WEST JEFFERSON-A self proclaimed animal rights activist who was arrested last month on a trespassing charge while trying to film what she called the unsatisfactory living conditions of three beagles in Lansing is once again using social media to galvanize her supporters.
In a post circulating Facebook, Lisa DeLaurentiis Fitzpatrick is calling for the termination of Ashe County Animal Control Director Joe Testerman.
“After a month long investigation and a report submitted to their (the county’s) office there is evidence directly contradicting his findings which is being released to media in one week…Mr. Testerman should be terminated or put on suspension while an inquiry is done on how he handled and covered up the Daniel Cruz situation,” Fitpatrick was quoted as saying in a post on her Facebook profile.
Fitzpatrick’s rallying call follows the fallout from viral video she posted on Feb. 4. In that video, it appears to show a person walking up to a chain link enclosure that includes three barking dogs sitting on the roof of a doghouse. The property and dogs in question belong to Daniel Cruz.
“This is OK in our county,” the person filming the video said. “I’ve been told Animal Control is on their way out, and see if the dogs are taken. I see no food or water anywhere.”
The video then pans out to show other animals on the property and the person filming the video said, “It’s OK baby. I’m going to try and get you out. These guys look it, look it. They can’t even get in the house. There’s nothing but muck. They can’t even get out of the wind or the cold because there is nothing. Nothing. But yet (the property’s owner is) probably going to get a notice and have a chance to fix the situation.”
Fitzpatrick’s trespassing charges were eventually dropped, but the controversy has not despite the findings of animal control.
After a month of investigation that consisted of frequent impromptu checks of the property and the animals in question, Testerman told the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on March 7 that, in accordance with the law, his department found no evidence of mistreatment of animals by Cruz.
“Animal control has been monitoring these seven dogs and chickens for one month and has established evidence that Mr. Cruz is maintaining his animals in conditions that are acceptable by law,” said Testerman. “Mr. Cruz has been very cooperative and has been very receptive to all of my requests. At this time Dan Cruz is deemed in compliance with Ashe County Ordinances and N.C. General Statutes.”
Multiple voicemails left fort Testerman were not returned.
Fitzpatrick disagrees with Testerman’s findings. She is urging visitors to her page and other concerned citizens to write commissioners asking for Testerman’s termination.
Commissioner Chairman Jeff Rose said that as of Wednesday morning, he has not seen the Facebook post but had previously received word that she might be preparing one. Rose said he has not yet received any calls in relation to the petition either. Rose didn’t want to comment further on the post until he had a chance to review it or the Facebook post.
Commissioner Larry Rhodes said he had not heard of the post circulating online as of Wednesday afternoon.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Rhodes of Fitzpatrick’s call for Testerman’s dismissal. “I did hear yesterday that he was starting to get a bunch of calls on the Cruz incident (again).”
Rhodes added, however, that the county commissioners are not in a position to ask for Testerman’s resignation or termination.
County Manager Sam Yearick would make that call as all department heads report to him.
Yearick did not return messages seeking comment.
Rhodes said that in his opinion, Testerman handled the situation “as well as expected under the conditions.”
“I have no report myself that would justify a reprimand or dismissal,” said Rhodes of Testerman.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.