Concerns raised after Corning police chief euthanizes dogs with gun

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

CORNING, AR (KAIT) – Region 8 News obtained several pictures appearing to depict Corning Police Chief Jim Gronings euthanizing dogs at the city's pound. In some pictures, dogs were lying on the ground in a pool of blood, which appear to have been a result of a shooting.

According to Gronings, who confirmed he killed seven to eight dogs, he was instructed to euthanize the animals by the city's mayor. Mayor Dewayne Phelan said he was told by a local veterinarian to euthanize the animals.

"We were sure from what the vet said, that they were all exposed and probably infected," said Phelan.

Phelan said he told Gronings to kill the dogs for fears they were infected with rabies.

Region 8 News contacted the only veterinarian in Corning. Dr. Ginger Seagraves with the NEA Veterinarian Clinic said her office was never contacted by the city of Corning until after the dogs had been euthanized. According to Seagraves, the city's dog catcher originally had an appointment scheduled for the veterinarian, but the dog catcher cancelled the appointment Wednesday.

"We considered them to be a threat to public safety so the only alternative we had was to put them down," said Phelan. "We were trying to protect everyone from an epidemic of rabies on their pets or any animal they might have on their property."

After the animals were euthanized, the city buried the carcasses near the facility, according to Phelan.

Phelan said this was the first time a city employee shot and killed a dog at the pound.

"Usually the vet will give them a shot, but in this case, we didn't want the vet to be attacked and they were attacking each other," said Phelan. "We usually keep them ten days in our dog pound area which is down at our sewer pond area outside the city limits, if nobody claims it within ten days, then we contact the local vet and the vet will take care of it."

"I was told that the mayor talked to the veterinarian and I was told to destroy the dogs, and I looked down there and I seen these foaming and all messed up, fighting and biting one another in that pen, and decided that was the best thing to do with them," said Gronings.

"Foam this big around their mouth, we considered them to be rabid dogs and when they're like that, we're even afraid to have a vet get close to them," said Phelan.

"If there wasn't something wrong with it wouldn't have done it because it was a lab, and a lab is a gentle dog and not a vicious dog and this one had turned very viscous," said Gronings. "I wouldn't want anyone killing a dog that was sick, if it wasn't sick or something because I think a sick dog is probably better off. Get it out of its pain and stuff."

Alison Stork brought the photographs to the attention of Region 8 News. She said she has contacted the Clay County Humane Society, PETA and Northeast Arkansans for Animals, as well as the Arkansas Attorney General's Office regarding the shooting of dogs.

Under Arkansas state law, it is not illegal to shoot a dog if it is thought to be infected with rabies. Animals are allowed to be killed by a properly placed gunshot. Click here to read more on Arkansas and Missouri animal cruelty laws.

If a dog is suspected to be rabid, then authorities are required to ship the animal's head to the State Public Health Laboratory of the Division of Health of the Department of Health and Human Services for examination. Any person causing the death of an animal suspected with rabies is required to present the information to the county court of the county in which the animal was killed.

"They have now buried those in an area from where the shot from the photos that we got, there's water standing everywhere so one of my concerns is the spread of the disease from where they are buried," said Wannda Turner with Northeast Arkansans for Animals.

"If that is the truth (city's claim of rabid dogs), then yeah, they probably had to be euthanized, but they went about it the wrong way," said Stork.

Turner said she has contacted Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Attorney General's Office.

"I do understand the plight of rural communities and what they have as far as stray animals and the multitude of animal overpopulation," said Turner. "Veterinarians know how to properly euthanize, they have the guidelines, they do it properly and they do it humanely."

"We are going to try to push for enough concern in the community that this doesn't get swept under the rugs because corning is not along in the small communities that are using a gunshot to euthanize," said Turner.

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