Harmon: Alley Cat Allies complaint regarding Berkeley County Animal Control an “embellishment, fabrication”

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The allegations are horrendous.

Sheriff Nathan Harmon

Alley Cat Allies, an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of cats, leveled accusations against Berkeley County Animal Control that animals in their care went without medical care for days at a time, with some being in such bad shape they had to be euthanized once rescued.

They petitioned for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, “asking the Court to order Berkeley County Animal Control to act on its legal duty to comply with the law by providing veterinary care for the animals in its shelter.”

Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon says he did a thorough review of practices at animal control, which is under his supervision in his capacity as sheriff. He says some of the allegations predate his time as sheriff, but he says the allegations are false.

“Their writ is simply asking the Supreme Court to tell us to do our jobs. It’s so ridiculous. But what was really offending was the language in there that these officers intentionally, negligently, and purposefully refused medical treatment to these animals for upwards of ten to fifteen days. At the very least, an embellishment – at the most a fabrication,” Harmon said during an appearance Monday on Panhandle Live.

Harmon defended his Animal Control employees and said the rescue organization did not contact anyone in his office during their investigation. He says there may have been exigent circumstances, but he stands behind his employees’ commitment to animal welfare.

MORE See Alley Cat Allies writ here

Harmon says the rescue organization did not contact his office once during what Alley Cat Allies has called an in-depth investigation.

He has a theory about why the allegations have come forth:

Harmon contends that on the same day Alley Cat Allies filed the writ, they purchased acreage in Berkeley County. He contends the writ is an effort to ‘gain a foothold in the county’ by disparaging the animal control resources.

“How they’re going about doing it is completely unethical and unprofessional,’ he said of the accusations and the timing of the property purchase. “ You’re planting the seed in folks’ minds … that Alley Cat Allies is so needed here because there is so much abuse going on … and now you’re going to point a finger at an organization to justify your existence here? There’s better ways to do that.”

Harmon defended his Animal Control employees and said the rescue organization did not contact anyone in his office during their investigation. He says there may have been exigent circumstances, but he stands behind his employees’ commitment to animal welfare.

Harmon planned a news conference for Wednesday morning to address the allegations.

You can read the press release from Alley Cat Allies here:

BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. – Nov. 24, 2021 – Alley Cat Allies has submitted a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, asking the Court to order Berkeley County Animal Control to act on its legal duty to comply with the law by providing veterinary care for the animals in its shelter. The filing comes after an Alley Cat Allies in-depth investigation revealed that Berkeley County Animal Control intentionally, knowingly and recklessly withheld necessary medical treatment for animals in its shelter, causing extreme suffering and in some cases death.

Animal cruelty laws of West Virginia make it a crime “for any person to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly . . . [w]ithhold . . . [m]edical treatment, necessary to sustain normal health and fitness or to end the suffering of any animal.”

“West Virginia’s animal cruelty laws apply just as much to Berkeley County Animal Control as to any member of the general public, especially since it is the very public office created to uphold these laws,” said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Justice for the animals abused in Berkeley County Animal Control is our top priority. The next step for this community is to create a humane animal control agency that adheres to laws and best practices, earns the trust of the community and guarantees real protection for animals.”

Robinson said the case of Newt the cat was among the worst she has seen in over 30 years of work with animal control agencies. Newt was extremely thin, with a grossly thickened, enlarged and discolored tongue and pharyngeal swelling that prevented him from closing his mouth. He was unable to eat or drink because of the swelling, experienced vomiting and diarrhea and was at the Berkeley County Animal Control for 10 days without any medical treatment. Alley Cat Allies removed Newt from animal control in July. Within just a few hours, however, veterinarians determined Newt had to be euthanized because of the severity of his medical conditions and sufferings.

The Alley Cat Allies investigation revealed further neglect by Berkeley County Animal Control involving a dog named Kimberly. Kimberly had a bulging and enlarged eye, with glaucoma, ocular inflammation, corneal ulcer, and an open wound underneath and endured extreme suffering at the Berkeley County Animal Control for eight days in summer 2021 without any medical treatment.

The stories of abuse and neglect at the shelter go much further. A dog with a broken leg stayed at the Berkeley County Animal Shelter for multiple days without necessary medical treatment.

Another dog with a ruptured hernia was bleeding so profusely that she had to be moved from kennel to kennel numerous times a day in order for the bloody kennels to be cleaned, and stayed at the Berkeley County Animal Control for 15 to 16 days without necessary medical treatment. This dog was euthanized by Berkeley County Animal Control after suffering 15 or 16 days in its care.

Cats with their eyes covered shut with pus-like discharges were also at the Berkeley County Animal Shelter for multiple days without medical treatment.

Alley Cat Allies’ work in Berkeley County continues. New updates about the case will be posted online at alleycat.org and on the Alley Cat Allies YouTube channel.





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