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For the Love of the Dog

Helena-West Helena Dog Abandonment Case Continues

Mayor James Valley of Helen-West Helena, AR, is still getting bashed for the fiasco he started earlier this month when he abandoned almost a dozen shelter dogs to the wild.

The Humane Society of Southeast Arkansas has filed a criminal complaint asking to have Valley arrested for charges of abandonment. The issue is still before a circuit judge.

As far as I’ve been able to follow, two of the released dogs have been found and were placed in foster homes, a female shepherd mix and a male pitbull.

Mayor Valley drafted a public apology which, to me, doesn’t sound like much of an apology except for the fact that he’s sorry he is in the middle of a major controversy.

Letter from Helena-West Helena Mayor James Valley:

Let me begin by apologizing to the good wholesome reasonable and sound minded people of this community who have been dragged into this mess about our animal shelter. I am sincerely sorry that a decision made by me, in the run of the hundreds of decisions I make every day, has brought the wrath of the animal loving world to your front door. Please accept my apology to my friends and neighbors for that. This saga has lasted too long and is a distraction to the good work that had been and is being done in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. We are a community that has made a major turn-around. We consolidated two (2) cities about two and one-half years ago and that effort has been marvelous. We have gone from perhaps dim aspirations and dark days to glimmering hopes and glowing dreams.

We are on the cusp of an economic jolt in the arm. We have several opportunities being developed which will have a very positive economic impact locally and regionally.

We have strategic plan that has been working quite well. We are putting the finishing touches on a masterplan for downtown development that also considers the entire city’s development prospects.

Soon, we can expect to build a brand new twenty-one million dollar high school. A new state-of-the-art greenhouse nursing home is on the way. New housing developments are being planned as we speak. The phoenix is here.

However, on our animal control issue, we have a failure to communicate. I accept responsibility for that. Our modest shelter was closed UNLAWFULLY and without proper cause by a renegade humane society from the southern portion of the state.

For five (5) months we, as a community, have forced our sanitation workers to live with dogs in the middle of their work space. The shelter was closed and a set of holding pens was placed in the midst of the work area at the sanitation shop. The conditions were not pretty for the dogs; no doubt. The conditions were deplorable for the men and the women who worked there and had no connection with dogs whatsoever other than smelling their feces and other waste daily.

The sanitation workers already have not so good working conditions. The placement of the pens in the middle of that work area, did not improve those conditions.

I have broken no law. I was faced with two (2) bad choices; the choice of evils. Let the dogs go or kill the dogs. I am an animal lover myself. I am no murderer. The bad dogs were killed by the vet. The other dogs were released. These dogs were neither sick nor harmful.

Robert Frost might have handled this decision better than I did. Sometimes, choosing the road less traveled by makes all the difference in ways unexpected. I wish I had not said anything about the St. Francis National Forest.

That is what has really caused a fuss. The dogs were set free on Storm Creek Road near the St. Francis National Forest. Our community, unlike many of the suburban sprawl areas, is surrounded by woods; the St. Francis National Forest at the north and the White River Refuge at the south and plenty of thickets and hunting ground in between. Our stray animals deal with forest like conditions daily. It is not unusual for us to see coyotes or wolves in our yards in the late evening and early mornings. During the appropriate season, we see deer, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife in our yards too.

I have received calls, faxes, emails and communications from Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, D.C.; West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming to name a few. Many, if not most, of these people have no real connection to this area. They have not visited for one of our festivals. They have refused to contribute to the animal shelter drive underway now and has raised $700.00. They do not pay any taxes or fees that support our community. These people do not help build roads, parks or community centers in our hometown. They do not help us with our education issues or crime problems. But they were free with their insults. I have been called an idiot, a dumb a**, a stupid a**, a cruel ****er, a good ole’ boy, a coon; a disgrace to my race; Michael Vick; stupid; backwards; inhumane; an a**hole; and unfit for office just to name a few things. (I guess it is harm to imagine being a good ole’ boy and a coon at the same time. I have really arrived; big time).

Many do not understand that we have labored for five (5) months since that terrible day in January when the renegade humane society (Ruby Burton) slammed the doors on our shelter. Five (5) months of talk and babble about the “love” of animals and how they would be taken care of and nurtured. All of the dialogue, babble and talk left us in worse condition five (5) months later than we were in January.

In January the animals were housed in a shelter with ventilation and protection from the weather and elements. At our sanitation shop, the animals were kept in pens and kennels outside on the hot asphalt. The animals had no exercise area and no real way of being separated between and among sizes, breeds and conditions. In other words, these animals were inhumanely piled into a cage as directed by Ms. Ruby Burton and her humane society. These animals were taken from not perfect conditions to horrible conditions all at the behest of Ruby Burton and her humane society. This same society that wants me arrested for conditions caused, fostered and developed by them!

I plan to work with any group of people who are serious about making sure that our animal population receives proper treatment. I hope to soon see a plan for control and management of our animal population. The plan should include spaying and neutering, education of animal control officers, building a shelter that meets national standards, ample volunteer and community support, a good fostering and adoption program; medicines, food and other supplies at the shelter; a serious public awareness campaign and partnering with others to leverage our collective power to make a positive impact.

I have already, working in conjunction with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the national humane society, enrolled two of our employees in the Animal Control Academy to receive proper training and certification in animal control. This is the first step in transitioning from “dog catching” and killing to a full animal control and management program. By the way, we have never had an animal control officer that has received such training. We are transitioning, I hope, from the days of operating a “Dog Pound” to the management of an Animal Shelter and the full program that brings to bear upon our animal population. No longer will it be acceptable to merely “catch” dogs, hold them for a period of time and kill them.

We can, we must, we shall do better! If we are serious about management of the animal population in accord with national standards, we are going to need some funding. It is my hope that some will donate to the cause by sending money in any amount to our City Clerk, Mrs. Sandra Ramsey, P O Box 248, Helena-West Helena, AR 72342 attn: Animal Control Fund. I hope that you are one of those persons. Please, do let this opportunity to do good pass you by.

I will inject myself into a fundraising effort to assure that the shelter drive collects at least $50,000 by the end of this year. I have met, on a number of occassions, with Ms. Gloria Higginbotham with the Delta Chapter of the Humane Society. She has been nothing but civil and civic-minded. I applaud her and the Delta Chapter (not to be confused with the Ruby Burton outfit). Because of our meetings and the good will of certain people in the business community, we are off to a good start with our fund raising effort for the shelter.

We, Gloria and I, met with County Judge Don Gentry. He has pledged his support and we hope to make the animal shelter county wide such that the smaller cities and communities within Phillips County are served as well.

It’s a new day for animal control in Phillips County, Arkansas. It is our hope, belief and aspiration that you will step up and lend a helping hand in this effort.

Sincerely, James F. Valley

Sounds to me he’s still making excuses and trying to ‘close the gate after the horse escaped’. He’s throwing blame wherever he can but that will not negate the blame for what he did.

As for the two employees being trained, PETA is footing the bill for that.

And Valley talks about the five months spent trying to do something about the dogs housed at the sanitation site, well, the Human Society of the Delta offered to take the dogs in but were threatened with arrest if they stepped on the property. Sounds to me there was a solution right there but Valley wasn’t interested.

If you view the article from Today’s THV and read through the comments, you’ll find that most people don’t believe what Mayor Valley’s spouting. There’s word that he won’t be prosecuted for his cruelties. People are not happy with him but he keeps patting himself on the back and talking about what he’s going to do. What about what’s he done??

He complains about people not part of the community spouting insults and complaining and yes, I’m one of those, sure. I’m not apologizing either. This is a situation that needs to be publicized, not swept under the carpet. This is wrong and no amount of prostelizing will make it right!

And what’s Ruby Burton, director of the Humane Society of Southeastern Arkansas saying after Mayor Vally’s public bashing of her personally??

“It’s a total fabrication, a total fabrication, a total fabrication,” she said.

Burton says that Valley hasn’t told the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the January closing and the record needs to be set straight.

“The Humane Society never instructed him to put the pens on the sanitation department parking lot. On Jan. 9 or 10, we went to the city pound because of complaints about the animals,” said Burton.
She said that approximately 19 dogs were in the pound and the conditions were terrible – terrible enough to cut the locks and confiscate most of the animals.

“The dogs were tickled to death to be out of that nightmare,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. She continued saying that the animal control officers wouldn’t let her take six of the animals because they thought there might be a possibility that the owners might claim the animals.

Burton says it was then she told Oscar Hoskins, street department manager, that the animals need adequate shelter and that Humane Society volunteers immediately began feeding and watering the animals. A Brownie troop even made treats for the pound puppies.

“Oscar set up those pens that day. I never told them where to put them,” she said.

“He’s digging his hole deeper and deeper,” she said after reading Valley press release.

As for cutting the locks on the now closed pound, Burton says she had every right under state law.

“We can enter any entity’s pound, private or public if the animals are in distress. Trust me, those dogs were in distress,” said Burton.

“He wouldn’t let the humane society do it (clean the cages), why wouldn’t the city workers who smelled the feces clean it. He hired someone $500 a month to perform that duty,” she said. Burton and her organization filed a complaint for Valley’s arrest with the Phillips County Sheriff’s Department and in that complaint was an allegation of Valley not allowing the Humane Society volunteers to care for the animals. She says they were forced to crawl over or under fences to feed the animals.

Burton is asking larger animal rights organizations to come to Phillips County and spay at least 500 female dogs to help curb the animal’s population until a shelter is built.

“One un-spayed female and one un-neutered male will breed thousands of canines,” said Burton adding that a one-month free spaying clinic could work wonders.

She estimates that there are about 3,261 dogs and 3,710 felines in Phillips County, a number different than those released by Valley. Valley said that there are about 50,000 dogs in the county.

“The mayor is wrong again,” she said.

Burton said a judge in Forrest City had her complaint but she didn’t know if a warrant has been issued for Valley’s arrest.

“That complaint stays until justice is done,” said Burton.

“Why did he release those dogs when Mrs. Higginbotham said she’d come get them? He was holding those dogs’ hostage and people in the world think his actions are atrocious. I haven’t found one person who agrees with what he has done,” she commented.

As for being the renegade Valley accuses her, she says those words don’t bother her. “Everybody is a renegade when you’re trying to see justice done.” (Helena Daily World)

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