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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter/ McKamey Animal Center is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Adriane Gutillo, a former employee of McKamey Animal Center, says she quit her job after witnessing what she felt was inhumane treatment of a dog about to be euthanized by an animal control officer.

According to an email she wrote to the media, the dog was "playing happily with her friends" when an animal control officer used a catchpole — a long pole with a cabled loop at the end — to capture a dog and drag it to the shelter's euthanasia room. The cowering dog's mouth began to bleed heavily after being caught in the noose, Gutillo said in her email.

"I have seen several of the officers bring dogs in on catchpoles, and I understand that, because when they bring them in they don't know these dogs, they don't know their history yet, and they've always done it in a reasonably humane way," Gutillo told the Times Free Press. "But this dog was not aggressive. It may have said that she was in her paperwork, but for all of us caretakers to be able to handle her and leash her and bring her out in the grass yard to let her play next to other dogs — there was no reason to be catchpoled and dragged like that."

Although that incident was what made Gutillo ultimately decide to quit, it was not the first time she was upset by the treatment of animals at McKamey, she said.

One dog was left in a truck overnight, apparently forgotten until it was reported by a staff member the following morning, Gutillo said.

One dog died after being left unsupervised in an outdoor pen next to another dog with a broken fence in between, she said.

She says what she feels are the main problems at the facility are that it is understaffed and that management fails to hold people accountable for their actions.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / This file photo shows a dog looking out of his cage at McKamey Animal Center on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Last week, an employee of McKamey quit, claiming she had witnessed inhumane treatment of a different dog at the center as it was being taken to be euthanized.

"We are diligently reviewing all of our policies in our effort to provide the most humane care and treatment for our animals," Executive Director Inga Fricke said in an email to the Times Free Press, in regards to what actions were taken following the catchpole incident. "The safety and well-being of our animals is not only our duty as representatives of MAC; it's our shared passion.

"We are working each day to bring McKamey's operations to higher standards of care. We look forward to sharing more information about the actions we are taking in the coming days."

In regards to the instance of the dog left on the truck overnight, she said the dog was left unattended for less than eight hours and was found unharmed the next morning, which was immediately followed by an assessment by the shelter's veterinarian.

"While certainly unacceptable, this is a stand-alone incident that was addressed that morning," Fricke said. "New measures were put in place that day to ensure such an incident will never happen again."

She said the deterioration of the facility, particularly the fencing, has been a long-term issue.

"Though the primary use of our funds is to ensure animals are receiving high-quality care, we are obtaining a loan to ensure that necessary infrastructure improvements are made," Fricke said in the email.

Fricke said the shelter has 55 employees, including 10 people on its animal care staff.

"We are currently evaluating all aspects of our organization and prioritizing our much-needed infrastructure improvements," Fricke said in an April 4 letter to shelter volunteers and fosters. "We will also begin working with a deeply respected advisory group to ensure we're providing the most modern and humane animal control practices."

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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