Today Andrea Neyes, an animal welfare advocate, found herself detained and searched by first two and then three San Bernardino police officers. What heinous crime did she commit to warrant the dispatch of three police officers in a crime-ridden city facing bankruptcy? She stands accused of giving treats to the dogs housed in the city’s animal shelter.
To be more specific, Neyes was forced to state on videotape, “I will follow Debi Shuker’s rules” and sign a citation, agreeing to appear in November for violation of San Bernardino Municipal Code section 9.12.010, Interfering with City Business. Shuker is the shelter’s operations manager.
Neyes is one of many animal welfare advocates around the southland that goes to shelters to photograph animals on the verge on being killed in order to network them on social media in an attempt to save their lives. She was doing just that today when she was approached by the two officers.
The officers told her she was accused of giving the dogs treats and they asked to search her bag and clothing. She denied the allegation and allowed the search. The search turned up no evidence of Shuker’s accusations against Neyes. The officers thanked Neyes for her cooperation and Neyes continued photographing the animals.
As Neyes was leaving she noticed three San Bernardino officers rushing past her. Then she noticed the flashing lights on the units. She discovered they came back for her.
All three officers walked up to her car. Officer Harvey asked her for her license. When she asked why they were detaining her, Harvey told her that is was because she did not leave when she was told to leave.
A statement on her Facebook page, gives the following account, “She looked right at the two officers who searched her bags [and asked] if they ever asked her to leave, they turned their backs to her and would not answer. She explained to them she was only there to photograph the animals, what reason would they have to ask her to leave. Officer Harvey then said that Debi Shuker claimed that when Andrea visits the shelter she does not follow the rules. Andrea asked what rules she was breaking… he said Debi Shuker said she continued to feed the animals even after being asked not to.”
What makes this store most interesting is that both the shelters in the city and in the county of San Bernardino have been put on notice that lawsuits will be filed for the ongoing mistreatment of animals in their facilities and blatant violations of the Hayden Act. For the past several years whistleblowers have been retaliated against, berated by staff both in person and in on-line forums, and had the police called on them for frivolous issues such as this.
The incident today clearly has all the makings of whistleblower retaliation in an attempt to discourage animal advocates from pursuing the lawsuits against the two agencies.
Staffers at the county’s shelter have also stepped up their attempts to discredit everyone involved with the lawsuits with libelous online rants and visits to homes by animal control where there has been no complaint.
A fundraiser to raise the money necessary to file the lawsuits far exceeded the goal. Legal actions will be filed soon and will include a variety of causes of action and allegations.