The state agency overseeing animal control programs is investigating Salisbury's, and the town manager is looking to end the practice of letting the towns animal control officers get paid for kenneling dogs they seize, all in the wake of a FOX Undercover investigation.
The father-daughter team who serve as Salisbury's animal control officers are under fire, accused of taking dogs for no good reason and charging high fees. They keep the fees because the unheated kennel, where the dogs are kept except in winter, belongs to Animal Control Officer Harold Congdon, not the town.
"There are some issues involving potential conflict of interest of him housing the animals in his kennels when he's also the animal control officer. We're going to move toward housing the animals elsewhere," said Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington.
One woman told FOX Undercover that, after having her dog taken twice by Salisbury animal control, she was asked to pay more than $1,000. She couldn't pay, and the dog was eventually adopted by someone else.
While Harrington doesn't want his animal control officers to make money off of the dogs they collect, he says some of the other complaints were exaggerated.
The people complaining about their treatment were just neglectful dog owners.
And he especially took issue with our description of the debris-strewn yard where the kennel is. The yard contained all manner of junk, from an old toilet to what looked like a rusty oil tank to numerous junk cars. Near the kennel, a large trash receptacle was overflowing with garbage and what looked like pink insulation
"The junkyard is next to the area where the kennel is but the animals are not being stored in the junk yard," Harrington said. "It's not ideal conditions but the animals are not being stored in and amongst the junk cars."
"If there's junk in the yard , even if its not cars, you're saying that's not a junk yard?" FOX Undercover asked him.
"It's not the ideal conditions certainly," Harrington said.
Harrington also defends his animal control officers from complaints that dogs at the kennel were being neglected.
That's what one woman told us, speaking to FOX Undercover on the condition she not be identified. It's information she learned from a shelter volunteer.
"Its hard to take complaints that are half truths and are made not made on the record that are made anonymously," Harrington said. "He cares a great deal about animals and that he takes good care of them."
"So if the volunteer goes on the record, do you think that might change your mind?" FOX Undercover asked him.
"If this particular individual has something to say that she can document, that would be fine," Harrington said.
After hearing of the town manager's comments, the volunteer agreed to speak out.
Rhonda Frascone told FOX Undercover she started volunteering at Congdon's shelter last September, and says the town manager has it all wrong.
"He's like turning this around and blaming people, the dog owners, and saying they're neglectful, when that's really not the point. The point is that Harold and Tina (Boucher, his daughter) weren't doing their job as far as taking care of the animals properly," Frascone said.
"They're trying to change the subject like it's not a junkyard. It is a junkyard, and the dog container that they're calling a kennel is on that property," Frascone said. "When I went there they weren't being walked at all, and when I went there I bought things for them all the time."
Frascone spent between two and four hours a day at the shelter, but it wasn't enough to save Copper, a dog who had been kenneled there since May. She believes the long period of confinement without human interaction led to his being euthanized.
"By containing this dog for seven months, it just took all the chances of him finding a good home away," said Frascone. "He was only seven months old at the time, and then he was confined for 7 months. That's neglect."
Congdon defended his treatment of the animals in the FOX Undercover original report, saying they were well fed and walked three times a day. He also said Copper's being euthanized had nothing to do with his treatment at the kennel. He did not return a call today for comment.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources recently assumed oversight of city and town animal control programs. A spokesperson says in a statement, "We'll be meeting with Salisbury town officials soon to discuss the procedures they have in place to determine if any deficiencies exist."
The town manager has admitted there is one other deficiency he's going to fix, acknowledging that his animal control officers weren't filing reports on every dog they picked up as required by law.