Animal control officer removed from county shelter position, interim director named

Advocates say animals left for days

DANVILLE, Ind. - Hendricks County Animal Control Chief Mary Anne Lewis has been removed from her duties at the county animal shelter, county commissioners announced Tuesday.

Lewis will continue to oversee animal control but will work under the supervision of the Sheriff at the work release center.

“The county commissioners have made a decision to reorganize the functions of the animal control department,” said Commissioner Bob Gentry at Tuesday’s meeting.
           
Ladonna Hughes will serve as interim shelter director, taking over operations of the shelter, including adoptions.

The reorganization comes after more than a year of criticism of Lewis and the shelter’s policies.

As the Call 6 Investigators reported in June, more than 60 percent of animals coming into the Hendricks County Animal Shelter are euthanized.
           
Animal advocates have been crunching time sheets and allege animals are being left alone for days at a time.
           
“I documented, using time sheets, animals left unattended for up to 67 consecutive hours,” said Tia Fox, an accountant and advocate with the Indiana Pet Welfare Project. “It disgusted me. That’s cruel.”
           
Fox, along with Allies for All Animals, also raised concerns about missing records for owner-requested euthanasia.
           
“You should be able to track that and you can't,” said Fox. “So it'd be very easy to come in and hand over $20, my cat and they put (the money) in their pocket."
           
Fox is requesting the State Board of Accounts conduct a special audit of the animal shelter.
           
“(Lewis’s) cash transactions have no internal controls that would provide any assurance money’s not being misdirected,” said Fox. “That has resulted in 1,100 unaccounted for animals since 2001.”
           
Commissioners instructed Fox not to target specific personnel, but rather to direct her comments toward shelter operations.
           
“We think these are significant changes and we hope they work for the best,” Commissioner Bob Gentry said.
           
Afterward, Fox expressed disappointment Mary Anne Lewis will still handle animal control.
           
“That was a blow, and we hope they reconsider and look at everything very carefully,” Fox said. “I hope she’s removed completely from animal control.”
           
Lewis was not at the animal shelter Tuesday or at the work release facility.
           
Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney left a message for Lewis and emailed her, but has yet to hear back.
           
Ladonna Hughes, interim shelter director, declined to be interviewed on camera, but she said it’s not true animals are left for days unattended.
           
“No, somebody’s always here to clean and feed,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to be on camera. It’s not the right time for that.”
           
Animal advocates are calling for a national search for new shelter management.
           
“Two steps forward and one step back,” said Sheryl Sackett of Allies for All Animals. “Everything moves at the speed of government, and I wish it would move a little faster for the animals' sake."

Hendricks County Commissioners told animal advocates to be patient with the changes, and said they are re-evaluating the policies and procedures at the shelter.

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6 | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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