A former dog catcher in Dillingham has been charged with animal cruelty in the starvation deaths of dogs at the city-run pound.
Police found six dogs, the entire population of the shelter, dead on Dec. 8. Prosecutors on Thursday filed a misdemeanor charge against 23-year-old Zebulon Travis Barnett, who was the city's lone animal control officer.
Barnett's job included caring for animals at the pound. Normally dogs are euthanized -- killed by gunshot -- after 10 days at the shelter.
Barnett admitted to abandoning two dogs at the pound, saying he didn't want to shoot them, according to documents detailing the charges against him.
"In my mind, it was simpler than shooting. Out of sight, out of mind," Barnett said.
"I know it's not right and I have no excuse for it," he said, according to the charges.
Another of the dogs was already dead when someone dropped it off for him to dispose of, Barnett told police. He said he didn't know where the other three came from.
According to the charges, Barnett had the only key to the shelter. The city public works director had to pick the lock to get inside.
A veterinarian asked by police to study the dogs said they'd been left to fend for themselves for four to six weeks and died from dehydration, starvation and in one case hypothermia.
Two of the dogs were partially eaten, according to the veterinarian's report.
Barnett was suspended after the discovery of the animals.
Dillingham City Manager Janice Shilanski planned to report long- and short-term goals for rehabilitating the animal control program to the city council Thursday night.
Those goals include: using police to fill in as dog catchers and to find owners of stray animals; hiring someone to house animals over the long term; helping to provide inexpensive spaying and neutering services; and to "review all facets of our euthanasia process."
"We are putting in the time, reviewing the whole process, and will be doing whatever it takes to make sure the event of Dec. 8, 2009 never happens again," she wrote in an e-mail.