Tuesday, 11 December 2018
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Cheyenne Police Department releases investigative report into shelter pepper spraying incident

CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Police Department on Wednesday released its investigative report into a controversial pepper spray incident at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter last month, shedding new light on the events surrounding CEO Bob Fecht’s decision to have a young dog sprayed the day after he bit a shelter employee.

The 58-page report contains documents and interview summaries that led police to recommend charging Fecht and Animal Control Officers Ryan Johnson and Eric Smale with misdemeanor animal abuse and contains information not previously published about the characterization of the bite, the use of a second dog to agitate Tanner before the spraying, and Fecht’s actions throughout.

The report became public Wednesday after Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg announced earlier this week he wouldn’t press charges. 

It begins with the most complete outline of the weeks leading up to 8-month-old pit bull mix Tanner’s arrival of the shelter yet published. 

Kaci Kronsbein, an employee at Avenues Pet Clinic, told police she first met the dog, Tanner, on Aug. 12 when a woman named Misty Green brought him in to be treated for a swollen face and neck.

Tanner’s owner was in jail at the time, but the dog needed treatment for swelling “possibly from an infected insect or similar bite.”

Over the next several days, pet clinic staff contacted Green updating her about Tanner’s condition and asking her about payment. She kept saying she needed to get money, but never paid. 

The dog was considered abandoned Aug. 21, according to the report, and the dog was taken to the shelter Aug. 31.

The report also discusses Sept. 4, when shelter employee Marissa Cox said she was walking Tanner out of his kennel at the animal shelter. He began fighting with another dog through a fence.

When she tried to pull on his leash, Tanner turned on her, Cox told investigators. He bit her twice in the left leg and three times on her upper right leg.

She went to Stitches Urgent Care for treatment later that day. 

In a report prepared by an unidentified animal control officer and released to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in the days after the incident, the biting was related as a “vicious mauling” that left Cox fearing for her life. But the police report indicates she may have revised her memory of the event.

“Cox told me that now that she is looking back, it was not as severe of an attack as she felt it was while it was happening,” the investigator wrote.

The report also sheds light on the meeting at which Fecht made the decision to have the dog pepper sprayed and the issue of a second dog being present during the spraying to agitate Tanner – something shelter officials have disputed. 

Shelter Manager Brooke Byelich told investigators she attended a meeting Sept. 5 with shelter management including then-Shelter Board President Chloe Illoway, Fecht, Cox and someone named “Bree.”

After discussing other shelter matters, Fecht asked the group about using pepper spray for employee protection and told them he wanted to use it on Tanner “to see if it altered his behavior.” Byelich told the investigator no one objected.

Later that day, ACO Johnson brought Tanner to the back of a shelter on a catch pole. 

Byelich said she didn’t feel comfortable using pepper spray on Tanner because he wasn’t “reactive,” so she offered to get another dog. 

By the time she got outside, though, Tanner was “reacting on the catch pole and was lunging at the people around him.” The dog she retrieved was no longer needed. 

Accounts from the report say Tanner coughed and spit up pink mucus, something the investigator said could have been due to the coloring of the “Sabre Red” brand spray. 

Byelich was also the one who euthanized Tanner on Sept. 6, which she said follows normal shelter procedure if a dog bites someone and is deemed too aggressive to adopt out. 

But “Byelich stated she knew that Fecht was pushing for euthanasia and asked her about whether it was done yet,” the report states.

She also told police that “she wished (she) would have said something” when they discussed what was going to happen.”

When asked about the incident, ACO Johnson said “he felt there was no intent to harm the animal” – a key component in the district attorney’s argument not to press charges.

“Johnson looked through the statute that they often use to charge for animal abuse, and specifically identified that he felt there was no intent to abuse or harm the animal as is required for the statute,” the investigator wrote.

Smale told police he “felt the training was necessary to show how pepper spray will affect an aggressive dog and to determine whether animal shelter staff were going to carry it.”

He also said the pepper spray is “generally harmless” to dogs and felt that the incident wasn’t painful to Tanner.

Fecht declined to be interviewed for the investigation, the report states.

Source: https://www.wyomingnews.com/news/local_news/cheyenne-police-department-releases-investigative-report-into-shelter-pepper-spraying/article_4178f3da-c79d-11e8-8f88-773fb5f544a3.html

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