SPENCER COUNTY, Ind. Oct. 4, 2018 Alley Cat Allies continues to demand major changes to protect cats at the Spencer County Animal Shelter based on new information from an Indiana State Police investigation indicating that the county’s top animal control leaders have:
- Put live cats in a freezer to die,
- Instructed staff to put live cats and kittens in a freezer to die, and
- Defended the practice of putting live cats and kittens in freezers to die, saying they believe it to be humane.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hypothermia (freezing to death) is considered an unacceptable approach to euthanasia. Over the past weeks, Alley Cat Allies has been demanding immediate action from the county’s commissioners. The organization’s voice is now being echoed by a growing number of elected leaders in the county calling for change at the Spencer County Animal Shelter.
In a letter dated Sept. 26 that Alley Cat Allies obtained via a public records request, Spencer County Prosecutor Dan Wilkinson wrote to the Spencer County commissioners about director Christina Payne, stating, “Given what is known, it is my opinion (though not my decision to make) that Ms. Payne’s conduct would be sufficient grounds for dismissal.”
Wilkinson also writes, “In reviewing the report, one thing that stands out is that Ms. Payne did not cooperate fully in the investigation, refused to answer questions without an attorney, and did not obtain an attorney. While Ms. Payne has the constitutional right not to speak to the police, I believe that a government employee refusing to cooperate in an investigation should be a matter of concern. Transparency and openness with the public is extremely important in maintaining public confidence and trust.”
Wilkinson went on to suggest to the commissioners, who have the power to both dismiss Ms. Payne and to implement further changes, that they might seek guidance from sheltering experts to help in “restoring the confidence that some in the community have lost in the animal shelter as a result of this situation.”
Additionally, the president of the Santa Claus Town Council and the entirety of the Grandview Town Council have written to the Spencer County Animal Control Board to express their “outrage.” They have called for the director’s dismissal and have said that support and future funding from their towns is in jeopardy. Both towns provide funding for the shelter.
“It is unacceptable for the leadership at the shelter and the Spencer County Animal Control Board to still be on the job nearly two months after it became publicly known that these heinous acts took place on their watch,” said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “The world is watching Spencer County, but the county’s leadership seems content to act as if nothing has happened. They need to understand the urgency to make positive change immediately.”
Alley Cat Allies, which is the global engine of change for cats, has offered a roadmap forward for Spencer County. After removing the director and others responsible, the shelter should be inspected by outside experts. The shelter should be closed while arrangements are made in a neighboring community to care for its animals. Animal sheltering best practices should then be adopted before animals can be allowed to return to its care.
“With the county prosecutor, members of the public, and leaders in Santa Claus and Grandview all calling for change, it’s time for Spencer County commissioners to take steps they should have taken weeks ago, including the dismissal of all involved in perpetuating the cruel policy of freezing live animals,” Robinson said. “The commissioners must immediately lead on this issue to ensure the humane treatment of animals and commit to undertaking policy and personnel changes needed to restore public trust.”
Over 8,000 people have signed a letter urging county commissioners to close the Spencer County Animal Shelter until they can promise citizens that no animal is at risk of abuse while in the county’s care, and that number continues to grow every day.
About Alley Cat Allies
Alley Cat Allies, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is the global engine of change for cats. We protect and improve cats’ lives through our innovative, cutting-edge programs. We are seen around the world as a champion for the humane treatment of all cats. Founded in 1990, today Alley Cat Allies has more than a half-million supporters and helps tens of thousands of individuals, communities and organizations save and improve the lives of millions of cats and kittens worldwide. Its website is www.alleycat.org, and Alley Cat Allies is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.