Wednesday, 12 December 2018
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TIMELINE: Animal Shelter pepper spray controversy

Thousands of people have protested against Cheyenne Animal Shelter’s decision earlier this month to pepper spray a young dog the day after he bit an employee. Here’s a rundown of the how we got here:

Tuesday, Sept. 4: An 8-month-old dog named Tanner bites Marissa Cox, the shelter’s foster and volunteer coordinator, shortly after she takes him out of his kennel. She is able to get away and call for help.

Animal control officers respond and tranquilize the dog, which is then quarantined to monitor for signs of rabies. Cox receives medical treatment, though the severity of her injuries is disputed.

Wednesday, Sept. 5: Following a morning meeting, Shelter President Bob Fecht orders Tanner taken out of quarantine, brought outside, and pepper sprayed by an animal control officer. Cox, returning to work, is one of multiple employees looking on. An employee who resigned shortly after incident will later say Fecht told employees to put their phones away before the incident. Fecht will later say he was trying to reassure his staff they could be safe from aggressive dogs pending further training with pepper spray. 

Thursday, Sept. 6: Tanner is euthanized around 10 a.m. Community cat program coordinator Jay Klapel emails five shelter board members in the afternoon calling the previous day’s incident “absolutely abuse.” She will later tell the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that Fecht’s actions constituted unprecedented retaliation for a biting incident, something she says shelter employees deal with regularly. 

Sunday, Sept. 9: Board President Chloe Illoway tells the WTE the board is investigating the allegations and taking them seriously. She also says

1) there was “no abuse” or retaliation

2) the spraying was an exercise to see if pepper spray would stifle an angry dog

3) this exercise was “nothing” the board “didn’t know about” and

4) Klapel is a “disgruntled employee.”

Monday, Sept. 10: The shelter officially responds to WTE inquiries, releasing a redacted report written by an animal control officer. It describes the Sept. 4 biting incident as a vicious mauling that left Cox fearing for her life and relates the Sept. 5 incident as a safe, relatively harmless exercise meant to:

  • Determine whether pepper spray would make the dog more or less aggressive;
  • show staff on how to effectively use pepper spray; and
  • build employees’ confidence in pepper spray as protection from violent animals, pending additional training.

Tuesday, Sept. 11: The WTE publishes a report based on the information above. An online petition launches calling for Fecht and everyone involved in the spraying incident to be fired and charged with animal abuse. It has since attracted more than 20,000 signatures.

Wednesday, Sept. 12: The Shelter Board holds an emergency board meeting closed to the public. City officials say Cheyenne police are investigating charges of animal abuse. Fecht appears on TV to plead his case on why he ordered the pepper spraying, saying he was trying to comfort a terrified employee.

Thursday, Sept. 13: Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr and City Councilman Rocky Case say Fecht should resign. Fecht shrugs them off; Illoway says Fecht will “absolutely not” be fired.

The shelter releases a lengthy statement lauding Fecht’s service to the community and reiterating that the board is taking the inquiry seriously. It says the shelter expects to complete its investigation “early next week.”

Saturday, Sept. 15: Dozens protest outside the shelter calling for Fecht’s firing. Mayor Orr and Shelter Vice President Tammy Maas speak to them.

Monday, Sept. 17: The Shelter Board meets again for hours in closed session. Board members decline to comment to a reporter afterward.

Tuesday, Sept. 18: The Shelter Board tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle Editorial Board Fecht has been suspended without pay for 60 days. 


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