It would be any animal shelter worker’s worst nightmare.
Imagine going to a walk-in freezer filled with animals that are supposed to be dead after being euthanized and seeing a dog, alive, pop up.
Now, imagine it’s happened twice before.
So begins the saga of an ongoing investigation at the Rushville Animal Shelter, an explosive situation canvassing community, state and cyberspace forums nationwide.
According to “whistle blower” and assistant animal control officer Jamie Glandon, the problem started Aug. 8. In a formal complaint delivered to Mayor Bob Bridges Monday, Glandon related that Rushville Animal Control Officer Jack Hill euthanized a number of animals, one of which was a 7-year-old Border Collie. Space constraints rendered the situation necessary, as the Collie was deemed “unadoptable” by the shelter and all options were exhausted.
“After putting the animals down, [Jack] put them in the freezer and went on with his day. On August 9, upon arriving at the shelter at 8 .m., I started my daily routine,” Glandon’s typed statement reads. “When Jack got back he informed me he heard a dog howling in the freezer. So at 8:20 a.m. he went into the freezer and found out it was the Border Collie. He went and got the medicine he used to euthanize, opened the freezer door and injected the dog and closed the door back. At 8:47 a.m. the dog was still howling. At 9 a.m. he injected the dog again and closed the door. That was the last we heard from her.”
According to Glandon, she verbally made Mayor Bridges aware of the situation that day.
On Oct. 25, according to the formal complaint, Hill again euthanized several dogs before Jamie began her shift.
“I arrived at work at 8 a.m. and heard whining from the freezer. I opened the door and found three lab puppies on the top of a pile in the freezer still alive. Jack was pulling up to the shelter when I went in. I told him what was going on. I started to pull the puppies out and he told me to leave them be. He went in and got his medicine and injected the dogs again while still in the freezer. That was the last I heard from them. I verbally made my city council representative aware of the situation on Oct. 25, who then made Mayor Bridges aware, and then he spoke with me the same day.”
According to Mayor Bob Bridges, a proactive stance was immediately taken.
“I spoke with Jack and asked him what the procedures were and if there were any things that were needed in place to be sure that incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” Bridges said. “Two items needed were a scale and a stethoscope. I donated the stethoscope and told Jack to order the scales that day.”
Funds from a shelter fundraiser held earlier in the month were used for the scales, which weigh the dogs correctly so that the proper euthanaisa dosage can be administered.
Bridges also contacted local veterinarian Rob Jackman so that training on administering the serum could be utilized. The shelter employees traveled to Jackman’s clinic that day and watched as Jackman demonstrated how to find a vein on an animal while administering an IV to a dog.
“The humane standpoint we take is to make sure that it [euthanization] is done as quickly as possible,” Jackman stated. “There are several methods, but we use a solution that humanely stops the respiratory process and the heartbeat. It’s as instantaneous and painless as we can do it and dose-dependent on weight.”
“I wanted them trained to make sure the euthanasia is performed by protocol,” Bridges said. “I want a protocol sheet with a checklist of steps to take when this has to be done. We know that no one likes to do it, but the same steps should be taken every single time. It kills me to see an animal suffer. It kills me to see an animal have to be put down. I’ve cried every time one of my own animals has had to be put to sleep. It might be a sign of weakness, but that doesn’t matter. I just absolutely did not want this to happen again.”
Bridges also assigned Glandon to develop this protocol, which was good timing considering the city is currently revamping its policies and procedures for all employees in all departments.
Councilman Darrin McGowan, who serves as the shelter’s city liaison, requested samplings from New Castle’s Animal Shelter to use for reference, but procedures for euthanasia were not included in the packet. As Glandon was now left to her own devices, she was not able to make the presentation for the protocol at the Nov. 20 City Council meeting as planned and had to be pulled from the agenda.
The mayor considered the situation handled and Glandon considered the situation rendered until a little puppy raised its head in a freezer full of dead animals on Nov. 12.
On that Monday, one day before taking vacation time, Hill put down another group of animals as the shelter was again at capacity. Two German Shepherd-Mastiff mix puppies were on the list for euthanasia that day as pleas for adoption went unanswered and postings on petfinder.com were ignored.
Nov. 16, an elderly woman brought a cat in to be disposed of. Glandon went to the freezer to place the dead animal in it.
“When I opened the freezer door, a puppy popped her head up out of the barrel,” Glandon said. “I screamed like a little girl. But I didn’t want to scare the lady there to death, so I closed the freezer door. She asked me if I was okay, and I told her I would be fine, but to just leave the cat and leave the shelter, because I didn’t want her to just see what I had seen.”
The woman drove away, and Glandon immediately pulled the dog from the freezer.
“She was buried under other dogs up to her chest,” Glandon said. “She smelled like death, which is the worst possible smell you could imagine, and couldn’t walk. Her back half-end was slightly swollen, and she just started wailing. I placed her in the dog crate outside of the freezer to give us both a time-out because I needed to go to the restroom and throw up.”
Glandon immediately called Jackman’s Animal Clinic to schedule an emergency appointment for the dog who she named “Gabby” and was told they would get back with her. In the meantime, she notified Mayor Bridges, who told her to take the dog to the clinic immediately. Whether the dog needed to be put to sleep again or further treatment to save its life was irrelevant, as the mayor offered to pay for it out of his own pocket.
“I gave her a bath while I was waiting for the clinic to call me back because the smell was unlike anything you could imagine,” Glandon said. “Jackman’s took her in around noon. He took her temperature and said her core body temp was low, but surprisingly not dangerously low. She was buried beneath the other dogs, which is what I think kept her alive. He checked her teeth and gums, listened to her heart and lungs, which he also said sounded surprisingly good as well.”
In fact, the dog’s health was so good Jackman administered the dog’s first round of vaccinations.
“The dog’s circulatory system, respiratory system and physical condition, other than being thin, were great considering that it had allegedly been in a freezer for four days,” Dr. Jackman said. “Her core body temp was on the high end of normal. It would be very surprising to me that the dog would survive the chill of the freezer for four days. That was what was presented to me, and that was what was documented. I would have expected it to be in much worse shape.”
Jackman also said that Glandon’s documentation was inconsistent with what he saw that day. The dog’s back end was not swollen and the dog was walking find other than not being leash-broken.
“It couldn’t have happened the way it was documented,” Jackman said.
Regardless of the vet’s observations, Glandon isn’t backing down, and her nightmares affirm what she saw in that freezer, she said.
She immediately shipped the dog out to rescue, and it has been checked by the rescue’s own veterinarian. A trip to a specialist is planned within the week to do more extensive bloodwork.
Glandon said she blew the whistle on her own shelter because she felt that things were being swept under the rug and that she, as well as the mistreated animals, were not being taken seriously. It was election time, Glandon said, and any controversies arising just before weren’t given proper attention with the promise of being remedied after the votes had been tallied.
But the Mayor said this just isn’t the case.
“I received the formal complaint on my desk Monday morning. It’s not signed, but I assumed it was from Jamie. Someone dropped it on my desk and it got grouped into another pile of animal shelter papers that I had laid aside because I was working on a project,” Bridges said. “None of this was ever pushed aside. I told Jamie she had to understand that the investigation will be done, but it will not be done tomorrow. These things take time.”
Bridges was dismayed that Glandon took the stance that he was not proactive.
“I began working on the report at night on my own time,” Bridges said. “I think that anyone that knows me knows that I am very passionate about animals. I am probably, at times, too much so. I am an animal lover. I had my dog Holly, who was a fixture in my family for 17 years, and she ran with me every day. We were friends. When I had to put her to sleep it was devastating.”
Tuesday, Bridges began an investigation to be conducted by himself as well as councilman McGowan, who is also a reserve police officer.
“I had no idea about the stuff on the Internet until I got a phone call from someone locally saying that they had seen something on a Web site, and was it true,” Bridges said. “I had no idea what they were talking about.”
The site and subsequent comments, posted by someone who had caught wind of the situation through the rescue that Jamie had shipped Gabby to out of necessity of being classified as a “special needs dog” tell of her plight.
A petition on another site has well over 1,000 signatures from people from France to Bosnia, and calls for no more euthanization.
“I started receiving threatening calls at home that night, so I figured that there was something going on,” Bridges said.
Hill, who has been with the shelter eight years in January, has never had a formal complaint filed against him, although there have been complaints given to the city on the condition of the shelter itself. Wednesday morning, he was placed on administrative leave as is the protocol with ongoing city investigations.
According to a statement released by city attorney Julie Newhouse, Hill is devastated.
“He conversed with two veterinarians who assured him that he didn’t do anything wrong,” Newhouse said. “The whole situation is upsetting, and he feels it has totally destroyed his reputation.”
Various scenarios as to what happened or why this happened are numerous. According to records, the dog was said to be 20 pounds., but when weighed on a scale at the vet’s office on the day of her discovery in the freezer she weighed 33 pounds. Euthanasia serum requires 1 cc for every 10 pounds of dog body weight.
“Even with half of the dosage, it’s poisonous,” Jackman said. “And even if it didn’t hit the right vein, it absorbs into the bloodstream regardless, and has the same effect. But it takes longer, which is when it infringes on the humane aspect.”
Is it a matter of poor resources?
“I have looked, and for the money we have allocated we have given them [the shelter] everything that we can,” Bridges said. “I talked to two of the council people on this, and I cannot remember a time when a program involving the better treatment of animals, adoption, rescue and microchipping that were brought before the city council weren’t embraced fully and passed unanimously.”
Marjorie Banks, director of United States Animal Protection as well as shelter director of the SPCA in Tennessee, was notified of Rushville’s situation as her role of watchdog for shelters all over the U.S. She is horrified about the situation in Rushville’s shelter.
“I had a heart attack,” Banks said. “We’re going to be looking into it, get open records of the intake and outgoing animals, euthanasia records, budget and where the shelter gets their medication. And we’ll be able to tell what’s going on. The main problem here is obviously someone is not trained to euthanize properly, or just didn’t give enough medicine. Had they done it correctly, none of this would have happened.”
The main result Banks hopes to gain from this is an effort that will continue.
“Our end goal is to prevent inhumane killing. All we ask is that animals be treated fairly,” she said. “We understand that shelters have to put certain dogs down and that they run out of space. We want to see rescues go in there and get these dogs, but sometimes you can only do so much. Sometimes putting animals down is the best for the animal and the animal population, but it should be done with dignity and respect and not in a cruel manner. This was cruel, intentional or not.”
Glandon feels she has nothing to gain by going public with the story, but felt compelled to do so.
“I have nothing to gain by making this public,” she said. “But I have to do this for my animals, and especially for Gabby. If she was strong enough to survive four days in a freezer, I’m going to have to be strong enough to stand up for her and the rest of the animals here and tell her story.”
Glandon also hopes this situation will raise awareness among the community about the conditions at the shelter.
“I hope that the shelter changes its policies on euthanization and the treatment of the deceased animals,” she said. “I hope that people realize that animals aren’t trash. A life is a life. I hope that people in Rushville become aware of the problems that the shelter is facing and will step up and help so that stuff like this doesn’t happen again. This is where taxpayer dollars are going. I want people to understand that I have been working very hard at this shelter for almost two years trying to make things better. Had I kept this quiet for the third time, that would basically have been like saying I approve of what’s going on, and that’s not who I am. I’m not here to be political, not trying to cause trouble, not personally out for someone’s job or to go after anyone. I’m protecting the animals, and by keeping quiet I’d be doing more harm than good.”
Shelter volunteer Linda Whistle, who has aided Glandon in many shelter fundraisers, vouches for her friend’s caring spirit for the local animals.
“I will vouch for the fact that she cares so much,” Whistle said. “She volunteered at the shelter for a month when the previous assistant [left], not having a guarantee that she was going to get that job. She was eight months pregnant, hauling three kids and eight dogs in the back of her van. How can you say someone like that is making something up? This is real, and whether people want to believe it or not, this is the truth. So the question now happens to be ‘what’s next?’”
Elizabeth Gist can be contacted at email@example.com or at (765) 932-3111 ext. 109. Add a comment to this story at www.rushvillerepublican.com.
It would be any animal shelter worker’s worst nightmare.
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