Hill Country animal shelter accused of abuse, leadership challenged

A Hill Country animal shelter is facing a change in command following alleged incidents of animal abuse, including one involving sick puppies being placed inside a freezer rather than treating them for infectious diseases or properly euthanizing them, according to one volunteer’s account to KENS 5.

On Friday, February 24, the leadership team at the Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS) was handed a proposal by a group of local leaders and activists looking to install an interim board of directors looking to make necessary changes inside the facility to ensure the shelter’s continued operation.

Several outraged citizens showed up to protest and voice their concerns over the fate of the shelter and the treatment of dogs in the shelter’s care on Saturday, February 25, the same day the shelter’s current president Darrell Mayfield and Vice President Kelly Mayfield agreed to the change.

The decision to hand over the reins to a new board was an amicable one, said Debbie England, one of the shelter’s future interim board members.

“I believe they decided in our favor because we treated them with compassion and gave them a way out,” said England, an active member of the Canyon Lake community and multiple area nonprofits, as well as a former Canyon Lake Animal Hospital veterinary technician.

According to England, the Mayfield’s were looking to shut down the shelter and sell the property housing the registered nonprofit organization, and those responsible for the proposal wanted to prevent that from happening.

In late January, the shelter shuttered its doors following reports of several distemper and parvovirus cases and has since discontinued animal intakes. 
Overcrowding has been a large problem affecting many shelters across Central Texas. When housing them in close quarters, diseases are bound to spread, Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area Executive Director Sarah Hammond said.

“Any shelter is going to have a parvovirus case every once in a while, every shelter is going to have a distemper case every once in a while, but it goes from being an isolated case to an outbreak when you’re working in an environment that has been taxed for so long,” said Hammond, who is also a future interim board member.

Some animals at CLASS were being released before vaccinations to prevent the illness could take effect, Hammond said.

While some accusations against the shelter in Canyon Lake have yet to be corroborated, Hammond confirmed the Comal County has launched an investigation into the allegations.

The charge to restructure the board was championed by Jeremy Switt, who has worked with CLASS in several different capacities since 2015. 
After hearing ramblings about the status of the shelter and how overwhelmed they were, Switt reached out to some of the incoming interim board members. They agreed something needed to be done and then approached the Mayfield’s about the shelter’s future.

“We had a very brief conversation and I said … ‘I’ll give you an out if you guys are done, and you want this to just go away, I’ve got an out and we’ll take it back over,’” Switt said.

Future interim board members Switt, England, and Hammond are joined by Leslee Rapp, who oversees a Comal County pet Facebook group, and Norma Blackwell, who had roles in several local nonprofit organizations.

The temporary board plans to work toward finding a permanent board with backgrounds in finance, animal care, and nonprofit leadership to create new precedents to safeguard animal health and safety at the shelter. The interim board will also work to restore public trust by increasing financial transparency and reconnect with volunteers, residents, and other supportive nonprofits whose support was lost.

“We want to show our community how much it costs to run a local shelter so that we can get the community to come back and have some ownership because we will need it desperately to keep CLASS open,” the proposal circulating through Comal County pet Facebook groups said.

Once the board transition is finalized, the interim board will conduct an operational audit and veterinarian inspections, check on animal well-being, create new policies, and give the facility a deep clean.

The proposed interim board has received a verbal agreement, but paperwork has yet to be signed solidifying the change in temporary command and is expected to take several few weeks to finalize.

MySA reached out to Darrell Mayfield for comment but did not receive a response.

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