UPDATE: Montgomery County Animal Shelter euthanized 78 animals outside established procedures, sheriff’s office officials say

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Updated Sept. 21 at 1:15 p.m.

The Montgomery County’s Sheriff’s Office released an official statement Thursday following the announcement that two employees of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter were placed on paid leave earlier this week.

According to the statement, 84 animals—60 cats and 24 dogs—were found at the home of a Conroe resident who could not efficiently care for them. An animal rescue group contacted the shelter, and the animals were voluntarily surrendered by the owner Aug. 17. Six dogs were deemed healthy, taken to the shelter and placed for adoption.

Jordan Gentry, chief veterinarian with the shelter, reported to MCSO that the remaining 78 animals were euthanized outside of established procedures after their arrival at the shelter Aug. 20. According to the MCSO statement, Gentry said he spoke with Director Aaron Johnson following the euthanasia and reported the incident to MCSO on Aug. 24, at which time the investigation began.

According to MCSO, the sheriff’s office had not been contacted about the animals before Aug. 24. Sheriff’s office officials have not stated which procedures were not followed or how they were violated.

Officials with the sheriff’s office said the investigation is still ongoing, and detectives are investigating the circumstances leading up to the euthanizations. MCSO officials have not yet responded to requests for comment for additional information.

Posted Sept. 19 at 5:40 p.m.

Officials with Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack’s office confirmed Wednesday afternoon two employees with the Montgomery County Animal Shelter have been placed on paid leave following the launch of a criminal investigation from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office.

“Due to the serious nature of credible information, two employees have been suspended, with pay, pending the outcome of an internal (criminal) investigation,” Noack said in a statement.

Shelter Director Aaron Johnson, who has worked at the shelter since May 2017, is one of the employees on paid leave. Johnson confirmed the leave via Facebook Messenger today, but said he was unable to comment any further on the matter.

The identity of the second employee could not be independently confirmed by Community Impact Newspaper.

“As a matter of employment practices, we do not comment on internal and/or criminal investigations involving employees,” Noack said.

Precinct 3 officials said Noack currently has oversight of the shelter.

Allegations against the employees reportedly involve the euthanasia of several animals brought to the shelter from an owner identified as an animal hoarder, said Laura McConnell, president of the Lone Star Animal Welfare League, an animal rescue group based in The Woodlands.

McConnell said the nonprofit has worked with the shelter in the past on spaying and neutering programs and as a rescue group. McConnell said the organization did not wish to provide an opinion on the investigation until all the facts are public.

“It would be disturbing (if true) that the multitude of animals brought in from a hoarding case were not seen by the vet before euthanization [sic]or if a plea was not put out to rescues,” McConnell said in an email.

Since 2016, MCAS has had four directors, with Johnson accepting the role in May 2017. Prior to that, MCAS was operated by a private management company, Care Corporation, until Montgomery County terminated its contract and took over operations in August 2015 to improve conditions at the shelter, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

From July 11 until late August, MCAS waived adoption fees to relieve overcrowding, as the shelter had consistently housed 900 animals for the first half of July, despite only having 545 kennels. In 2017, the shelter had reportedly achieved “no-kill” status, meaning the shelter had a live release rate of more than 90 percent.

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Wendy Cawthon
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Cawthon has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and joined The Woodlands edition in 2017.
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