Warning: The text and photos on this page detail animal abuse at a shelter in a graphic manner. This material will disturb you. Those with children who might see your screen are also strongly cautioned as the contents of this page are inappropriate for children.
In January 2015, three employees of the Klein Animal Shelter in Jacksonville, Texas were arrested and charged with animal cruelty. Director Angela Wallace was charged with multiple counts including felony cruelty. Staff member Ashley Ruhl was charged with felony cruelty – torture. Employee Jason Craft has been charged with misdemeanor cruelty.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has an extensive file on Klein including photographs dating back to 2011 and documentation of phone calls from whistleblowers starting in 2013. The department’s authority was narrowly limited to inspecting and certifying the shelter as an approved rabies quarantine facility. Even though DSHS was powerless to enforce animal cruelty laws, staffers did maintain records of all the photos and information it received regarding alleged cruelty at Klein as well as its own inspection reports. In April 2013, veterinarian Melinda Hergert at DSHS contacted the Jacksonville police chief, city manager and the mayor to request a meeting with them and the city attorney about the cruelty allegations at Klein. No one was interested in meeting with her.
Photos in the DSHS file dating from February 2011, allegedly taken at Klein, show dead animals being left in their cages after being killed and live animals in cramped, filthy conditions:
In April 2013, DSHS began receiving phone calls from two whistleblowers employed at Klein. The callers made a number of allegations against shelter management and staff including:
- An employee named Ashley would allegedly taunt the cats at the shelter by hitting their cages, stating she was trying to make the cats crazy. She would videotape herself doing this.
- On April 20, 2013, Ashley was allegedly witnessed taking a cat out of a cage whom she had been warned was displaying erratic behavior. After the cat bit her, she put a chokepole around the cat’s neck, strangling and kicking the cat. She continued kicking the cat while dragging him to another room. The cat lost consciousness at some point and was placed in a cage where he later regained consciousness. When Ashley told management about the incident later, she said “the [expletive] cat had a boot print on it now.” Management laughed in response.
- Most of the animal killing at the shelter was allegedly performed in view of living animals, often in the cages, not in the kill room.
- Cats were allegedly killed using a pole syringe and injected at random sites on their bodies. They would often thrash around before dying due to the improperly administered injections.
- Dog with injuries such as broken legs and gunshot wounds were allegedly not given veterinary care but were left to suffer in their cages for weeks before being killed.
- Some of the employees allegedly killing animals were neither certified nor trained in euthanasia.
- Two of the employees allegedly belonged to a fight club run by Angela Wallace.
- Much of the management and staff’s time at the shelter was allegedly spent running the fight club, practicing recipes for barbecue contests, drinking and pill popping. At other times they left the premises, for example to pick up a motorcycle, but remained on the clock.
- Dead animals were allegedly bagged and left in cages beside living animals. The freezers did not work, either partially or completely, and were all full of dead animals.
- Two kittens were allegedly killed and left in a cage with a third kitten who did not die from his injection and the mother cat who had not been injected. Management was notified. No immediate action was taken but an employee was told that “Jason is going to hit it later.” Hours later, Jason killed the mother cat. The third kitten had finally died by this time.
(End of whistleblower allegations.)
An excerpt from Dr. Hergert’s 2013 notes gives an indication as to how challenging it was to get charges brought despite ample evidence of ongoing cruelty:
Another excerpt from Dr. Hergert’s notes describes her confronting director Angela Wallace with photographic evidence of inhumane and illegal killing:
This is the heartbreaking photograph from the file that appears to match the one described in the above passage:
An excerpt from Dr. Hergert’s notes dated a few days later describes her confronting the employee about the killings:
And on May 2, 2013, Dr. Hergert notes additional roadblocks being placed in the way of a meaningful investigation:
In 2013, the city of Jacksonville brought an average of approximately 49 animals per month to the Klein Animal Shelter. The city of Jacksonville, which is just one of several cities which contracted Klein for sheltering services, paid the facility more than $6300 a month. So in 2013, Jacksonville paid Klein roughly $130 per animal for care. But none of the Jacksonville city servants who were in a position to do something about the alleged cruelty happening at Klein could be bothered to lift a finger then.
Regular readers are familiar with the recent developments in the case (covered here, here and here) involving more failed inspections, further documentation of horrifying conditions by Dr. Hergert and others and ultimately, arrests.
It’s 2015. The DSHS file on Klein goes back to 2011. How many animals needlessly suffered inside those walls while city leaders continued to write checks to the facility and ignore Dr. Hergert’s pleas for assistance to stop the brutality? It is truly harrowing to ponder.
Respectful letters requesting a thorough and transparent investigation into criminal activities at the Klein Animal Shelter as well as prosecution to the fullest extent under the law may be sent to:
Note: Jacksonville’s mayor, Kenneth Melvin, died in December 2014. The city has not updated its website to reflect who is currently acting as mayor.
The alleged abuse, torture and neglect that appears to have gone unabated for years at Klein despite ample evidence must never be allowed to happen again. Tragically, this blog covers cases just like this on a regular basis. Our shelter system in this country is broken. Meaningful reform is long overdue. You can help.
(Thank you Stephen Pope for sending me the docs and photos obtained via FOIA request.)