Sugar Land fires 5 from animal shelter for unauthorized euthanasia


Five employees at Sugar Land Animal Services have been fired and their manager resigned under investigation after they euthanized shelter animals without authorization, city officials said Friday.

Nearly 40 animals from the shelter were killed over a six-month period, said Doug Adolph, communications director for the city of Sugar Land.

The five were fired Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the result of a weeklong investigation, the city said.

Adolph identified the manager as Don Specks and said he was scheduled to be fired. Specks could not be reached for comment.

The five fired were identified by Adolph as veterinary technician Jenny Jandres; officer Kaitlin Martinez; kennel technician Amaya Dunn, field supervisor Sean Shay and supervisor Kate Hartsfield. Jandres said she could not comment without consulting her attorney and Shay said he had no comment. Martinez, Dunn and Hartsfield could not be reached for comment.

Among the five, Hartsfield has been with the shelter the longest, for almost six years. Dunn had been there for just over a year and the rest about two years. Specks was hired in August of last year, after working for almost two years as director of animal services for the Houston SPCA, according to his LinkedIn page.

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The investigation began after an employee notified senior management on Sept. 15 about the killings, the city said.

“At the time, it was our understanding that one animal, possibly as many as three, had been euthanized,” Adolph said. “We confirmed what happened. That’s when we placed the shelter manager on administrative leave.” The manager at the facility on Gillingham Lane resigned before he could be questioned, Adolph said. In the end, 38 dogs and cats were euthanized.

The employees involved said the animals displayed aggressive behavior or had a medical diagnosis, Adolph said. However, per city protocol a veterinarian must confirm that euthanization is medically necessary, and that procedure must occur under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. In addition, animals with behavior issues must be discussed with a certified behaviorist, who gives a recommendation to staff.

In conducting these euthanizations, the employees knowingly disobeyed direct orders and the Animal Services Division Manual of Standard Operating Procedures, the city said. Proper procedures were not followed and verbal instructions were ignored.

“They decided to willfully disobey direct orders and ignore policies and procedures. I can’t speak for what was in their heart — maybe they thought what they were doing was OK — but it wasn’t,” said Adolph, adding that he had no reason to believe something had changed in April to trigger the euthanizations.


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