Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker is off duty — animal shelter duty that is.
Chesterfield County Council members voted unanimously last week to take the responsibilities and liabilities associated with the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter away from Parker. Responsibility now for the direction of the animal shelter falls squarely on the shoulders of the council.
“I’m asking that we bring closure to this incident and move forward in a positive direction,” Parker told the council.
Closure, however, is a relative term for many Chesterfield County residents who will not soon forget the execution-style shooting of 22 dogs at the shelter earlier this year. The four officers accused of shooting the animals have been discharged from their jobs, but have not faced criminal charges.
The incident, which made national headlines, resulted in a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation and culminated with a court order presented to the Chesterfield County Council.
Council signed the court order requesting the release of Parker’s duties to the shelter’s operation. However, during the same meeting with council, Parker himself requested to be relieved of his responsibilities there.
Parker’s request to council reads:
“For more than five months now, much of our attention has been focused on the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter and on actions there that resulted in emotional turmoil to many. It was never my intention to mistreat animals and I do not believe any of the four shelter employees had that intent either. But, they should have known better. I agree with the Attorney General that the criminal intent was not there but in my opinion it was necessary that they be discharged.
“I have spoken with the sheriffs in neighboring counties and with a few around the state to see how the animal shelters are run. I have found that sheriffs are not usually responsible for county animal shelters. What I am responsible for is enforcing the laws of this state,” Parker said.
The following proposals by Sheriff Parker were adopted and approved by Chesterfield County Council:
1. The function of running the animal shelter will be returned to the County of Chesterfield.
2. The sheriff’s department will continue to enforce all state laws regarding animal cruelty.
3. The sheriff’s department will keep three full time employee’s for Animal/Litter Law Enforcement. The sheriff’s department will keep three of the trucks leased by the sheriff’s department. The remaining truck and lease payment will be forwarded to the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter.
4. The sheriff’s department will provide the county with a list of its improvements to the shelter facilities.
5. The sheriff’s department will remove and keep the video camera system from the animal shelter.
6. The county will have the use of the camper that is presently being used as an office until the office within the shelter fence is completed.
“My department and I will continue to see that the South Carolina Code of Laws for Animals is enforced,” Parker said. ” I pledge to you all my full cooperation in insuring that acts of animal cruelty and animal neglect cases will be investigated. If warranted, violators will be charged and prosecuted under the South Carolina Code of Laws.”