Mark Hayward's City Matters: Lost dog leads activist to a brush with the law
If anyone embodies the spirit of community policing that Police Chief David Mara advocates for Manchester, Cheryl Mitchell does.
She was one of the first Queen City residents to start a neighborhood watch group in 2006, in response to the shooting of Police Officer Michael Briggs (who incidentally was shot just outside her back door). Each year on Oct. 16, Mitchell erects a memorial for Briggs beside her Lake Avenue house.
She's gone through the nine-week Citizen's Police Academy. She's worked for years to clean up the Adam Curtis skateboard park. And murals grace a couple of dozen garage doors in the center city, thanks to her effort to channel the artistic impulses of graffiti taggers into a more acceptable endeavor.
But last week, Mitchell stood eyeball to eyeball with the city police and an animal control officer and was threatened with arrest.
In her arms was a lost, pint-sized dog that she wanted to lodge until its owner showed up and claimed it.
No, insisted the animal control officer, it was his job to take the dog across town to the Manchester Animal Shelter.
Surrender the trembling dog, Neal Vogler told Mitchell, or she would be arrested, Mitchell recalled. Arrested and charged with theft of lost or mislaid property.
"He said 'I can charge you with this, and you can go to jail.' I said 'Really? Are you serious? This is bull----.' I was so mad," Mitchell said.
Police acknowledge the confrontation took place. Vogler's job is to take care of strays and lost dogs. That means bringing them to the animal shelter.
"I get where she's coming from, honestly," said police spokesman Lt. Maureen Tessier. "But you have to appreciate that the city employs these animal control officers for a reason."
The police don't know if a volunteer dogsitter will neglect or abuse an animal. And police can't be sending owners of lost dogs to houses of strangers they aren't sure of.
"A dog is almost like property," Tessier said. "We can't let somebody else hold onto someone's property."
Mitchell, who turned 58 this week, works the photo machine at a Bedford pharmacy. She lives in a two-family at the corner of Lake Avenue and Lincoln Street. Her son lives upstairs. She owns five dogs - two Chihuahua types, a pitbull, a pitbull mix and a boxer.
Mitchell said she often comes across lost dogs. If she knows where they live, she'll deliver them to their owner. In the past, she has used the neighborhood approach toward finding lost dog owners. Hold the dog. Call the cops and describe the dog. Give them your name and address. Have the cops send the worried owner to Mitchell.
That's what she thought would happen last Wednesday. She also told the dispatcher, she said, that she would drive the dog to the shelter if no one picked it up in 24 hours. Within 15 minutes, Vogler was knocking at her door. When Mitchell said she didn't want to give up the dog, three police officers joined him.
Mitchell said she didn't want the dog to undergo the stress of a ride to the animal shelter in a crate, and then being caged at the shelter while other animals are barking, howling and hissing.
She also can't believe police would charge her with theft. "If I was going to steal a dog, why would I call the police station and give them my phone number?" If she hadn't been scheduled to work, Mitchell said, she would have made police arrest her.
Mitchell said the police who came were courteous and sympathetic, but they told her she would either have to give up the dog or get arrested.
"I don't have anything really bad to say about the Police Department," Mitchell said. "It's sad the dog catcher had to waste their time coming up here."
The owner picked up the dog later that day at the shelter, avoiding a $25 overnight charge. Tessier said the animal control office checks to see if a dog's license is current and whether there have been previous infractions before it decides whether to issue a citation.
Tessier acknowledged Mitchell's participation in Crimewatch and advocacy role in her neighborhood. "We appreciate Cheryl's support," Tessier said.
In the past, police have allowed city residents to hold onto lost dogs until an owner is located, Tessier said. Then, the animal control office was understaffed. Now, it has two full-time officers, and their job is to take care of lost animals, Tessier said.
"If you have a loose dog, you call the animal control; you don't call Cheryl Mitchell," Tessier said.
Perhaps not so. Mitchell, who insists she wants no more dogs, said she's not going to ignore a lost dog.
Next time she finds a wayward pooch, she said, she just won't let Manchester police know about it.
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears in Thursday editions of the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To improve the chance of seeing your comment posted here or published in the New Hampshire Union Leader:
- Identify yourself. Accounts using fake or incomplete names are suspended regardless of the quality of posts.
- Say something new, stay on topic, keep it short.
- Links to outside URLs are discouraged, if used they should be on topic.
- Avoid comments in bad taste, write well, avoid using all capital letters
- Don't cite facts about individuals or businesses without providing a means to verify the claim
- If you see an objectionable comment please click the "Report Abuse" button and be sure to tell us why.
Note: Comments are the opinion of the respective poster and not of the publisher.
Louise Bishop said:
You just don't pick up some stray dog and take it to your home. First the dog could have an underlying attitude problem or medical problem. You can open yourself up to being bitten by this "freindly" dog. You could be accused of trying to keep the animal for yourself. its just not smart practice even if you think your an animal expert. Not everyone takes good care of their pets and many are lacking shots , have worms, or fleas. Let the Animal control officers do their jobs. and don't give them any lip service.
February 14, 2013 6:07 am
JOHN ALEXION said:
Why wasn't the dog on a leash and unattended, the owner should have been charged. See a loose dog or cat that becomes a nuisance, call the police.
February 14, 2013 8:19 am
Mike Ruff said:
I wonder if Ms. Mitchell has learned from her mistake. NEVER call the police if you want to improve a situation.http://www.kirkpiccione.com/10-reasons-not-talk-police/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
February 14, 2013 8:40 am
Michael Layon said:
Sadly Mr Ruff is 100% correct. Simply disgusting this is considered criminal behavior. I personally have taken dogs into my home which were strays and placed with my wife signs around the neighborhood. Turns out one of the times the owners lived a few miles away and their older dog had escaped while they were at work. Guess that makes me a criminal. If our neighbors' dog(s) escape we hold onto them and call our neighbors. Then there is a the heart wrenching story a woman here in Derry who lost her little dog and plastered signs all over with a 5,000 reward. The woman even spent days going door to door asking if anyone had seen the animal she obviously loved deeply. Do you think such a dog owner would rather someone decline securing their animal and instead call people who have a legal exemption to stick a loaded gun in your face and demand you comply with their wishes? The moral of this story is people are compassionate, people care, the government has neither and routinely does its best to eliminate both.
February 14, 2013 9:18 am
susan donahue said:
I agree with Ms. Mitchell. I knew of a cat the was starving. I called the police because I knew the lady was in the hospital. I knew the person who had the key to her apartment. I try to get the key. The cat had not been feed for 8 days. I call the police and animal control for help. I was told the police could not help me. Call animal control. I left a message with animal control. I never recieve a call back. I have know faith in the police nor Animal control. When It comes to Animals.
February 14, 2013 9:53 am
Dean Frazier said:
Michael Layon, you are misstating the MPDs position and the law. There was nothing wrong with taking the dog into her home. She was wrong for not turning the dog over to the animal control officer when the officer showed up at her house. My children have also helped return stray dogs to their owners, but I can't see refusing to turn the dog over to the animal control officer if he offered to take the dog back to the shelter. This is a story about a good samaritan who took things too far.
February 14, 2013 10:52 am
mike clayton said:
Well Cheryl Mitchell ,Every large town or every city has its ********...You have just met two of Manchester's finest
February 14, 2013 11:45 am
mike clayton said:
Well Cheryl Mitchell , Every large town and every city has it's *** hole$ You have just met two of Manchester's finest
February 14, 2013 11:47 am
Richard L. Fortin said:
This is another reason why the Manchester Police Department needs a new Chief. He is arrogant and it is reflected in the police oficers that work for him. Time to give David Mara the boot. And Mike Clayton your comments are very appropriate. Now watch the Kiddie Korps from the Patromen's Association threaten Cheryl Mitchell. She should get ready to get a disjointed poorly constructed letter from them and maybe they will appear in uniform at her residence to intimidate her.
February 14, 2013 12:17 pm
Curt Howard said:
But if people took care of problems themselves, the Animal Control officials would be UNEMPLOYED! The city would save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in tax money! We can't have that!
February 14, 2013 5:26 pm
DONALD SEWARD said:
With all the financial problems the city faces, it is reassuring to know Animal Control is fully staffed. Judy Seward
February 14, 2013 8:11 pm
Richard Olson Jr. said:
Do a calculation of the total costs of what is required to post bond for your wayward dog from the city's Doggie Jail and you will completely understand the motivation behind the animal control's forcefulness to extract the dog from this woman's care and throw it in a cold smelly kennel until the dog owner can free its canine hostage. The process will set you back a sum approaching 100 bucks. If Manchester Animal control didn't wrest control of the dog, that is another hundred bucks that slips out of the clutch of the Manchvegas Boss Tweeds. Interestingly enough, An Arrest and a charge of "theft of lost or mislaid property," also includes an element in the offense where a prosecution would be required to prove that, " (the person) ha(d) the purpose to deprive the owner of such property when he (or she) obtains the property or at any time prior to taking the measures designated in paragraph I (of RSA 637:6 I). Arrest? perhaps...conviction? yeah, not so much....doubt it.
February 16, 2013 10:17 am
Richard Olson Jr. said:
@Louise Bishop Thanks for your wonderful comments advocating for arbitrary city hack official behavior. You throw out a lot of "what ifs" Well, "what if" the dog had a conscientious owner who took the dog to the vet regularly, fed the dog well, socialized it properly and cared for it wonderfully, save for the escape act dogs sometimes do? Just what if? Doggies do have brains and curious minds....what if we accepted the good will of our neighbors versus looking to government all the time for the cure of all of our ills? God forbid we do that...@JOHN ALEXION Obviously, you do not come across as a pet owner....they do escape from time to time....Moreover, you automatically assume that dogs on the loose become a nuisance? My German Shorthaired Pointer has escaped several times....In the process, she has a charming personaliity and makes new "friends" when she escapes leash and fence...and I get a quick phone call to fetch her, because my information is attached to her collar. That is a nuisance dog? You know what they say...opinions are like ars3 ***-ells.
February 16, 2013 10:29 am
Post a comment
© Union Leader Corp.