Bisbee Animal Shelter under investigation after neglect accusations

Liz Kotalik

Bisbee Animal Shelter under investigation after neglect accusations

CREATED Nov. 7, 2013

BISBEE (KGUN9-TV) - The Cochise County Sheriff's Department is investigating allegations that a dog named Phoebe was burned at the Bisbee Animal Shelter in July.

The investigation came about after a shelter volunteer took the dog to a local veterinarian, Dr. Carol Burke.

"Phoebe had third degree burns over the top half of her body from neck to tail," Dr. Burke told Nine On Your Side.

Dr. Burke wants Nine On Your Side to clarify, she does not necessarily believe the burns happened at the shelter; however, she is concerned that volunteers didn't get her the help she needed.

Phoebe died from another condition she had, leading Dr. Burke to report Phoebe and two other cases of alleged neglect to the Sheriff's Department and City Council.
A viewer alerted Nine On Your Side, and we found that there are a string of complaints dating back to 2005, when the Bisbee Police Department took over the shelter.
Among the worst of those complaints, improper euthanasia, which the City denies.
With tears welling up in her eyes, former shelter volunteer Janice told us, "I used to leave that place every day just like this."
Janice and her friend Deborah both volunteered between the years of 2008-2009, and said what they witnessed showed a lack of competence from those in charge.
"There wasn't any record keeping," Deborah said. "Except the records that we kept [in personal journals]."
A problem that seems to be spilling into current times.
This September, The Cochise County Humane Society temporarily cut off the shelter's spay and neuter grant due to lack of documentation and communication.
"Quite frankly, that one is on us," Bisbee City Manager Steve Pauken told us.
He said the City takes responsibility for the suspended grant, but as for the other claims of neglect?
"Well, I'm going to flat out state that I don't think there's animal neglect going on."
Nine On Your Side attended Tuesday night's Bisbee City Council meeting, where some people also agreed with the City Manager's opinion.
However, after almost a decade of accusations and controversy, one question on the table was: "Is it time to take the shelter out of Bisbee P.D.'s paws?
The Council voted, yes.
The control of the shelter is now in the city's Community Development Department, which is overseen by the City Manager.
City Manager Pauken resigned on the night of our interview.
Before the meeting, Pauken told us he doesn't believe that changing the overseeing department is the most logical option because of lack of staff and funding within Community Development already.
He expressed his opinions during the meeting as well, but the Council voted against him.
The other item on the agenda regarded approving a title for a new shelter manager.
With the understand of most in the audience, the Council tabled that decision until they get an animal expert's guidance.
The Sheriff's Department's investigation is still underway.