Chrisney shelter updates euthanasia policy


CHRISNEY — The Spencer County Animal Control Board has released a policy update made in response to reports of Spencer County Animal Shelter staff euthanizing cats by putting them in freezers.

According to the updated policy, euthanasia is “the act of inducing death by chemical means.” The policy also states that euthanization “shall be performed correctly and professionally by trained animal euthanasia technicians at animal control or a licensed veterinarian.”

Once death is confirmed, the bodies will be placed in a freezer until further disposal is possible, according to the shelter’s policy.

An addition to the policy handbook, the board outlined euthanasia procedures, stating that severely injured or sick animals will take priority for vet visits. On weekdays, the policy says, staff will contact the vet to find out if the animal can be seen in a “reasonable amount of time,” though what constitutes a reasonable amount of time is not specified.

Sick or injured animals brought in during closed hours — such as nights, weekends and holidays — will be tended to by staff when the shelter reopens. Staff will make sure the animal is comfortable until the vet clinic opens under normal hours.

Last week, the board’s attorney at Lindsey Law Office of Rockport issued a statement that acknowledged cats being placed in the freezer and promised updated policies.

“The Board acknowledges that actions have occurred that are fundamentally opposed to that mission,” the statement read. “In response, the Board has carefully reviewed its policies and has adopted new policies and procedures to address these unacceptable actions.”

Initial public reports of the actions came when Bridget Woodson, a former shelter employee, posted a public post on her Facebook page that said, “Yes, shelter employees have been asked to put injured/sick cats that were still alive in the freezer to die...” Woodson said in the post that she was asked to place cats in the freezer twice during her three-month employment and refused both times.

In her Facebook post, she also included screenshots of text message exchanges with Christina Payne, the Spencer County Animal Control officer in charge of the shelter, about a request to place a cat in the freezer.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hypothermia is never an acceptable euthanasia method for companion animals, including cats.

The Spencer County Sheriff’s Department started a preliminary investigation, but it has since been taken over the Indiana State Police Jasper Post due to conflicts of interest involved in one Spencer County agency investigating another.

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