A Rockingham man has been asked never to return to the county animal shelter after a verbal disagreement escalated Sunday afternoon, according to participants and police.
In other news, former Humane Society Director Valerie Davis — in charge of the shelter — resigned on Friday.
The weekend altercation came in the wake of the Humane Society’s Sept. 20 decision to cease operations of the county animal shelter as of Oct. 31, and the staff’s push to adopt out the remaining animals on hand.
Deputies from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office were called to the animal shelter at 1 p.m. on Sunday after Humane Society Board Chair Evonne Swanson said she asked Russell Fincham to leave. According to Deputy J.W. Chermak and Sergeant K.W. Mossman, Swanson said Fincham was trespassing and not leaving after being asked to leave. The officers said Fincham became upset over how the shelter was being run and said he would be taking Swanson’s job, and threatened to remove an animal. The officers said Swanson asked Fincham to never return.
According to Swanson, Fincham visited the animal shelter on Sunday and gained entry to areas restricted to the public. The officers’ account said he refused to listen when asked by volunteer animal shelter staff to leave the restricted area and began raising his voice. Swanson said she was within ear-shot.
“I heard yelling,” said Swanson. “Mr. Fincham was yelling that somebody needed to do something to run the shelter better. He was cussing, making insults, name-calling and casting false accusations. He was a volatile citizen and when I asked him to leave he made it personal. He was out of control.”
Swanson said this was not the first time she had interacted with Fincham at the shelter. Within the past two months, Fincham made statements against the Humane Society board. After entertaining Fincham at a board meeting, Swanson extended Fincham the opportunity to volunteer or to rescue animals, which he declined according to Swanson.
While at the shelter, “he was told to respect others and follow rules and he didn’t,” said Swanson.
Fincham said he saw a dog at the shelter he wanted on Thursday, and was asked to pick it up Friday by then Humane Society Director Valerie Davis. Fincham said he returned to the shelter on Friday, but staff had already closed the facility and left. That was the day Davis quit. He returned Saturday and was asked to come back Sunday. According to Fincham, on Sunday he was denied the dog by a volunteer, and began calling for Swanson.
“Evonne got in my face and told the girls to call the police,” said Fincham. “We began to argue. I headed to my car to leave.”
Fincham said he was assaulted, and shoved toward the door. Fincham admitted to using profane language about Swanson’s behavior.
“The problem with the Humane Society is Evonne Swanson,” said Fincham. “She has had four different directors in the past year because no one satisfies her.”
As of Friday, Valerie Davis resigned as director. When called by the Daily Journal on Monday, Davis declined to comment about her departure. Two weeks ago, Davis went public with the Humane Society board’s unanimous vote to turn over the animal shelter to the county. However, this may now be up in the air as the Humane Society board reportedly met Monday evening to discuss other options for the animal shelter.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.