Shocking allegations tonight against the Jackson County Animal Shelter -- euthanizing family pets, cruelty to animals, even having sex in the facility. NBC5's Laura Cavanaugh has been on special assignment investigating the story.
The allegations kept coming in. And each time, we followed up. It all started with Max, the cat, back in December. He was killed at the shelter without checking his microchip. This led me to questions about the Jackson County Animal Shelter. So I decided to ask. And what i uncovered was disturbing.
David and Priscilla Farrel's pet cat, Max, died in December.
"we miss him a lot."
"it's just like losing a family member."
Despite having a microchip, Max was euthanized within hours of arrival. His chip not checked until he was killed.
Andy Lane worked with shelter director, Colleen Macuk, for more than 20 years. He says the problem with euthanizing Max the cat is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Anyone with experience got fired for some reason," says Lane, a former Senior Animal Control Officer.
So now he's suing Jackson County for a half a million dollars and Macuk personally for $100,000. Court documents claim he was fired in retaliation, claiming sexual harassment. The deposition claims Lane and Macuk had a sexual relationship on business trips to the coast, paid for by Jackson County, and at the shelter.
"We all knew about it. the details, they were gross," says former shelter employee Erin Conte.
From pending lawsuits and arbitration, to serious allegations of workplace impropriety. Volunteer, Darrell Coggeshall, says he's seen current shelter staff do the unspeakable.
"She was choking out a dog. period," says Coggeshall.
And failure to administer lethal injection properly. Sources at the shelter recounted multiple instances where they found kittens on the euthanasia room floor the day after lethal injection, shaking and struggling, still alive. It's what sources describe as botched euthanasia.
"I've heard those reports. If we had a case where it's shown a certified tech were harming animals, we could propose to revoke that license," says State Veterinary Board Executive Director Lori Makinen.
Records from the State Veterinary Board also reveal the only two people certified to euthanize at the shelter let their license lapse at the end of October of last year. They didn't apply to renew that license until January 9th of this year -- after we started asking questions about Max.
"He came in a trap scared to death."
Fotas volunteer Darrell Coggeshall says within the last six months fewer animals are making it out alive.
"for a while, everything that came in got put down. We had whole families of mamas and babies come in, all healthy and friendly and sweet. They were euthanized for upper respiratory disease while none of them showed any signs of it. (what's the real story there?) less paperwork," says Coggeshall.
According to county statistics, of the nearly 3,000 cats that came through the shelter doors in 2010, 80%were euthanized.
41% of incoming dogs were put down.
“it’s a very polarizing subject."
The ultimate boss at the shelter is Director of Human Services Mark Orndoff.
“I feel our shelter is one that is top notch. I’m very proud of the work that we do," says Orndoff.
We asked Shelter Director Colleen Macuk about the charges against her, including not being at work.
"She's never there -- probably there 30% of time," says Conte.
"She has worked from home for many years," says Lane.
"I live this job 24/7. I’m available 24/7. The availability of me being here i don’t think is an issue," says Macuk.
But for the family of Max, still dealing with the loss of their pet, the bottom line is simple.
"Things have to change and they have to re-establish the compassion they once had," says David Farrel, still grieving from the loss of his pet, Max.
Jackson County refuses to comment on any allegations in litigation. But since we first aired our report on Max, the cat, in December, Jackson County Animal Care and Control has made several changes. All cats are now being held overnight, to give them time to settle down, prior to making an evaluation on euthanasia. The shelter has also purchased a new microchip scanner. Animals are being scanned within 24 hours. And the shelter is now utilizing social media. It created a Facebook page, which serves as a lost and found space, that includes photo galleries of stray dogs and cats, to help reunite pet owners with their lost animals more quickly.