The Spencer County Animal Shelter will not be prosecuted in a court of law. This released following a press conference yesterday afternoon. Animal advocates and former shelter employee, Bridget Woodson, have expressed great frustration that almost nothing has been done regarding alleged animal abuse taking place at the shelter by the hands of Spencer County Animal Control Officer, Christina Payne.
Woodson states that she was asked on two separate occasions to put injured cats in the freezer to die, as opposed to seeking out proper medical care. She and the animal advocacy group, Alley Cat Allies, spoke at the Spencer County Commissioners meeting held Thursday morning, which was the first opportunity they had to be heard. The group had collected 8000 signatures at that point calling for action in the case.
The investigation was placed with an ISP trooper out of Evansville to avoid conflict of interest with one county entity investigating another. The Master Trooper interviewed a number of witnesses including Bridget Woodson, Christina Payne, the president of the animal control board, the attorney for the animal control board, and other employees and volunteers. The Trooper also collected documents and communications including past and newly amended policies of the animal control board and known text messages between some of the individuals involved. He then handed over his findings to the county prosecutor.
The prosecutor had said that no further legal action will be taken this investigation as the law does not allow for it. A portion of the ISP trooper’s report states that there appears to be no direct evidence that live animals were put into the freezer as a form of euthanasia. Witnesses all stated that they never actually saw any animal put into the freezer by any worker or volunteer, or Payne herself. They also stated that they themselves never put any live animals in the freezer. Furthermore, they all believed that Payne herself had euthanized many animals this way, but never actually saw her put a live animal in the freezer.
Indiana statutes also appear to provide exemptions for animal control facilities, shelters, and humane societies regarding euthanasia, even if there was substantial solid evidence and witness accounts to back up this investigation.
The prosecutor states that the law as written by the Indiana General Assembly bars prosecution in this circumstance. He does note that this does not mean that nothing happened, and that the shelter will have to work to regain trust with the public. Decisions regarding changes to personnel and policy are left with the Spencer County Animal Control board, those who appoint members, and entities that provide funding for the shelter.