Allegations of Animal Cruelty at MI Shelter

In 2011, the Wexford Co Animal Shelter in MI killed 44% of the pets in its care.  The 2012 statistics have not yet been published by the state but the county definitely continued killing pets last year.  The method by which those pets were killed was the subject of a contentious public meeting with county commissioners on Thursday.  A former shelter employee and 2 volunteers are speaking out about what they say they witnessed numerous times in the kill room:  animal cruelty and intra-cardiac injections (aka “heartsticking”) without sedation.

“I will never get those images out of my head,” said Kathy Dennis, former Wexford County Shelter Employee.

Kris Corwin, also a former Wexford Co Shelter employee, told the local news that Ms. Dennis fabricated these stories because she is “bitter with the way things turned out with her new job.”

Rachel Shook, a former volunteer, stated she witnessed a female staffer drag a beagle into the kill room on a chokepole, jam the dog’s head under the freezer while holding the rest of the dog down with her boot and heartstick the pet before Ms. Shook could even get the noose off his neck.  Ms. Corwin did not offer an explanation for why Ms. Shook would tell the commissioners this story but I presume she must be “bitter” too.

For now, the sheriff has appointed a volunteer vet to supervise all pet killings at Wexford Co.  The state is investigating the allegations and the commissioners will address the issue again at the next meeting.

There is video of the public meeting on YouTube.  One of the first speakers (and I didn’t watch them all but I think this lady is the 3rd speaker) does an excellent job and I highly recommend all pet advocates watch her presentation to the commissioners.  She represents a group of concerned citizens and outlines the group’s concerns which include  heartsticking without sedation, lack of qualifications on the part of those deciding which pets will be killed and those doing the killing, lack of vet care, and improper record keeping.  She references the state statutes covering these areas and makes several specific requests for action by the commissioners.  Those requests include an investigation of the allegations, the immediate transfer of supervision of shelter operations during the investigation and the permanent transfer from the sheriff’s office to an independent entity within 2 weeks.  This is an example of effective animal advocacy.

I hope Wexford Co doesn’t attempt to sweep these allegations under the rug and that charges will be brought against any and all individuals found to have violated the law.  There appears to be a lot of community support for reform in the county which is essential.  I wish the locals all the best.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me links on this story.)

5 thoughts on “Allegations of Animal Cruelty at MI Shelter

  1. I have been involved with successful shelter reform efforts now in two counties (ie the county is implementing a no kill option vs. kill options) and can tell you what worked and what didn’t work. You can have the most articulate speakers in the world address the decision makers and it won’t cause them to act in their favor UNLESS there is a simultaneous political strategy operating in the background. Having been mentored by Julie Lewin author of “Get Political for Animals” (highly recommended) and a very successful animal lobbyist, I learned that the only way to get results is to appeal to the elected decision makers in the sphere of their real concerns – getting re elected and money. You must have a campaign where the Commissioners are targeted and hear from their constituency in a public and sustained way that they need to do X and it is an issue critical to the constituents vote. This campaign needs to include many emails, phone calls and personal visits to the individual Commissioners (or other elected decision makers) especially with the support of that County’s philanthropists and other wealthy members that make campaign contributions. You have to understand the timing as well and do it strategically. Do you have to back up your requests to the Commission with ethical and financial supportive information for them to decide in your favor? Julie would show you many examples where the answer is no but I am going out on a limb and will answer that as a resounding Yes. It is also an enhancing strategy to make them feel like heroes and it’s a win win for their community. BUT without the public and media breathing down their necks – you won’t get the decision you want and definitely not quickly. Without this strategy the decision makers will stay with the status quo and not go against authority already in place. You can see how this worked in theory as well as in practice at my website , where I will be updating and documenting successful strategies for shelter reform.

  2. Heart-sticking should NEVER be used, period. Heart-sticking causes deep muscle pain that sedation does not always protect against. The animal may appear unconscious or sedated but may still experience the deep pain of a heart-stick. In my book, it’s animal cruelty with or without sedation.

  3. “Heart-sticking” ???? Is that a new, nice word for stabbing? Who came up with that and what makes them think anyone buys into it. that is nothing more than stabbing them with a butcher knife.

  4. its cruel,it seems maybe fast as done, but iam sure the process to the animal, aka victim takes a lot longer,maybe should work less directors and co directors and staff at shelters,so they could open up new buildings for space and ban kill shelters, a word shelter does not equal with what is happening behind closed doors,its more suitable to name a place like that the incurable.thank you for allowing my anger to put in words

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