No Kill is a pledge that a shelter will not kill healthy animals or animals with treatable conditions. A No Kill shelter only euthanizes animals with dangerous temperaments or animals it would be inhumane to keep alive. Anything else would be a grave violation of the public trust and a disservice toward the animals the shelter is supposed to protect. So why would a small No Kill shelter have a freezer full of dead animals? That was the question being asked August 17 as news emerged of the horror that was the former Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS).
Last week the previous board of Canyon Lake Animal Shelter, formed in April 2013) worked with local animal rescuers to create a new hands-on board. It's complicated. The new board would not have the power to fire the employees, so the president of the previous board stayed on to fire all the employees and then he resigned. The previous board had just learned something was terribly wrong at what was supposed to be a No Kill shelter. The new board's first action was to fire all the staff.
When Canyon Lake Animal Shelter was opened Monday by the new board, they found neglected animals, unsanitary conditions and dead animals in the freezer. Some of the volunteers rushed outside to be ill. What they did not find was hundreds of pounds of dog food that had been received a few days earlier along with many other items. Here is the degree to which the shelter had been cleaned out - the toilet paper was gone. Left behind were neglected dogs and cats, unfed, without clean water and in filthy cages full of waste. (All documented with photographs on the "Comal County lost and found dogs" FaceBook page run by one of the current board members.) Now a Harris County organization, Animal Safety League of Northeast Harris County (ASL) is charging they left animals at CLASS who are missing and possibly dead.
According to an ASL press release:
"The Animal Safety League placed seventeen rescued animals with the shelter between September of 2012 and March of 2013 when a local foster could not be found after the animals were rescued from a dangerous dumping site. All animals were brought to the shelter with all vet care completed . . . ASL paid approximately $4,000 to the Canyon Lake Shelter from . . . in required intake fees to help cover medical care, food and heartworm treatment of the rescued animals, with the assurances from shelter staff that the animals would be placed in a loving home by this “no kill” shelter, or remain at the shelter until adopted ."
An ASL representative, Rhonda Heffernan, visited the shelter several times and liked what she saw. The shelter was clean and the dog enclosures were indoor/outdoor. Those enclosures were one of the reasons ASL placed the animals with CLASS. It is supposed to be easier on shelter dogs if they have access to the outside during their confinement.
However, unsettling rumors started reaching Harris County about CLASS. Only four ASL dogs remained at the shelter and ASL took them back last month and then asked to see the adoption records for the other dogs and two cats. That is when Dorothy "Gina" Archer, a shelter employee fired this past weekend, told Heffernan that the animals were "probably" killed by two former employees ,her son Carlton Barney and Sandra Parker. Per Archer, the couple were “sneaking up at night and killing the animals."
It is a situation similar to Spindletop Rescue, where monthly donations were being made for the upkeep of animals whose deaths had been concealed, leaving uncertainty as to whether particular animals have been adopted or have died. CLASS is helping ASL to find out if the animals were all killed as Archer claimed or if there is a possibility that some were adopted. ASL can find no paperwork indicating the animals were adopted and the computer, of course, is missing. Carlton Barney told Heffernan months ago that one of the ASL dogs, Rachel, was adopted by a local winery and was living the good life. Winery staff were just contacted and they know nothing about the dog. Was this a sadistic touch by a man who had killed Rachel?
Unlike the disgraced Spindletop rescue which closed, Canyon Lake Animal Shelter is now really and truly No Kill, safely in the hands of members of the local animal rescue community. These are people well known for their work with Comal County animals and Startzville and Canyon Lake residents are embracing the change and helping out with donations and volunteering. The residents have stepped up with big and small donations, donations of services like plumbing, grooming and daily veterinary care. Next week Home Depot is donating and installing a new ceiling. This is clearly a caring community that has been betrayed.
The dogs and cats at CLASS are comfortable, despite the Texas heat, with fans, toys, attention, full tummies and dishes of fresh water - not to mention wading pools. This writer visited and saw a peaceful quiet scene as far as the animals were concerned, but the volunteers were too busy to sit down. The parking lot was filled with cars as people dropped by to replace supplies and help with the work that was needed. But the new board has a huge task because the premises have been stripped of animal necessities. All the animals must be re-vetted due to missing records and doubts they were properly vaccinated. Nothing was found requiring expensive treatment, but the animals did have to be wormed.
The previous board worked with and enabled the new hands-on board to take over and to fire the previous management. Now the new board of Canyon Lake Animal Shelter needs help beyond that. Big bills have gone unpaid.
Monetary donations are needed and may be mailed to CANYON LAKE ANIMAL SHELTER, P.O. Box 1933. CANYON LAKE, TX 78133
Cash donations may be made in person at 2170 Old Sattler Road, Startzville (Canyon Lake). All donations are tax deductible and badly needed. Volunteer help is welcome! Come prepared to walk dogs, clean, or simply cuddle babies that long for attention. Please come and fall in love and adopt one of these animals. There are many, many cats longing to purr for you. (Disclosure this writer is acquainted with one of the new board members and this shelter could not be in better hands.)
And the Animal Safety League of Northeast Harris County is asking if you adopted an animal from Canyon Lake Animal Shelter to please take a look at the photos of their missing dogs in the slideshow on the sidebar. They have created a FaceBook page "Missing Rescue Animals of Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society" to facilitate distribution of the photos. Heffernan does not want to believe these dogs are dead. She said all were adoptable with great temperaments. She can't believe, in particular, that Noelle and Elliot are gone. There is some hope the two unchipped cats are safe. There are similar cats among the almost one hundred cats at CLASS.
Heffernan was told that a vet killed "Sugar Bear" for an eye infection and “scratching.” The ASL paid for Sugar Bear’s entropion (eye) surgery a month before Sugar Bear was killed. Sugar Bear was a loving, friendly dog to all, who had only wanted a second chance after a lifetime of misery. It appears she did not find it at the old Canyon Lake Animal Shelter.
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