It always claimed to be a “no-kill” animal shelter.
So when the shelter’s new director asked staff and volunteers to make a list of “challenging” dogs, the staff and volunteers assumed those dogs were just being singled out for special help, the Palladium-Item reports.
Then, seven dogs from that list — Ben, Cupcake, Princess, Red, Si, Vance and Whylie — disappeared in early November, according to the Palladium-Item.
“We didn’t know what was going on, we just knew that she wanted to know about them, so we gave (the list) to her,” Kristina Evans, a volunteer at the shelter, told the Palladium-Item. “We had no idea what was going to happen with it.”
Now, H.E.L.P. the Animals, a Richmond, Ind. shelter for lost or abandoned dogs and cats, has admitted to euthanizing 52 dogs over the last five years — including the seven dogs euthanized Nov. 2, whose disappearance first raised alarm bells among shelter staff and volunteers.
The number of dogs that have been euthanized is fraction of the 5,602 cats and dogs the shelter says it has found homes for in its last five years.
But staff at the shelter told RTV that they were instructed by higher-ups to lie about where the missing dogs had gone.
“[Shelter leaders] aren’t being held accountable for this,” Debbie Williams, a longtime office manager for the shelter, told the Palladium-Item. “We are. It’s not right. They’re the ones who made the decision, not us ... not the staff or volunteers.”
For its part, the shelter board said in a letter posted on its website that 19 of the dogs it had euthanized in the last five years were bite risks, while 33 were put down because they were “critically sick.”
“We felt that we could not trust these animals and we would not, in good conscience, put an adoptive family at risk,” the shelter’s board wrote in the letter. The shelter said it only euthanizes animals that are “considered dangerous to public safety” or are terminally sick.
Several petitions criticizing the shelter online have attracted thousands of signatures. Some call for members of the board of directors to step down, Fox 59 reports.
“We are not proud of how it happened, but we wouldn’t have been able to adopt those animals out from fear that they would have bitten someone,” board president Susan Beeson told the Palladium-Item. “From time to time, all shelters get animals in that are aggressive and a risk. No shelter can afford to adopt those out and take a chance that they would bite someone.”
More than 10 workers told RTV that they were first misled about what became of the seven dogs that went missing dogs in early November – with the director allegedly telling them the dogs had been taking to a rescue.
“We know no rescue is going to take seven animals with aggression issues, so questions were raised and it just snowballed from there,” one worker told RTV.
When news of the animals being euthanized became public, staff told RTV that they were told to lie to the public about where the dogs had gone.
“I was told to lie about what’s happening. The board is the one that pushed us to do it,” a worker told the TV station.