Animals housed in shocking conditions at Louisiana animal shelter

Louisiana

(Credit: WTVR)

JONESVILLE, LA – On Saturday, July 11th, Stacey Alleman, the Director of Pointe Coupee Parish Animal Services (“PCPAS”), accepted custody of 37 dogs and five cats from the directors of the Catahoula Urban Tails (“CUT”), a humane society located.

The poor condition of the animals and the filthy kennels they were forced to live in have caused an uproar on social media. The vast majority of the animals needed immediate veterinary care. Three of the puppies died within days of being rescued. Others, still, are dealing with multiple health issues.

The animals had been housed in a warehouse that had been donated to CUT by the Town of Jonesville and used as a rescue and adoption center. Photos posted on social media showed the animals living in filthy and squalid conditions with empty food and water bowls.

Many of the animals were underweight and forced to live in small kennels and crates. The photos have been widely shared on social media and CUT has been routinely condemned by animal advocates for allowing these conditions to exist. According to the Humane Society of Louisiana (“HSLA”), rarely have they seen so many animals kept in such poor conditions during its 32 years of operation. 

Public records show that CUT registered as a nonprofit with the Office of the Louisiana Secretary of State in September of 2019 and lists Jeannie McDuff as its President and Dr. Kelly Hudspeth as a Director.  Around November of 2019, the Town of Jonesville donated a vacant house to CUT that was intended to be used as a rescue and adoption center. A few weeks later, the town agreed to also allow CUT to use an empty warehouse for the same purpose.  

CUT soon announced it was opening and in operation in late November or early December. Soon thereafter, CUT began accepting donations of materials, pet food, and financial contributions from the public. CUT also began transporting animals out of state to other rescue organizations.

By February 2020, approximately 2-3 months after CUT’s opening, NovaStar Animal Rescue, a humane organization based out of Dover, Arkansas, became suspicious of the operations of CUT. Specifically, NovaStar noticed that CUT was sending out sick animals to other agencies and often failed to provide health certificates for each animal, as mandated by the Department of Agriculture for each state.

NovaStar agreed to accept eight puppies from CUT, but only two arrived. McDuff, who coordinated the transfer, informed NovaStar that the other six puppies had died. McDuff did not explain what had happened to the six deceased puppies. The two puppies who did arrive were unhealthy. They were covered in urine and feces, malnourished, and dehydrated. Moreover, it took months for the health certificates for the two surviving puppies to be forwarded by CUT to NovaStar. 

Bark of an Angel Dog Rescue (“BADR”), a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, responded to a post for help on social media from CUT in early June of this year. Ms. McDuff, the president of CUT, explained that CUT needed to move animals out of its shelter as soon as possible due to possible flooding. BADR agreed to accept the dogs as long as they were provided health certificates.

McDuff identified herself as a veterinary technician and assured them that she would provide BADR with the required paperwork. BADR agreed to accept 27 dogs. Ms. McDuff drove the dogs to Chicago, unloaded the dogs, and asked for $450.00 in cash to cover the cost of the trip. BADR paid the money and accepted the dogs. However, CUT did not provide the required health certificates. Since that time, CUT has failed to respond to multiple requests to provide the health certificates. Transporting companion animals across state lines without health certificates is a violation of each state’s Department of Agriculture regulations.

All the dogs that CUT transported to Chicago were in very poor health, with body scores, according to the group’s medical director, that ranged from 1 – 2 out of 5. The majority of dogs were dehydrated, several were malnourished, and the majority had internal and external parasites. CUT transported the 25 dogs and puppies in small crates across state lines, piled one on top of another.

Several months ago, several members of the public also contacted the Humane Society of Louisiana (HSLA) about the operations of this shelter and how its animals were being treated. HSLA contacted Dr. Hudspeth and asked her to respond to the complaints about her operation. Dr. Hudspeth convinced the HSLA that the issues were meritless and that she unfairly was being targeted by overzealous animal rescue groups. Prior to this horrendous situation with CUT, over the course of 25 years, the HSLA had not received any complaints about Dr. Hudspeth and she was regarded by the HSLA as a person who volunteered to help abused and neglected animals. 

However, as more complaints and photos appeared on social media, it became clear that the animals were not receiving adequate care. There was no drainage system in the warehouse so the animal waste often accumulated in the kennels without being properly hosed out.  According to witnesses, the warehouse’s air-conditioning unit was not working properly and there was only one window unit for the entire 30 x 80  building, which was not running the day that Ms. Alleman picked up the animals. The outdoor thermometer that was affixed to the side of the warehouse registered 114 degrees the day that the animals were removed, according to Ms. Alleman. A gray tabby kitten was housed in a birdcage. One volunteer said that the water to the warehouse was routinely cut off due to the failure to pay the water bill. 

Dr. Hudspeth and Ms. McDuff met Ms. Alleman and her 15-year-old daughter, Shi, at the shelter on July 11, 2020, the day that the animals were surrendered. Neither Ms. Alleman nor her daughter was allowed inside the shelter. Dr. Hudspeth and Ms. McDuff carried the dogs and cats to Ms. Alleman and Shi placed them in kennels inside their air-conditioned transport vehicle. Ms. Alleman noticed that all the dogs were covered with feces and their clothes were soiled after carrying them to their van.

Ms. McDuff signed the Surrender Form for the 42 animals that legally transferred custody of the dogs and cats to PCPAS. Neither McDuff nor Dr. Hudspeth provided paperwork or medical reports for any of the animals. Only one of the dogs had been named. 

Ms. Alleman observed that all the animals were in very poor health and were severely malnourished and dehydrated. Two of the puppies tested positive for Parvo and died along with a third a few days after being rescued. Subsequent veterinary exams showed that the dogs were extremely dehydrated, infested with fleas, anemic, suffered from bloody diarrhea, internal parasites (a combination of round, hook, and/or whipworms).

Ms. Alleman scored all dogs between 1 – 2 out of 5, and the vet who examined the animals concurred with those scores.  All the adult dogs tested positive for heartworm disease and only one of the adult dogs had been fixed. According to Ms. Alleman, four of the five kittens were emaciated and two kittens had severe eye discharge. This horrendous lack of basic care occurred even though Dr. Hudspeth’s veterinary office is within walking distance of the warehouse where the animals were housed. 

Donations are needed to cover the cost of veterinary care for the 42 animals which has already exceeded $13,000.

Ms. Alleman stated: “In my 20 years in the rescue community and as the director of two animal shelters, I have rarely seen such a complete disregard for life and an overall lack of care on every level.”   

HSLA has retained the services of a New Orleans law firm and has been accepting complaints and evidence from townspeople and rescue groups from around the country. The number of complaints is staggering and overwhelming. 

Julie Ann Jones, a Jonesville resident, is furious over the situation and plans to coordinate a March for Animals next Saturday, August 1st  to bring attention to this situation and the plight of abused animals in general. Ms. Jones is waiting to get approval from the mayor of Jonesville to schedule the March.

If permitted, the March will begin at Block High School, in the field by the Main Street at the light. Masks and social distancing are required to participate. By coordinating the Walk, Ms. Jones hopes to bring additional awareness to this issue and become an advocate for abused animals in her community. 

“I am coordinating this March to bring attention to animal abuse and neglect. I’m going to be a voice for the neglected animals of Catahoula Urban Tails,” said Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones can be reached by 318-403-4848.

Since the photos have been posted on social media, HSLA has received a high volume of complaints from visitors from the former CUT volunteers, foster parents, and other rescue organizations. HSLA plans to compile the information and forward the final report to multiple enforcement, regulatory, and licensing agencies and hopes that one or more will pursue criminal or civil charges.

“In my 32 years as director of this Humane Society, rarely have I seen animals subjected to such extreme neglect, and I am shocked that CUT allowed this to take place and engage in these activities over the course of several months. CUT maintains that others didn’t do their jobs and they have been deflecting blame and criticism ever since the photos were posted.  But, our group will not take these allegations and evidence lightly. We have compiled extensive reports from multiple and reliable sources, and we plan to forward them to different agencies for further review and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. It is clear that these animals, the donors who supported this organization, and some of the members of the rescue and humane communities that interacted with CUT have all been betrayed.  On behalf of those wronged and the animals that suffered, we must seek restitution and justice,” said Jeff Dorson, HSL Director. 

Those who wish to file a report with the Humane Society may contact them at info@humanela.org and HSLA will provide them with a Witness Complaint Form, which can be filled out, signed, and returned.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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