Berryville animal officer reprimanded after burying shot dogs, concealing it, mayor says

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 ~ Updated 5:52 PM

BERRYVILLE -- A Berryville animal control officer has been reprimanded after he allegedly shot a man's dog, buried it at the city pound, and then tried to conceal the animal's death from its owners, according to the mayor's office.

The debacle began in the wee hours of March 11, when Deb and Darrin Hatfield noticed their two German Shepherds, Egon and Fritz, had escaped from their yard.

The couple notified law enforcement and began searching for the dogs immediately, Darrin Hatfield said.

Later that day, Animal Control Officer Chuck Stubbs notified the Hatfields that two dogs matching their pets' descriptions had attacked and killed a cat. Hatfield said he contacted the cat's owners that day and paid their veterinarian bills before continuing the search.

They scoured the city all week long, Hatfield said. Each day, he asked Stubbs whether he had any news of the dogs' whereabouts, and, each time, the officer told him he knew nothing.

That was a lie, Hatfield said.

On Friday, the couple heard through an acquaintance that their dogs had been shot -- by Stubbs. Mayor Tim McKinney said the dogs had attacked a goat on Monday, on the property of Vaughn Farmer.

According to the mayor, Farmer had already shot and killed one of the dogs by the time Stubbs arrived on the scene, and the second dog might have also been wounded -- the animal allegedly had blood on its coat.

The mayor said the men initially attempted to coax the second dog from the goat pen verbally, but when it did not respond, Stubbs shot that dog, as well. McKinney said the city was not equipped with tranquilizing equipment, which requires costly licensing and certification, and that using a snare collar on the dog would not have been possible under the circumstances.

Though Farmer declined to comment for this story, Hatfield said Farmer had said on Friday that Stubbs asked him to keep the shooting "quiet." Stubbs then buried the two animals in a ditch at the city pound. The mayor said this was not uncommon. In the days before the pound became a no-kill facility, he said, all euthanized animals were buried on the property, and road kill is still disposed of there.

No attempt was ever made to contact the Hatfields after the dogs were shot. McKinney said the city was not equipped with the technology to read the electronic identification chips implanted in each dog's ear. The mayor added that the city had no clearly established policy spelling out what to do when an animal is killed.

Still, Hatfield said Stubbs should have known the dogs were his. Stubbs told Hatfield on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday that he knew nothing about the dogs' whereabouts, even though he had apparently buried them earlier in the week.

On Saturday, Hatfield and a friend went to Stubbs' house to ask once more if he had found their dogs. Again, Stubbs denied having seen them. Only after Hatfield told Stubbs he had spoken with Farmer did the officer acknowledge killing the animals.

McKinney said he regretted that the dogs had been shot, though he thought the killing was justified. The mayor pointed to a state law that allows for the killing of dogs when they attack livestock.

"Bottom line is if these people had been following the rules, none of this would have happened," he said of the Hatfields.

Still, the mayor acknowledged that Stubbs had "made a judgment error" by not notifying the Hatfields of the killing. He guessed the officer had been trying to "avoid a confrontation."

"The way it was handled after the animals were killed was not good," he said. "It's been addressed, and it better not happen again on my watch."

The mayor said he had issued a verbal warning to Stubbs, a copy of which was placed in his personnel file, and that future infractions would be grounds for "severe action."

McKinney said he had received complaints against Stubbs before, though they were of a trivial and personal nature. Stubbs had never been accused of animal abuse or cruelty, he said.

Stubbs could not be reached for comment by deadline, though the mayor said the officer had been hurt by the backlash following the incident. A Facebook page calling for "justice for Fritz and Egon" had garnered nearly 300 likes by March 19, with some commentators calling for Stubbs to be imprisoned, even shot.

Hatfield said it wasn't the fact that his dogs were killed that bothered him so much -- though he grieved their loss. He said it was the way Stubbs handled the situation after pulling the trigger that upset Hatfield most.

"I don't fault anyone for shooting my dogs," he said, "but when the animal control officer lied to me repeatedly about where my dogs were and then took them out to the pound and threw them in a ditch and put dirt on them ..."

Hatfield said he suspected Stubbs had acted in the way he did out of spite. He said his dogs had gotten loose once before and wandered into the Price Cutter grocery store. At that time, he said, Stubbs had told him, "You had better get your dogs before I do."

"The person running animal control should have compassion for an animal and its owner," he said, "and it's obvious that he had no respect for me or my wife to not tell us anything."

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  • Hire a dumb *** like him-you get what you pay for. Good old boy system? You got it!

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Tue, Mar 19, 2013, at 9:17 PM
  • After repeatedly asking about their dogs & posting flyers everywhere.... the animal control officer lied to these people who loved their animals. Shooting a dog is cruelty to animals. I am a registered voter & I work & I pay taxes I think he needs fired & then hire an honest person who will help find owners of animals & treat the animals with respect!

    -- Posted by TwoMamas2 on Tue, Mar 19, 2013, at 9:45 PM
  • -- Posted by Father on Tue, Mar 19, 2013, at 9:48 PM
  • This is absolutely terrible, but it is nowhere near the worst thing that I've heard about the Berryville Animal Control Officer from many different people over the years. The difference is that the Hatfields have the courage to speak out and take legal action. Maybe now the mayor and city council will get rid of this man who seems to enjoy killing animals and should have been fired for misconduct a long time ago. Rockpilefarmer is right: It's been the good ol' boy system protecting him.

    -- Posted by brockzepp on Wed, Mar 20, 2013, at 8:57 AM
  • Officer Stubbs contacted the Hatfields when a cat was attacked, so he KNEW the dogs, and how to get in touch with the Hatfields. He should have done the exact same thing, when the goat was attacked. Obviously, Mr. Farmer would have to protect his livestock, but Officer Stubbs could have called the Hatfields, and shooting the dogs as a last resort.These beautiful babies were family to this couple, and they (the Hatfields) deserved the right to know of their pet's deaths, and say goodbye to them in their own way. Not to dig them up AFTER the fact. Such a sad ending...

    -- Posted by hicktown on Wed, Mar 20, 2013, at 9:36 AM
  • Fritz vicious?! No He was not. He may have looked a little domineering to some because of his color and size but was very gentle and loving. My own son used to play around him and he was only 6 years old at the time. Also Fritz was very well trained and listened extremely well. There was literally NO NEED FOR THIS TO HAPPEN! The only reason this was done was because the dog catcher did NOT do or I guess I should say, did not want to do his job properly. This could have been prevented if he had any form of respect he would have taken care of it properly. This man should lose his job and the city should front the cost of replacing him (Frtiz), and trust me HE WAS NOT CHEAP!!!! Nothing can replace Fritz and Egon but they need to set a precedence with this dog catcher. No more! Also, maybe they should give lessons on "proper" animal disposal, as throwing them in a ditch does not qualify as such.

    -- Posted by BabyV on Wed, Mar 20, 2013, at 12:31 PM
  • Like I said-"good old boy system."

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Wed, Mar 20, 2013, at 7:38 PM
  • Now wouldn't it be good to take up a collection for Linda Renoe and have her file charges against him? She is a certified animal abuse investigator.

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Wed, Mar 20, 2013, at 7:45 PM
  • BFD.

    Peta killed more than 1600 kitties and puppies last year.

    Ooooooh, where's the outrage!?

    Animals are now more sacred than a baby in the womb. How pathetic.

    -- Posted by Atlas Shrugged on Thu, Mar 21, 2013, at 12:01 PM
  • Atlas Shrugged, are we supposed to solve all the world's problems before calling attention to the fact that Chuck Stubbs is collecting his taxpayer-provided salary and benefits in exchange for highly unethical and unprofessional work?

    -- Posted by brockzepp on Thu, Mar 21, 2013, at 3:16 PM
  • Chuck Stubbs, of course, you should be fired and lose your low paying job. Also, you should also be "FIRED" by some vigilantes. You are an total jerk and a liar. I hope Berryville causes you to be an outcast. I don't give a **** if you are part of the "good ol boy" system, you are going to pay for this. I hope the dogs owners sue the pants off you; you sick demented man. I also hope that you have to go to court for civil charges along with class "A" misdemeanor charges.

    -- Posted by JusticeForMoodyTheCat on Sun, Mar 24, 2013, at 12:59 PM
  • If he worked for a corporation he would be terminated and maybe even up for a lawsuit. Yet, that is just it...he does not. He works for the city in which apparently tolerates dishonesty in the workplace.

    -- Posted by AudreyJanell on Wed, Mar 27, 2013, at 4:13 PM
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