Berkeley County and animal welfare group continue to battle over animal shelter conditions

·4 min read

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Continuing to argue the case is an attempt to gain donations, Berkeley County officials say they have filed a motion to dismiss a state supreme court case over the treatment of animals at a county shelter.

The group that brought the case, Alley Cat Allies, stood by its allegations and said Friday it will be filing papers to fight the motion.

County officials said in a news release they have filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to dismiss a petition filed by Bethesda, Md.-based Alley Cat Allies.

The animal welfare group is alleging that some animals at Berkeley County Animal Control at 700 S. Queen St. went days without necessary medical treatment and that the actions are a pattern at the facility.

The nonprofit organization filed a petition for a writ of mandamus against Berkeley County Animal Control on Nov. 24. The petition seeks to compel the animal control group to comply with state law which states it is a crime to withhold necessary medical care to an animal, according to the filing.

Supreme court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said Friday that she has not seen the motion. Anthony Delligatti, legal director for the Berkeley County Council — the county's governing body — said in a phone interview that the motion has been mailed to the court.

The county animal shelter falls under the control of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

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Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon said previously that the claims by Alley Cat Allies are "completely ludicrous," and added that he's starting to suspect its actions were an effort to generate donations.

One of the central complaints Harmon raised during a news conference earlier this month is no one from Alley Cat Allies ever called his agency to outline the concerns they had about the animal control office.

Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, countered in a statement after the news conference that her organization did air its concerns with authorities connected to the shelter.

The county's news release relates language from the county's motion to dismiss, including that “Alley Cat Allies does not seek a legal remedy; it seeks publicity and donations. The strategy is simple: file a suit, raise a hoot, and collect the loot."

Harmon continues to deny allegations in the case, according to the release.

“It’s a very reckless and unbecoming campaign tactic from an entity cloaking themselves as a nonprofit organization. I don’t care for their tactics at all," Harmon said in the release.

“Alley Cat Allies could make a donation to animal control to get more veterinary care for animals if that was their goal, but that clearly does not appear to be the case,” Berkeley County Council President Doug Copenhaver Jr. said in the release.

Robinson said in a statement Friday that she believes her organization will prevail in the case. She said her group will be filing "an opposition" to the county's motion.

"Our investigation has uncovered irrefutable evidence that demonstrates Berkeley County Animal Control denied the necessary veterinary care for many animals in their shelter over a long period of time," Robinson said in the statement.

Bundy said previously that a response to the petition from Berkeley County Animal Control must be filed with the supreme court by Dec. 31. Then the court will decide how it wants to proceed — such as whether it will allow oral arguments, which Alley Cats Allies is requesting, she said.

In its petition, Alley Cat Allies detailed medical problems with some animals at the shelter and how they were further assessed by veterinarians outside the facility.

The organization included records in its petition showing how the assessments at other animal care centers indicated that a dog that appeared to be in pain from various eye problems that allegedly went eight days without necessary medical treatment in the shelter before the dog was adopted, and that a cat had to be euthanized because of its condition after it left the shelter.

Harmon suggested in his news conference that perhaps the records were fabricated.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Berkeley County files motion to dismiss Alley Cat Allies court case

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