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Authorities confirm reports of shelter animals euthanized by freezing

The lead investigator in a case involving the Spencer County Animal Shelter tells Eyewitness News a handful of witnesses have confirmed the shelter euthanized animals on two different occasions by freezing them alive.

Spencer County Sheriff's Office Detective Chris King says four kittens were frozen during one of those instances.

Authorities are unsure of total number of animals euthanized in this manner. 

King and Spencer County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Pulley confirm to Eyewitness News the investigation will now be taken on by the state, citing conflict of interest in one county entity investigating the other.

We are told most likely Indiana State Police will be taking on the investigation, but this will not be confirmed until the case is officially transferred, which can take days or a week. 

Eyewitness News' efforts to reach out to the Spencer County Animal Shelter or Animal Control Board have been unsuccessful.

Eyewitness News Reporter Ashlyn Irons spoke with one veterinarian that works closely with the shelter, as well as a board member Monday afternoon, but no new details or information was shared on the record. 

Eyewitness News has reached out to the Animal Control Board's attorney, and are waiting to hear back. 

Eyewitness News was the first to report the investigation into the Spencer County Animal Shelter Saturday after a former employee told us her director asked her to euthanize animals on multiple occasions by freezing them alive. You can read the initial report here.

The employee says her director and Spencer County Animal Control Officer Christina Payne asked her to put the kitten in the freezer.

"The first time I was given an option to either just put it in a bag and put it in the freezer with no sedation, nothing because I'm not a vet, I don't have the license to be able to do that," said Bridgett Woodson. 

After she refused, she said she was asked again when another cat at the shelter was hit by a car. 

"The second time I was not given the option, and I was just told to go ahead and put it in the freezer. I mean, this cat was still up and moving and I had told her, and I still got the same response," said Woodson. "I refused both times, and the second time I took it upon myself to call the vet myself, to get the kitten there and I told her if money is the problem, you can go ahead and bill me."

Woodson told Eyewitness News she then went to board members and after not seeing any action taken, she resigned.

Eyewitness News found the American Veterinary Medical Association has deemed hypothermia as an unacceptable and inhumane mode of euthanasia

Eyewitness News Reporter Ashlyn Irons called Spencer County Animal Shelter Director and Animal Control Officer Christina Payne Saturday evening. 

After Irons identified herself as a reporter with Eyewitness News, Payne immediately hung up the phone. 

According to the Spencer County Animal Shelter's Facebook page, despite what they called bad publicity, they are still open.

When Eyewitness News stopped by the shelter Saturday afternoon, a sign was posted on the door saying they will not be adopting out or accepting any cats, as they are currently facing an outbreak of Panleukopenia, a contagious feline disease.

After Eyewitness News' story first aired on Saturday evening, Spencer County Animal Shelter has since deleted their Facebook page.

We will continue to update this story.

For the latest breaking news and stories from across the Tri-State, follow Eyewitness News on Facebook and Twitter.

(This story was originally published August 13, 2018)


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