Ashe County animal control officer terminated

James HowellStaff

November 25, 2012

Ashe County Animal Control Officer Jim Walters was terminated from his position on Oct. 12 and remains jobless after appealing to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners.

“He (Walters) was terminated for failure to appropriately do his job,” said Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell when asked about Walter’s employment status with the county.

The termination came after a meeting between Mitchell and Joe Testerman, the director of Ashe County Animal Control, on Oct. 11.

“During the meeting, information was brought to light that officer Jim Walters had received two different calls from communications on Sept. 27, regarding an injured and suffering dog in the Beaver Creek area that had been shot by animal control that morning,” said Testerman in a letter to county management.

That information was obtained by the Post after a request to Mitchell about any correspondence between the county and Walters.

“Walters did not follow procedure nor conduct his actions in a professional manor, and did not respond to that call. This call would have justified emergency response from animal control,” read the letter that was part of the information supplied by the county to the Post.

The Testerman letter also read, “it was discovered that Mr. Walters did lie to me and the county manager regarding the information he received last night.”

“Based on the nature of these neglectful, irresponsible and dishonest actions taken by Mr. Walters, it was my recommendation to county management to terminate his employment with the county of Ashe,” read the Testerman letter.

According to emails sent between Testerman and Mithcell, which was also part of the information supplied to the Post by Mitchell, the case began when animal control responded to a call made by Ted Urbanek on Sept. 14 about a black and tan Shepherd mix dog that was acting aggressively towards local residents.

According to an email sent by Testerman, traps were set for the dog on Sept. 17-Sept. 27.

On Sept. 27, animal control decided to confront the Shepherd mix after more calls were made about the dogs aggressive nature. When the dog was confronted, it acted aggressively towards the animal control officers.

“At this point, I made the decision to capture this dog by whatever means necessary to prevent human attack… when a safe opportunity was presented, I gave an officer the okay to shoot the dog,” said Testerman in an email.

According to the email, the dog was hit by a rifle at close range but managed to run off the property and was lost.

Afterwards, Mitchell received a complaint by a neighbor who said the dog had taken shelter in her basement.

“Part of the report I received was that it (the dog) went into a basement and those people called animal control. The dog was still alive and the family was told to finish it off,” read an email sent by Mitchell.

Testerman replied in an email that read “he (Walters) states that he spoke with a lady that found the dog in her basement and she told Jim (Walters) that her husband finished it off.”

However, Testerman said when he and an assistant retrieved the dog, “there was no evidence of any other injuries besides the one shot wound to the head/neck area.”

The letter sent by Testerman read that Walters met with Testerman and county management to discuss the incident on Oct. 12, and Walters was terminated from his position.

According to the Testerman letter, Walters did accept responsibility for his actions; Walters said “I know that I made a mistake.” He also said “I cannot explain my actions.”

The Testerman letter also read “Walters had received proper training and did have access to proper equipment to respond to this call.”

After Walters was terminated from his post, he was instructed to turn in any and all uniforms and remove his belongings from his county vehicle, said the letter.

In the letter, Mr. Walters said “I cannot explain my actions” when he was questioned about his actions and statements.

According to Testerman’s letter, Walters later said “I made a mistake and let the animal control staff down and my family down.” Walters also said “I cannot believe that the county would fire me and take my livelihood over a dog.”

After his initial firing on Oct. 12, Walters appealed to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners after their meeting on Nov. 5.

According to Mitchell, the board upheld the termination.