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Animal activists warned to stay away from animal shelter, vet's office

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Oct. 30, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Upshur County activists who have complained about conditions at the Longview animal shelter while also questioning the objectivity of a city task force member have been issued criminal trespass warnings.

Robin Jackson and Steve Webb were told to stay away from the Humane Society of Northeast Texas and the West Loop Animal Hospital by Upshur County sheriff's deputies. The deputies issued the warnings Friday as a courtesy to Longview police, said Stuart Russell, the shelter's director.

"They are interfering with the daily business of the shelter by impersonating shelter employees and calling all different types of people that deal with us," Russell said.

"That interferes with our daily business. I don't want to look over my shoulder and wonder if they are going to take some National Enquirer-type photo, and lie, and try to make us look bad."

Russell said Webb came to the shelter trying to befriend employees, and Jackson was "hanging around the parking lot flagging people down" this past week.

Russell accused both of impersonating employees while making telephone calls inquiring about the operations of the shelter.

This past Wednesday, Jackson chided Dr. Barton Owens at the Animal Shelter Task Force's weekly meeting for what she called a "conflict of interest."

Owens' role as the shelter's veterinarian of record would hamper his ability to be objective when making decisions about the city's animal shelter needs, including what part the Humane Society might play in the future.

"There is a public distrust (of the Humane Society,) and if you have those people affiliated with the organization with years of distrust, then how are they going to be objective?" Jackson said.

Jackson, a one-time Humane Society employee who was fired two years ago, called for Owens to resign from the task force for what she called his involvement in procuring Fatal-Plus - a controlled substance the shelter uses to euthanize animals.

Owens said this past week that he was not on the Humane Society's board of directors, nor is he an employee or paid consultant, and has no agreement with the shelter.

In April, Owens said, a volunteer from the shelter asked him to allow the shelter to use his license number to purchase vaccines and dewormer from Webster Veterinary.

Owens said he is not licensed to dispense controlled substances for the shelter, such as the ingredient in Fatal-Plus.

Fatal-Plus is ordered from the supplier under the shelter's own DEA license and is shipped directly to the shelter's Enterprise Street location, Russell said.

"They are just wrong; Ms. Jackson is just wrong," Russell said. "It is delivered here, it is stored here, and (Owens) has nothing to do with the procurement of Fatal-Plus."

When the shelter renewed its DEA license earlier this year, neither Owens' name nor his license was asked for on the application, Russell said.

Owens declined to confirm whether he requested that Jackson and Webb not be allowed on the animal hospital's property, but said he was concerned for his employees' safety.

Mayor Jay Dean on Tuesday said he supports the members of the Animal Shelter Task Force and sees no conflict of interest.

"I have complete confidence in Dr. Owens in what he has stated in regards to (Jackson's) claim. I support him fully in this task force," Dean said. "He has been invaluable in terms of participating and in bringing in information for the entire task force for consideration."

Dean questioned why Jackson was focusing on Owens when Russell was also a member of the task force.

"How is that different from asking her to serve?" Dean said. "My interest is getting the best qualified people to serve, those who have experience in this area."

At the end of the day, Dean said, the objective of the task force is to come up with a long-term solution to better care for animals.

"If we do our job and accomplish our goals, there will be fewer animal euthanized," Dean said.

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