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Criminal charges possible for former animal shelter leaders

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Posted at 6:33 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 20:33:23-04

PUEBLO — After an investigation revealed a series of violations at the Pueblo animal shelter earlier this year, “PAWS for life” ended its contract with the city and county.

Among the violations listed in the report, delayed care and unsuitable conditions for animals.

It all began at the end of 2018 when the city and county of Pueblo voted to give control of the shelter to the group. This came after an ordinance was voted on by Pueblo City Council for the Pueblo Animal Protection Act, which required shelters to maintain a save rate above 90 percent.

The state’s investigation revealed animals were neglected in some cases for days, as a result, 14 animals died while under the shelter’s watch.

Pueblo Police have been investigating as well, and while no official charges have been filed, the department says they are working on passing something along to the District Attorney’s office.

“There’s a lot of things that we know and a lot of things that we can prove,” Sergeant Franklyn Ortega said, he adds that while it’s ultimately up to the District Attorney to move forward with the charges, their investigation holds a lot of weight in the process.

Ortega says the department doesn’t investigate animal cruelty cases on a regular basis, and with the high profile nature of this investigation- it’s adding to the time to make sure everything is done thoroughly.

Even after the District Attorney gets ahold of the charges from Pueblo Police, it could take months before the charges are official.

“When we refer charges, obviously we have a case, we believe these people committed these crimes, but it’s up to the District Attorney to make that determination if they are able to prosecute or not the situation that we refer to them,” Ortega said.

Tuesday morning, the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners voted to give control back to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR)- which ran the shelter prior to PAWS for life.

“of course we’re really excited and grateful to help and get that straightened out,” CEO and President of HSPPR, Jan McHugh-Smith said.

The contract is for three and half years, each year costing a little more than two and a half million dollars.