Commissioners and concerned community members packed a meeting room at the Wexford County courthouse to address their concerns about the Wexford County Animal Shelter. The state is investigating the shelter after a former employee, and two volunteers, made allegations about the euthanasia practices at the shelter.
In an overflowing meeting room, we heard two very different stories: accusations of the inhumane treatment of animals, and former employees who passionately deny them. On top of this, a sheriff who seems stuck in the middle, searching for answers.
"I will never get those images out of my head," said Kathy Dennis, former Wexford County Shelter Employee.
Those images are what a Kathy Dennis calls the inhumane treatment of animals. She claims what she saw is why she is coming forward demanding county commissioners do something about it. An overflowing board room at the Wexford County Courthouse was full of concerned citizens, animal lovers and former employees. The main topic: the issue of euthanasia without a sedative -- allegedly taking place at the Wexford County Animal Shelter, specifically known as "heart-sticking."
But some former employees deny the practice took place. When asked if "heart sticking" took place, Kris Corwin, former Wexford County Shelter Employee said, "After sedation, it does on occasion."
And when asked why she thinks Dennis would make accusations like this up, Corwin said, "She's bitter with the way things turned out with her new job."
But others say -- it goes far beyond "heart sticking."
"When they were euthanizing, there was a beagle and she dragged it on a rabies pull and shoved his head under the freezer and stuck her boot -- didn't even give me time to pull the rabies pull off his neck and stuck him in the heart," said Rachel Shook, former Wexford County Shelter Volunteer. "That's when I knew it wasn't humane."
Among the sea of opposing opinions, Gary Finstrom, the Wexford County Sheriff, appeared briefly.
"This is probably the most emotional issue that I've ever been involved in," said Finstrom.
Finstrom also agreed, if the accusations are indeed true, that something needs to be done. From personal stories -- bringing tears, to employees defending their treatment of animals, the decision as to what to do next now lies with the board. And While each side remains contradicting, all sides can agree, it's now a search for the truth.
"I love animals too much and someone had to be their voice," said Dennis. "I thank all of the brave people who have come forward that are putting their necks out there, telling the things that they were forced to see and do."
No final decisions have been made yet, but Gary Finstrom said he has assigned a local veterinarian (who is donating his time) to supervise any and all euthanizations at the shelter. Meanwhile, as the state investigates, the board of commissioners will discuss this issue further at their next board meeting. Commissioners said they plan to find a final solution that puts the well-being of the animals first.