A criminal investigation is underway after dead dogs are found at the City of Lawrence animal shelter that detectives say had not been cleaned for some time. They also told FOX59 there were also little water and food on site, and the dogs were emaciated.
Andy Ross, the civilian animal control officer in charge of the facility, has since been fired.
The shelter is his sole responsibility.
“There was never any answer, ever. No one was ever around. It looked pretty abandoned,” said Sharron Bedford, a concerned resident living nearby who said she tried to volunteer there with her daughter several times.
The discovery was only made this week after police responded to a vandalism call.
“It’s just not right,” said Mark Bristow, another resident.
The Lawrence Police Department Deputy Chief, who is charged with overseeing Ross, said he had no idea the dogs were starving and had been forced to lay in their own feces. He claims he had not been to the shelter in three weeks. Instead, he was checking in with Ross, who has been a city employee for at least seven years, by phone.
“That’s why I was so appalled when I came over here. I’m thinking, ‘why did you give up?Why aren’t you doing your job?” said Greg Swingle, Lawrence Police Department Deputy Chief, who said he trusted Ross. He also said that he now realizes that Ross had been lying to him.
“Maybe they assumed the person knew what they were doing, but this is apart of the police department, so someone has to be liable, and I don’t want just this one man’s head to roll,” said Carl Barnett, a Lawrence City Councilor.
Barnett said he brought his concerns about Ross to the police department right before the conditions were discovered. He claims a concerned resident said the now former city employee was not always on site during work hours.
“Some residents were reporting that the truck was parked outside a house on company time,” said Barnett.
Ross was also not pursuing another one of his responsibilities of finding the dogs new homes.
Protocol says that after seven to ten days, depending on the dogs specific position, they are to be transferred to Indianapolis Animal Care and Control. The IACC either puts them on the adoption floor if their behavior and health is up to par or it hands them over to animal rescues.
The problem is that only one dog was transferred between the two facilities in June, and August 15 was the last transfer date. That is more than two months ago.
A state veterinarian spent several hours on site Thursday investigating the deaths and checking on the remaining 11 dogs who are now in the care of a new employee.
Animal cruelty and or neglect charges are possible.