Petitions call for Stubbs' firing; hundreds of local residents upset about shooting, burying of dogs
BERRYVILLE -- Hundreds of people have rallied together in the last week to demand the immediate termination of Berryville animal control officer Chuck Stubbs, after he allegedly shot a dog and then tried to conceal the act from the animal's owners.
According to Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, Stubbs shot the animal on March 11, after it and another dog attacked a goat owned by Vaughn Farmer. Farmer shot the second animal.
Deb and Darrin Hatfield, who owned both dogs, were never notified that their pets had been killed.
The dogs had escaped from their yard that morning, and the Hatfields continued to search for them for nearly a week after the shooting, during which time Stubbs told them repeatedly that he knew nothing of the dogs' whereabouts. He admitted to the killing only after Darrin Hatfield told him he had spoken with Farmer and another witness.
Hatfield said he dug the dogs' bodies up at the city pound, where Stubbs had buried them after the shooting. McKinney said it had been common practice to bury euthanized animals on the property before the pound became a no-kill facility.
When contacted by Carroll County News, McKinney said he regretted that the dogs had been shot, though he maintained that the shooting itself had been justified. He cited a state law that allows for the killing of animals when they attack livestock.
McKinney added that 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.
"Bottom line is if these people had been following the rules, none of this would have happened," McKinney said of the Hatfields.
Still, the mayor acknowledged that Stubbs should have notified the Hatfields after 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 warning to Stubbs, a copy of which was placed in his personnel file, and that future infractions would be grounds for "severe action."
However, some people have called for the city to do more -- much more. An online petition started by Berryville resident David Shupe calls for McKinney to fire Stubbs. It also demands better training for animal control officers in the city. As of Wednesday evening, the petition had garnered 564 supporters, some from as far away as Nevada.
Printed versions of the petition were also being circulated throughout the city. They are located at Diane's Grooming and Boarding 460 Hwy 21 North of Berryville, Beavertown Boarding 110 Squire Road in Eureka Springs, and also at Susan Morrison's Signature Gallery at 60 Spring St. in Eureka Springs.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page started by the Hatfields had vaulted to nearly 400 supporters in just a matter of days, and the couple announced on Facebook that they had arranged to meet with an animal law attorney to discuss the possibility of taking legal action against the city.
Stubbs could not be reached for comment by deadline, though the mayor said the animal control officer had been "hurt" by the backlash following the shooting. Some commentators on the Hatfields' Facebook page have called 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 is grieving their loss. He said it was the way Stubbs handled the situation after pulling the trigger that upset him 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 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," Hatfield said, "and it's obvious that (Stubbs) had no respect for me or my wife to not tell us anything."