It would be any animal shelter worker’s worst nightmare.
Imagine going to a walk-in freezer filled with animals that are supposed to be dead after being euthanized and seeing a dog, alive, pop up.
Now, imagine it’s happened twice before.
So begins the saga of an ongoing investigation at the Rushville Animal Shelter, an explosive situation canvassing community, state and cyberspace forums worldwide.
This “kill shelter” is a contradiction in terms. The kill rate is 93%, and the average time an animal spends here before being euthanized is 5 days.
According to whistle blower and assistant animal control officer Jamie Glandon, the problem started Aug. 8. In a formal complaint delivered to Mayor Bob Bridges Monday, Glandon related that Rushville Animal Control Officer Jack Hill euthanized a number of animals, one of which was a 7-year-old Border Collie.
“After putting the animals down, [Jack] put them in the freezer and went on with his day. On August 9, upon arriving at the shelter at 8 .m., I started my daily routine,” Glandon’s typed statement reads. “When Jack got back he informed me he heard a dog howling in the freezer. So at 8:20 a.m. he went into the freezer and found out it was the Border Collie. He went and got the medicine he used to euthanize, opened the freezer door and injected the dog and closed the door back. At 8:47 a.m. the dog was still howling. At 9 a.m. he injected the dog again and closed the door. That was the last we heard from her.”
According to Glandon, she verbally made Mayor Bridges aware of the situation that day.
On Oct. 25, according to the formal complaint, Hill again euthanized several dogs before Jamie began her shift.
“I arrived at work at 8 a.m. and heard whining from the freezer. I opened the door and found three lab puppies on the top of a pile in the freezer still alive. Jack was pulling up to the shelter when I went in. I told him what was going on. I started to pull the puppies out and he told me to leave them be. He went in and got his medicine and injected the dogs again while still in the freezer. That was the last I heard from them. I verbally made my city council representative aware of the situation on Oct. 25, who then made Mayor Bridges aware.
“I spoke with Jack and asked him what the procedures were and if there were any things that were needed in place to be sure that incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” Bridges said. “Two items needed were a scale and a stethoscope. I donated the stethoscope and told Jack to order the scales that day.” Funds from a shelter fundraiser held earlier in the month were used for the scales, which weigh the dogs correctly so that the proper euthanasia dosage can be administered. Bridges also contacted local veterinarian Rob Jackman so that training on administering the serum could be utilized. The shelter employees travelled to Jackman’s clinic that day and watched as Jackman demonstrated how to find a vein on an animal while administering an IV to a dog.
On that Monday, one day before taking vacation time, Hill put down another group of animals as the shelter was again at capacity. Two German Shepherd-Mastiff mix puppies were on the list for euthanasia that day as pleas for adoption went unanswered and postings on petfinder.com were ignored.
Nov. 16, an elderly woman brought a cat in to be disposed of. Glandon went to the freezer to place the dead animal in it.
“When I opened the freezer door, a puppy popped her head up out of the barrel,” Glandon said. Glandon immediately pulled the dog from the freezer.
“She was buried under other dogs up to her chest,” Glandon said. “She smelled like death, which is the worst possible smell you could imagine, and couldn’t walk. Her back half-end was slightly swollen, and she just started wailing. I placed her in the dog crate outside of the freezer to give us both a time-out because I needed to go to the restroom and throw up.”
Glandon immediately called Jackman’s Animal Clinic to schedule an emergency appointment for the dog who she named “Gabby” and was told they would get back with her. “I gave her a bath while I was waiting for the clinic to call me back because the smell was unlike anything you could imagine,” Glandon said. “Jackman’s took her in around noon.
Afterwards, she shipped the dog out to rescue, and it has been checked by the rescue’s own veterinarian.
According to Bridges, “I received the formal complaint on my desk Monday morning. I told Jamie she had to understand that the investigation will be done, but it will not be done tomorrow. These things take time.”
“I had no idea about the stuff on the Internet until I got a phone call from someone locally saying that they had seen something on a web site, and was it true,” Bridges said. “I had no idea what they were talking about.” A petition on another site already has thousands of signatures from people from France to Bosnia, and calls for no more euthanization.
Glandon hopes this situation will raise awareness among the community about the conditions at the shelter.
“I hope that the shelter changes its policies on euthanization and the treatment of the deceased animals,” she said. “I hope that people realize that animals aren’t trash. A life is a life. I hope that people in Rushville become aware of the problems that the shelter is facing and will step up and help so that stuff like this doesn’t happen again. This is where taxpayer dollars are going. I want people to understand that I have been working very hard at this shelter for almost two years trying to make things better. Had I kept this quiet for the third time, that would basically have been like saying I approve of what’s going on, and that’s not who I am.”
Friday evening, Jamie Glandon was placed on administrative leave with pay.
In the meantime, a hodgepodge of individuals, including Mayor Bob Bridges, city councilman Darrin McGowan, assistant chief of police Tim Williams and Dr. Fred Phillips and staff have been manning the day-to-day operations of the shelter, which has been at a standstill since last week. The team have been feeding and watering animals, cleaning kennels and scooping litterboxes.
Since the shelter’s closing, Glandon reports that calls have been received from rescue groups all over the United States, offering to pull every animal that is in the shelter now to keep the police department from having to use their time and energy to care for the animals, but the city is reportedly refusing.
Eslynn Davis of the Liberty and Cincinnati area organized a protest outside Council Chambers on Wednesday. As a volunteer for numerous animal welfare groups, including CARE (Companion Animal Rescue Effort), Davis took offense to the events at the local shelter.
“The euthanization of healthy animals in the United States must end, and this is just another prime example,” she said. “People must buy into the philosophy of spaying and neutering their animals so that situations like this do not continue to happen.”
“It seemed we had more support for the evening rally then we did for the afternoon. When someone driving by, or stopped at the red light honked we began to chant “THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU”. One woman who joined us was getting ready to leave and I told her how much we appreciated her coming out, I asked what rescue she was with. She said, “I’m just from Rushville, I live here”. I said “You know, you are the very first resident to come out and join us today”. She looked absolutely stricken and said “You have got to be kidding me”. I said “No, in fact, I’m from Cincinnati and have been volunteering at the shelter for almost 3 years and it hasn’t been until this past summer that we got our first Rushville volunteer”. She absolutely couldn’t believe it. She thanked us for coming and doing this for the town. I thanked her again, shook her hand. We had people stopping at the traffic light asking what was going on, when told, they would just lay on the horn. About 8 more residents came forward to join us, we gave them all buttons, cards, exchanged emails so we could organize for the next rally. One man, a Rushville resident, thanked us and went to the Shell Station and bought us all hot coffee, which was much appreciated. Those are the people that give me hope.”
The City, which was going to deliver a pronouncement on Jamie’s fate that day, had removed the shelter issue from the agenda. Apparently, closure on the investigation was postponed because of further formal complaints about Mr. Hill. Jamie Glandon continues to be locked out of shelter premises by the mayor, however, Jack Hill now appears to have been quietly reinstated as a driver for the streets department.
How the animals in the deteriorating Rushville Shelter are faring is anyone’s guess.
For an update on this story and the rallies in support of Jamie and Gabby, read Rally for Reason.