Allegations of animal neglect at Rock Springs Humane Society
Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office investigates complaints about conditions at the shelter and financial discrepancies
by Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office
January 22, 2009
An investigation into allegations of animal neglect and financial discrepancies at the Rock Springs Humane Society animal shelter on Yellowstone Road north of Rock Springs is nearly complete.
Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell said county detectives and animal control officers have been working on the case since early January, and began when the Sheriffʼs Office and members of the Board of County Commissioners received complaints about conditions at the shelter.
On January 16th, an examination of the Humane Society shelter was conducted by sheriffʼs officers, City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County animal control officers, Dr. Fred Emerich, a state veterinarian with the Wyoming Livestock Board, Dale Bratton, a Wyoming Livestock Board investigator, Sweetwater County Environmental Director Charles Sykes, and County Environmental Specialist Sara Geffre.
Just over 60 dogs and cats were being housed at the shelter at the time of the examination. Haskell said that while all the animals present had adequate food and water and none had to be removed or euthanized, other concerns exist, related particularly to health, hygiene, and sanitation.
Haskell said a preliminary review of shelter financial records has uncovered nothing of note.
As a result of their examination of the shelter, Dr. Emerich and Investigator Bratton noted that while there was "no evidence of mistreatment or illness that would require euthanasia," they identified several problem areas and made a number of recommendations, including:
• A thorough cleaning of the facility.
• Relief of overcrowding present in some areas of the shelter.
• Establishment of an isolation area for sick animals.
• Use of personal protection equipment when handling animals with suspected illness or disease.
• Continue to maintain written records of all animals.
The observations and recommendations made by county environmental officials related directly to health, sanitation, and hygiene issues at the shelter. They included:
• A comprehensive cleanup. Some areas of the facility could be cleaned by volunteers, but others would have to be dealt with by pest control professionals or volunteers who are qualified as pest control professionals, due to evidence of substantial rodent, bird, and spider activity.
• Close off all holes and potential entry points for rodents at the shelter.
• Implementation of a professional pest control program.
• Adoption of a regular inspection and cleaning protocol by Humane Society staff. Officials recommended a weekly examination and cleaning, as "waiting more than a week causes greater problems with cleaning."
Haskell said county animal control officers are working with recommendations made by state officials, the county environmental health officials, and the City of Rock Springs animal control program to develop shelter operation protocols and standards for review by the Board of County Commissioners.
The Sheriffʼs Office has already been contacted by several people offering to help with a cleanup of the shelter. "Though such offers are commendable," Sheriff Haskell said, "it might be best for volunteers in the community to consider waiting until a new operating protocol is in place to avoid exposure to any health hazards. After all, using only professionals or professionally-trained people in cleaning up certain areas at the shelter is among the recommendations that have been made; we donʼt want anyone put at risk."
"The Rock Springs Humane Society has long provided a valuable service to the community," Haskell said, "but public health has to take priority. We hope we can work with the Humane Society staff and board of directors so that they can get the shelter up to acceptable standards."
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Sheriff's Office