FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office arrested the former director of the Animal Control Center at Beckwith on counts of obtaining money under false pretenses, falsifying accounts, and three counts of cruelty to animals.
Carrie Lynn Carr, 55, of Oak Hill, faces the charges after a year-long investigation revealed she allegedly falsified her work hours, awarded herself a pay increase without the approval from the New River Humane Society board of directors, and withheld treatment from animals in need of urgent veterinary care.
Carr resigned from her position earlier this month.
“As the director of the Fayette County Animal Control Center, it was Carrie Carr’s duty and responsibility to insure that the animals entrusted to her care were treated and cared for in a humane manner,” Sheriff Steve Kessler said. “According to the investigation into the general operation of this Animal Control Center, there was very little that was ‘humane’ about the operation of this shelter.”
“Animals have been routinely kept in pet taxis or small cages for extended periods of time. Kennels originally designed to house a single dog were divided and used to house multiple dogs. Large animals were kept in spaces so small they did not have room to walk, turn around or even lie down to rest. Food was scattered on the floors of cages among dog feces and animals were forced to drink from a common bucket of water that kennel attendants brought each day—there were no individual water bowls in many of these cages. Sick or injured animals were reportedly placed in cages in a back room of the shelter, out of the view of the general public, and left there to die.”
Carr allegedly withheld urgent care for two cats last September by placing them in cages in the back room of the animal control center until they passed away.
This month Carr allegedly failed to seek veterinary care for a dog with it’s uterus protruding. In both instances, a board member stepped in to personally transport the animals to a veterinarian’s office to euthanize the animals.
According to Kessler’s office, former board members at the New River Humane Society included members of Carr’s family and exercised little oversight of the operations of the shelter.
“Members of the New River Humane Society who question how this animal shelter was permitted to house animals in such deplorable conditions need look no further than the former members of their own board of directors,” Kessler said.
In another instance of alleged neglect, a female coonhound that arrived at the shelter in good physical condition was found to be severely underweight and in need of veterinary care after spending eight months at the shelter.
According to the sheriff’s office, Carr filed paperwork indicating that she worked approximately 35 hours per week, but failed to show up to work for more than a few hours each day. The investigation revealed that Carr would arrive at work after 2 PM and usually leave by 5:30. The investigation also revealed that Carr awarded herself a 75-cents-per-hour raise without board approval. Other employees received that raise at the time, but it was intended for minimum wage employees only as part of compliance with the changing state law.
According to the criminal complaint, a “heating crisis” at the animal shelter in the winter of 2014-2015 led to the staff of the New River Humane Society soliciting the public to donate blankets and portable heaters due to the heat at the shelter going out with seemingly no ability to repair the source of the problem. It was later revealed that Carr and her staff apparently had not checked propane levels in the tank.
“This is just sheer negligence,” Sheriff Kessler said.
Newly-elected members of the board have pledged to take a more ‘hands-on’ approach in overseeing the operations, Kessler said.
“The myriad problems at the Fayette County Animal Control Center did not develop overnight and they certainly won’t be fixed overnight,” Fayette County prosecuting attorney Larry Harrah said. “My office is still reviewing the extensive file of the investigation into the operations of the Fayette County Animal Control Center to determine if any other individuals should be subject to criminal liability in connection with the neglect of the animals housed at this shelter. We are also reviewing this investigation to determine appropriate recommendations for the Fayette County Commission as to needed changes in, and independent oversight of, the daily operations of this shelter.”
Kessler said there is plenty of blame to go around, but not everyone is at fault for what happened.
“I want to state that this investigation should not be seen as a blanket condemnation of all of the members and supporters of the New River Humane Society,” he said. “There are a lot of good folks who genuinely care about animals who donate time, money and resources to aid and assist in the operation of this shelter. Unfortunately these good citizens are, or have not in the past, been involved in overseeing the daily operations of this shelter.”
Carr was freed on a $20,000 bond.