Calhoun County Animal Control director resigns

·2 min read

Jul. 1—Calhoun County Animal Control Director Chris Westmoreland has resigned amid accusations of unethical treatment of shelter dogs.

Lee Patterson, the chair of the Calhoun County Commission, said he and the other commissioners had known nothing about allegations against Westmoreland, who was hired in 2019.

"We are quite honestly shocked and saddened," Patterson said in a County Commission press release on the matter. "Citizens of Calhoun County deserve to know that animals under the care of the County will receive humane treatment and that the laws and codes governing animal control practices will be upheld."

When contacted by The Anniston Star, Westmoreland said he had no statement regarding his decision. He resigned June 23, shortly after being confronted with the allegations, the press release said.

Gloria Floyd, the Calhoun County attorney, said the shelter is open but it is not taking in animals for now.

"We are obviously taking care of the animals," she said, "and we are working only emergencies at this time."

The shelter is located off Bynum-Leatherwood Road.

There is an ongoing investigation, Patterson said, amid charges that Westmoreland and some staff members euthanized animals without adhering to the standard of care.

The current standard of care for animals that must be euthanized is that they are sedated before being injected with sodium pentobarbital directly into the heart. Former employees at the shelter brought up the allegations.

"The State Veterinary Board will send in an inspector and will check out these things and will check out the facility," Patterson said. "This is disheartening to me."

Patterson said the commission has had great support from rescue organizations that seek to get animals out of the shelter and placed in good homes.

"Even right now, we have only 29 dogs in the shelter, and six to eight more of them are likely going out right away."

The commission is in cooperation with the pending investigation and hopes to ensure that their policies and procedures are improved to prevent such occurrences.

"We will do everything possible to make sure it won't happen in the future," said Carolyn Henderson, whose District 3 covers the animal shelter. Animals are real important to people, and we are making sure the animals are clean. It is hot back there where the animals are, and we are purchasing air conditioning."

According to an Anniston Star article in February 2019, Westmoreland was hired after 10 years of animal control experience. He had been trained and certified by the National Animal Control Training Academy, a program of the National Animal Control Association.

Patterson added that the commissioners are seeking a new director and hopes he or she will be in place soon.

Previously, Westmoreland had been a detention deputy in Cullman and a police dispatcher in Hanceville.