December 6, 2021

US Shelter director who told employees to freeze kittens fired

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By: Laura Goldman October 23, 2018 From Care2

Freezing an animal to death as a means of euthanasia is considered unacceptable and inhumane by the American Veterinary Medical Association as well as most people with a conscience, including former Spencer County Animal Shelter employee Bridgett Woodson.

So, when Christina Payne, the Indiana shelter’s director, told her to put a live kitten inside a freezer, Woodson refused to do it. When Payne later told her to do the same horrible thing to a kitten that had survived being hit by a car, Woodson again refused.

“I took it upon myself to call the vet myself, to get the kitten there and I told [Payne] if money is the problem, you can go ahead and bill me,” Woodson told WEHT in August.

Appalled by Payne’s cruel requests, Woodson quit what she thought would have been a dream job. On her Facebook page, she wrote about what she’d experienced at the Spencer County Animal Shelter. Her horrifying account went viral and caught the attention of the Indiana State Police (ISP), which launched an investigation.

Unfortunately, the police didn’t find “specific or direct evidence to prove criminal conduct,” Spencer County prosecuting attorney Daniel R. Wilkinson wrote in a Sept. 26 letter to county commissioners, the Courier & Press reports.

At a press conference in September, Wilkinson said that in the state of Indiana, humane societies and county animal shelters are exempt from many animal cruelty laws and statutes, so no criminal charges will be filed.

Wait, what?!

This is true: According to Indiana Criminal Code Title 35 46-3-12, the state’s animal cruelty laws don’t apply to shelter employees who euthanize domestic animals — but the employee must euthanize the animal “in accordance with guidelines adopted by the humane society, animal control agency, or governmental entity operating the animal shelter or other animal impounding facility.”

As I mentioned above, the American Veterinary Medical Association says that killing animals by freezing them to death is unacceptable. The Humane Society of the United States’ “Euthanasia Reference Manual” cites this, stating, “The notion that fish, reptiles, and amphibians can be euthanized simply by placing them in a freezer is false.” The same certainly applies to kittens.

More than 130,000 people have signed a Care2 petition demanding that Payne be fired and charged with animal cruelty. Members of two Indiana town councils that provide funding to the shelter wrote letters expressing their outrage to the Spencer County Animal Control board, according to the nonprofit Alley Cat Allies. They warned that future funding and support would be in jeopardy, if Payne wasn’t dismissed.

Although the police report didn’t find evidence of criminal conduct, it didn’t exonerate Payne, who would not fully cooperate in the investigation. She refused to answer any questions without an attorney present — and she didn’t obtain an attorney. Payne’s unwillingness to participate was grounds enough for her dismissal as a matter of public trust, Wilkinson wrote in his letter to commissioners.

On Oct. 4, Spencer County Animal Control board members voted unanimously to fire Payne and temporarily shut down the shelter, effective immediately.

Although it’s disappointing that Payne apparently won’t face any cruelty charges, Woodson is happy with the board’s decision to fire her former supervisor. “It took a lot of time, took a lot of persistence. But, I’m glad it’s done,” she told WFIE.

Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, agreed. “This is an opportunity for Spencer County to make things right for animals in its care, and many others are ready to help this shelter turn the corner and become a model operation,” she told the Courier & Press. In a statement last month, Robinson called this case a wake-up call.

“Until strong regulations are put in place to ensure humane practices are standard in shelters across Indiana, the risk is unacceptably high that these kinds of atrocities will continue at individual shelters,” she said. “Safeguards must be in place, and enforced, to protect animals when shelter officials who are entrusted with their care fail miserably.”

The Spencer County Animal Shelter is expected to re-open early next year. In the meantime, the animals are being transferred to a few local rescue organizations.

These organizations, including It Takes a Village (ITV) in Evansville, Ind., have been overwhelmed with the intake of these pets, especially since the Spencer County Animal Shelter was the only one in the county.

“So, that is seven to 10 animals per week in Spencer County who literally have no place to go indefinitely,” noted a statement on the ITV Facebook page. “Municipal animal shelters in surrounding counties generally do not accept animals outside their own county.”

If you can adopt or foster one of the displaced Spencer County Animal Shelter pets, visit the It Takes a Village website for more information.

Payne should still be charged with animal cruelty. Please sign and share this Care2 petition urging the Spencer County prosecuting attorney to do this.

For more on this story and to sign petition go to:

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