Both the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office have opened separate investigations into the Animal Resource Center, county officials confirmed this week.
DEA agents turned up at the ARC on Friday looking at how drugs at the facility are handled, said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert.
“We have controlled substances used for euthanasia. We have tranquilizers. We have different drugs out there that are considered controlled by the DEA and it’s their job to make sure we have correct inventory in place and that these things are being assigned and tracked accordingly,” Colbert said.
A Team Shelter USA assessment conducted from Nov. 26-30 turned up 30 “emergency action items” in an exhaustive report turned over to the county late last year.
The report indicates employees improperly stored vaccines, reused syringes and likely ran afoul of state laws and the DEA by not keeping track of a euthanasia solution called Fatal Plus.
The negative report was a tipping point in the county terminating the employment of former ARC Director Mark Kumpf, said Colbert.
A DEA spokeswoman declined on Friday to confirm or deny any investigation into the ARC.
A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigator has been looking into other allegations made against the ARC that are potentially criminal, including the disappearance of a dog’s body ordered preserved by a judge in a criminal case against its owners, who also filed a civil lawsuit last year against the ARC for euthanizing the dog there in 2016.
“There is one (an investigation) going and we will see where it goes,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck.
Paul Leonard, an attorney representing the dog’s owners, Josh and Lindsey Glowney, was notified Dec. 10 by Montgomery County’s legal counsel representing Kumpf and Kelley Meyer, the facility’s veterinarian, that the dog’s carcass could not be found at the shelter, according to a motion Leonard filed in the civil case.
Subsequent to the Team Shelter USA report and the disappearance of the dog, Dyson, Leonard and a group he also represents, the Coalition for Animal Justice, called for the sheriff’s office to investigate the ARC for potential criminal animal neglect or cruelty.
Streck said the DEA’s “focus is a little bit different than our focus” and that the sheriff’s investigator has consulted with the county prosecutor.
Colbert said it’s unclear when the county will get the results of the DEA investigation.
“We will wait for them to issue us a report. They did not give us a timeline on when that will be done,” he said. “But our goal will be then to take that report and implement as soon as possible any corrective actions that they might have.”
The Team Shelter USA assessment delivered last month was the most expansive study in 15 years of the shelter that has also drawn scrutiny for allegedly neglecting to prevent the 2014 dog-mauling death of Klonda Richey and for destroying records afterward.
Even before the final assessment hit the county, Colbert changed leadership at the shelter, naming Bob Gruhl interim director reporting directly to Colbert.
The report said dysfunction at the ARC created “an avalanche of negative consequences,” leaving employees suffering from burnout and “compassion fatigue” and unable to adequately provide appropriate customer service nor proper care for animals.
According to the assessment, animals were inconsistently monitored and vaccinated, housed in cramped, filthy cages and sometimes put to death for reasons other than failing health.
As of Dec. 22, the county had fully completed 13 other emergency items including fixing a freezer, discontinuing behavior temperament testing of animals and offering fee-waived adoptions. The county is also fast-tracking new staff positions.
Colbert said he has reviewed a request by Gruhl to hire eight and half new equivalent positions at the shelter and will soon be asking commissioners to approve those.
“We are moving down the path of getting the staffing where it needs to be,” Colbert said. We will request the commissioners approve an additional eight and a half different positions that Bob has requested and I have reviewed.”