A Cheyenne Animal Shelter employee sent an email to the shelter’s board members, alleging the president and animal control officers brutalized a dog with pepper spray in the guise of a “training exercise.”
Community Cat Program Coordinator Jay Klapel said the incident happened after foster coordinator Marissa Cox was bitten by an 8-month-old pit bull, Tanner. Animal control officer were able to subdue it and put it back in its kennel, while Cox received medical treatment for the bite.
However, the next day, Shelter President Bob Fecht told animal control officers to bring out Tanner to the back of the building, along with another dog meant to agitate the pitbull. He also told the employees, “I better not catch anyone with cellphones out or recording this,” according to Klapel.
Fecht then reportedly offered Cox to pepper spray Tanner once he became agitated. When Cox refused to do so, an animal control officer, only identified as Smale, was told to do so.
After Tanner began coughing up blood, the staff hosed the dog over and then sent him back to his kennel — only to euthanize him on Sept. 6.
Klapel said “This demonstration is not only a gross abuse of power, but it is absolutely abuse of the animal involved – it was the cruel and intentional infliction of pain, fear and suffering.”
She also said biting was common at the shelter and even though people are scared of contracting rabies, punishment like these is against the shelter’s mission.
Officials at Cheyenne Animal Shelter released a report saying in vivid terms the dog was “viciously mauling” Cox and she feared for her life. They also wrote a report claiming pepper spraying the dog is a relatively harmless exercise, done to show workers how to effectively use pepper sprays.
The report did not mention the other dog which agitated Tanner and said the spray immediately subdued him. It did mention that the dog spat out pink mucous on his way to the kennel but it was a “single incident” and Tanner did not show any other sigh of pain or trauma.
Cheyenne Animal Shelter Board President Chloe Illoway said they were investigating the incident but there was no abuse of the dog and Klapel was just a “disgruntled employee.”
Klapel said the report was filled with lies. Cox was not “viciously mauled” as the report said because she returned the very next day. She also denied the report’s assertion that Tanner was a “vicious dog” because he had not displayed this kind of aggression at the Avenues Pet Clinic, where he was kept for weeks before arriving at the shelter.
Receptionist at the clinic, Sheree Sweeney, also said “He never once showed signs of aggression. He was a little stir-crazy because he was a pit bull puppy, but we let him out whenever we could. He was a good dog.”
Former Animal Control Officer Travis Talton said he was also fired after he expressed concerns about Tanner’s treatment to Fecht.
Kevin Brueck, a former animal care employee at the shelter who resigned after the incident, said, “We work with dogs, so we’re going to get bitten, and we’ve never decided that pepper spray would be the solution for it.”
Animal Care Supervisor Cecelia Brown also reminded shelter workers not to speak with news media channels.
The shelter is funded by donation and has a contract with the city for animal care and control.
Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr and City Councilman Rocky Case both said an investigation needed to be done on the incident.
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