Groups outraged after Mississippi animal control officer reportedly shoots dogs impounded at shelter

Published 1:39 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

Animal rights groups say they are outraged after revelations of a Mississippi animal control officer shooting several dogs that were impounded at a city animal shelter.

Officials with In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization, and the Mississippi organization Winona Animal Advocacy Group (WAAG) are calling for accountability and change after a Winona animal control officer reportedly shot several dogs who were impounded by the city.

At a meeting of the Winona Board of Alderpersons on March 8, 2023, Winona Police Chief Roshaun Daniels announced that animal control services would become a division of the police department. Chief Daniels introduced his new-hire Animal Control Officer Vidal Anderson, son-in-law to Mayor Aaron Dees.

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When introducing Anderson, Chief Daniels met with agreement from city officials and attendees when he expressed the challenges posed by stray dogs wandering through yards and traffic. Chief Daniels was concerned that the city pound was at capacity and most of the dogs had been impounded far beyond the city’s 10-day holding period. The city facility is in great disrepair and has only six runs, limiting the number of dogs and their stay. City officials have discussed seeking grants to build a new facility for years.

On March 9, ACO Anderson and an inmate were seen unloading four dogs from the city truck, tethering them, and then shooting them.

“I am one of the hundreds of heartbroken Winona residents,” said Doll Stanley, Justice for Animals Campaign Senior Campaigner for In Defense of Animals, who has rescued Winona’s animals for 30 years. “Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels need to show good faith and say how many dogs were shot, and ensure this will never happen again.”

Stanley immediately wrote a letter to Mayor Dees and copied City Attorney Adam Kirk. She noted the possible statutes relating to the legality of shooting dogs, and raised ethical concerns.

Stanley and WAAG member Carol Griffin uncovered two dogs shot and disposed of in the city dumps, a misdemeanor offense. There were more bags mixed in with discarded furniture pieces and general trash.

On March 10, Stanley, Griffin, Griffin’s daughter Gwen Neill, and Alderman Mickey Austin met with Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels. Mayor Dees first said Chief Daniels instructed a police officer to shoot the dogs. However, Anderson later posted a confession on social media that he shot the dogs.

At a subsequent meeting, the mayor and the chief disclosed that Anderson shot the dogs.

The mayor, at one point, said the shootings were done to save the city money.

Mayor Dees and Chief Daniels agreed to implement a humane policy to kill unadopted dogs, and Chief Daniels apologized for their decision to have the dogs shot.

Stanley commented, ”An apology is positive, but ACO Anderson and Chief must be terminated. Animal care services must be placed back under the mayor, not the police department.”

Former Mayor Jerry Flowers rejected allegations that prior administrations allowed the shooting of the city’s impounded dogs, stating, “During my 14 years as mayor of Winona, our animal control officer never executed any dog with a gun with my knowledge. We fed and housed the dogs for a minimum of 10 days. We went to great extents to find homes for our sheltered animals. When efforts to place dogs were exhausted, and it was cruel to continue to confine them without hope, they were humanely euthanized by a veterinarian.”

Four dogs were initially admitted as shot, which later rose to six, but citizens now know the shelter was full. Witness Andreas Woods told WAAG he and other witnesses saw the ACO shoot the dogs and put their bodies in a dumpster, including a mom and pups who were in the shelter on March 1st shot. He heard 8 gunshots.