Shelter President says dog pepper sprayed for "employee safety"

Published: Sep. 13, 2018 at 10:23 AM CDT
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Questions about possible abuse at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter are swirling around town.

At issue: whether an 8-month-old, 70 lb pit bull mix was made to suffer unnecessarily before being euthanized.

How it started

On Tuesday September 4th, a dog named Tanner bit Marissa Cox, an employee at the animal shelter, multiple times. She was trying to take him out on a walk, but the encounter left her fearing for her life.

"He got a bite on the lower right shin, and then up to my thigh,” Cox said. “Once he got to my thigh, the next place was going to be my face."

Cox did not require extensive medical attention, but the encounter had its impact nonetheless.

"It was very difficult for me to even walk back in to my house to my dogs,” Cox said, “because I know that they would never do anything to me but having just been on my back with a dog biting up my leg to get to my face is very challenging."

A “training demonstration”

The events that followed the biting incident are what's causing many to question the shelter's ethics.

The morning after Tanner bit Cox, the shelter president and CEO, Robert Fecht, told employees to take Tanner outside of his cage and to an area at the back of the shelter.

Kevin Brueck, a former employee of the shelter, was in the break room at the time. He said what Fecht said at the time disturbed him.

"He says ‘better not have any phones out’, and we kind of look at him really confused. We are in the break room, I don't understand what's going on," Brueck said.

At Fecht's command, an animal control officer pepper sprayed Tanner.

Brueck said he was still in the breakroom when Tanner was pepper sprayed, but he saw the dog taken back to his cage.

"The next thing you see is Tanner coming around the corner just looking like messed up and confused. He's got some red dripping out of his mouth," Brueck said.

Why did it happen?

The fact Tanner was pepper sprayed in the face, after already being scheduled for euthanization, is not in dispute. Robert Fecht readily admitted to it, but said he had a good reason for it.

"I decided to do a controlled demonstration using the animal that everybody in this building was the most afraid of," Fecht said.

His reasoning? Employee safety.

"I mean, honestly," Fecht explained, "I was very scared that if we did not do something we could have this happen [again], and the next time somebody might actually be killed by the animal. So I made the decision to issue to our staff and train them on pepper spray."

But for former employee Kevin Brueck, employee safety is not a valid reason to hurt an animal.

"I don't see how anybody, especially in the animal welfare industry would think this is okay,” Brueck said, “pulling a dog out of the kennel to pepper spray it to quote ‘see if it works’."

Tanner was later euthanized.

What’s next?

After interviewing all parties involved, the shelter’s Board of Directors held a special meeting on September 12th. NewsChannel 5 is awaiting the results of that meeting to be made public.

On the other side of the issue, a petition has been started to remove President & CEO of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, Robert Fecht.