the dog's subsequent euthanasia and the treatment of the carcass
MIAMI – The loss of a pet is hard, but the circumstances of Kari Sisson's beloved dog Willow's death are even more difficult.
The incensed and angry pet owner emotionally, but calmly addressed the Miami City Council at last week's regular meeting about the mishandling of her dog after it was discovered injured and the dog's subsequent euthanasia and the treatment of the carcass.
Before Sisson spoke, Miami City Manager Dean Kruithof gave an account of the dog's demise and the consequential measures now being taken by the City of Miami.
“Usually when we have an agenda item and I bring it to you I'm very proud of being able to talk to about something the City of Miami's done, but this is a case in which I'm not proud at all,” Kruithof said.
Admittedly, Kruithof said, City employees mishandled the issue.
By Kruithof's account of the event, on Aug. 12 or 13 Sisson's dog, a Boxer breed, was hit and left injured on Miami’s Main Street in front of Arvest Bank. Bystanders who witnessed the event called dispatch to report the incident and the Miami Police Department and Miami Animal Control were called out.
For over a week Sisson was searching for Willow and in contact with Miami Animal Control and Public Works Administrative Assistant Brittany Crowe and was told there were no records of the incident. Determined to find her dog and any information, Sisson requested Arvest's security video surveillance footage that confirmed the City of Miami’s Animal Control Vehicle had responded to the scene and picked up the injured dog.
Miami's Human Resources Director Kim Horn notified Kruithof around Aug. 20 Crowe had informed her of these issues at the City's Animal Shelter.
“Brittany had approached her and said, 'There's something wrong at the animal shelter.' We'd been keeping an eye on that because we'd had some maintenance problems and some cleanliness problems at the shelter that Brian (Councilman Forrester) had reported to me at about the same time,” Kruithof said.
After an investigation, on Aug. 22, Horn reported back to Kruithof.
“The Animal Control Officer because of lack of training and a number of other issues had called the police. They took the animal to our Solid Waste facility and the animal was destroyed, the animal was shot, putting it out of its misery,” Kruithof said. “But the problem is at that time the Animal Control Officer left Kari’s pet's body basically out in the open, did not take it into Solid Waste, did not dispose of it in a proper manner and left it out basically for days. We found out Aug. 22 and we were appalled.”
Sisson was called and she spoke with Police Chief Thomas Anderson, according to Kruithof.
“I know how upset you were and you deserve to be upset,” Kruithof said addressing Sisson directly. “I promised you at that time we would take steps and make sure that something like this never happens again.”
Kruithof reported to the City Council at the meeting that the matter was handled and he could not speak publicly because of personnel policy about all details of the City's response.
“I will say any personnel actions I have the ability to take care of to correct the situation, I have taken,” he said.
Kruithof said staff is currently working on new Animal Shelter and handling of animals policy and procedure to ensure all measures are taken for future to correction of such problems.
Sisson then spoke to the Council and said although she was appreciative of the administration's response, she was in contact with the Oklahoma Animal Alliance, and Humane Society leaders, and cited violations of Oklahoma State Law occurring in the event of Willow's death and handling of her remains.
“There were a lot of things left out of what he told you,” Sisson said in her comments.
Sisson said the dog only had a broken leg, was destroyed without a veterinarian’s examination or care, and the remains were illegally disposed of by a City of Miami employee.
Sisson cited Oklahoma law saying employees handing animal welfare situations must be trained prior to and throughout by continuing education to provide adequate and consistent care for the animals. She went on to call for a specific handling and care plan and euthanasia policies and asked for greater public access to the City’s shelter for random condition checks.
“I’ve been lied to basically ten days in a row. I don’t want to be lied to anymore,” Sisson said.
Kruithof assured Sisson City Animal Control policies and procedures are being reassessed and personnel issues dealt with.
Councilman Forrester expressed his own displeasure with the shelter’s conditions, which he had previously expressed to Kruithof, and this was acknowledged by both men. Forrester apologized and vowed to see that Sisson’s expressed issues were addressed.
“If I have anything to say about it, and I truly believe everything that Dean has told us…a policy’s going to be put in place and it’s going to be followed and there’s going to be people handling this situation, because to me it’s uncalled for, very much uncalled for,” he said.
City Attorney Ben Loring said he has a policy template, a series of meetings with City Staff and local animal welfare leaders with Sisson’s input and a draft has been completed that will need final staff and council approval so it can be approved and imposed.
“So, we’re in the process so we can put it in place as soon as we can,” Loring said.
In other Council business, discussion of a proposed City of Miami ordinance to introduce the possibility of further restriction on usage of tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapor products on City of Miami property and City-owned facilities.
This policy is extended to all employees, volunteers, clients, customers, visitors, vendors, contractors, and others on business at the City of Miami, and at City-owned locations such as the Ottawa County Fairgrounds, sporting and housing complexes.
“With the passage of State Question 788 that will bring into play at some point in time, the addition of marijuana to the ordinance that we come up with right now,” Loring said. “Right now the rules promulgated by the Health Department would prohibit the smoking of marijuana any place the smoking of tobacco is prohibited. In this draft we also are prohibiting the vaping of tobacco and I anticipate that the State Statutes are going to be changed to allow a municipality to also prohibit the vaping of marijuana, but that is not the law at this time.”
Loring said the Miami City Council could then look at adding such measures once state law allows for the possible restriction.
Miami’s Code Development’s Kristi McClain went over upcoming ordinance amendments for review of the City’s
Building and Building Regulations Code. The City’s Building and Building Regulations Code has been
Reviewed in totality, updating various provisions, adding new provisions, and removing some provisions.
These repealed, and new simplified and amended ordinances affect several building trades such as plumbers, electricians, builders and roofers, and follows Oklahoma State Codes, according to Loring.
An appeal process to the Miami Board of Adjustments is built into the new proposal.
Copies of the new code ordinances were given to the council for review and will be addressed and voted on at future Miami City Council meetings.
“It’s easier to understand,” McClain said. “ This is the first of many.”
A Memorandum of Understanding with the Ottawa County Fair Board regarding the construction of a Pole Barn and the board’s planned donation of a barn to the City of Miami was accepted.
Upon acceptance, the City will be responsible to insure the structure at a cost of approximately $200 per year.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.