Complaint alleges negligent management at animal shelter in Galax caused animal deaths

‘These results were absolutely preventable’

GALAX, Va. – Several animal rescue groups and volunteers claim negligent management at the Galax Carroll Grayson Animal Shelter led to permanent injury and several dead animals.

The accusations were detailed in a complaint sent to Galax officials about the city’s animal shelter.

10 News learned the state has cited the shelter for a number of issues. The former director of the shelter, Jessica Boyer, who was at the center of several complaints, has been moved to another position at the shelter.

However, several animal advocacy groups are asking she be terminated before another animal loses its life.

Sue Bell, with Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Arlington, said her organization came into contact with several sick animals from Galax Carroll Grayson Animal Shelter.

“Over the summer we had a situation whereby we were receiving a number of sick animals -- adults that should not have been sick,” said Bell. “It was clear the environment of the shelter was holding on to illness both for dogs and cats.”

Bell said she and her organization wanted to offer help and resources.

“Our intentions were to reach out to Jessica and find out what was going on down there in regard to all the sick animals and find out what resources we could bring to the situation,” said Bell.

The issues surrounding Boyer’s leadership were detailed in a report sent to Galax city manager Keith Barker on December 1 and then obtained by 10 News.

In one incident, a man was attacked by a shelter dog while he was assisting with its transfer in July.

Chris Haverly said the incident cost him thousands and left him with several injuries.

“I got nine stitches in my ear, nine in my face and nine in my thumb. 27 stitches...and an ER visit was 22-hundred-something dollars,” said Haverly.

Haverly claimed Boyer tried to keep the incident quiet.

“She didn’t want her supervisor to find out that she sent a dog that bit somebody,” said Haverly.

Haverly also claimed Boyer promised to cover his medical bills, but never did.

“She said she just made enough money to get by,” said Haverly.

The complaint filed with the city surrounding the incident claims the dog was immediately euthanized and was never tested for rabies.

Scarlett Dalton, who works as a volunteer with the Twin County Humane Society and also works at a local veterinarian clinic, alleges that Boyer supported inhumane ways of killing cats.

“She believes it’s more humane to shoot cats that are out loose running around than it is to trap them and bring to the shelter for proper euthanasia,” said Dalton.

Bell alleged the same thing, and said it’s not just inhumane, but against the law.

“She (Boyer) was advocating for the shooting of community cats, which is illegal,” said Bell.

Dalton also slammed the shelter for “promoting the spread” of panleukopenia among its kittens.

In one instance, “They allowed us to take the kitten’s body to the state lab in Wytheville. We got the results back the other day. It did indeed die of panleukopenia,” said Dalton.

A state inspection in September found the shelter in violation of several sanitation codes. Photos from that inspection, obtained by 10 News, show soiled kennels, cluttered work areas and used syringes.

“I think it goes far and beyond at this point that she is in over her head,” said Bell. “Shelter life is hard, but Jessica’s actions have led to these results, and these results were absolutely preventable.”

Bell said the shelter and city of Galax cut off thousands of dollars in management and personnel aid that her group and others wanted to provide.

When asked about these incidents, and the complaint that alleges Boyer broke the law a number of times, the city has not yet responded.

10 News learned not everyone reports a bad working relationship with Boyer or the shelter.

Elizabeth Whiteley is a volunteer with Hulks Helping Hands Rescue in Patrick County.

“Jessica bends over backwards to help us - to help get the animals to a rescue or adopted,” said Whiteley.

Whiteley says every animal she has taken from the Galax shelter has been in good health.

Homeward Trails and others are still at it, consulting with the city manager and the commonwealth’s attorney to see what more can be done.

10 News has reached out to city officials several times with no response.

When Homeward Trails emailed the city on Friday to express the organization’s concern over Boyer’s continued employment, the group was told Boyer’s situation is not “under review by their organization,” but rather, by the shelter and the city.

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