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Activists, Commissioners Blast Animal Shelter Over Euthanasia Practice, But Some Say There's More to the Story

BROOKSVILLE – The Hernando Board of County Commission meetings are usually pretty humdrum but that wasn't the case yesterday when a group of animal rights activists raised concerns over euthanasia practices at Hernando County Animal Services (HCAS).

Bob and Kelly Detwiler, who are long-time adversaries of HCAS manager James Terry, joined several animal activists in voicing concerns over what they claim is the practice of using a heart stick method to euthanize animals at HCAS. A heart stick is the practice of injecting a lethal solution directly into the heart of an animal that must be euthanized. Florida Statute only allows that method as a last resort and only when the animal is tranquilized or already unconscious.

Those who spoke yesterday claim HCAS uses the heart stick method on a regular basis, and they want Terry to be held accountable.

Kelly Detwiler recently posted an incident on social media, claiming that on October 21, 2023, a dog was inhumanely euthanized in the presence of guests who were in the facility. Detwiler claims shelter workers used a catchpole to restrain the dog while another worker injected a syringe directly into the dog's heart. The following was posted on Detwiler's personal Facebook page:

(The post is unedited except for the redaction of staff identities)

Saturday Oct. 21, 2023, 3 volunteers were in the garage area of our Hernando County Animal Shelter doing photo shoots of adoptable dogs for Halloween.

As the volunteers were taking pictures the shelter coordinator XXXXXXX and kennel worker XXXXXXX walked in.

Within a few feet of the volunteers they proceeded to use a catchpole on a small white dog, that was kenneled right next to a black dog.

What happened next is the most barbaric, inhumane, immoral act I have ever heard of.

I think it's because these are the people taxpayers are paying and entrusting to PROTECT the animals that makes it so much more disgusting.

The kennel worker, XXXXX proceeded to "Stick a needle"( most likely an intra cardiac kill needle) into this KENNELED UN*SEDATED dog being forced down by a catch pole.

More than likely missing his heart which causes an excruciating drawn out death.

Keep in mind we have a full time shelter vet who is paid $97,000+ a year capable of performing humane euthanasia...yet James Terry has allowed a $12 an hr kennel worker to inhumanely kill UNsedated animals.

The witnesses said they never heard such horrible SCREAMING coming from a dog.

This poor dog screamed as he climbed the sides of his kennel, banging himself against his kennel walls.

He DEFECATED ALL OVER HIMSELF, the kennel, the floor, the walls.

3-5 MINUTES this torture continued.

This poor dog finally succumbed and went quiet and limp.

After listening to several citizens' passionate pleas for the board to take action, all but one commissioner responded critically to the shelter manager.

Commissioner Beth Narverud went on a 23-minute soliloquy about the conditions at the shelter and read several letters submitted by angry citizens.

Appalled by the lack of due process, Commissioner Steve Champion said, "First of all, is this the Biden administration? Are we convicting him before even bringing him up here? It's a disgrace to even talk about that stuff. The man should be allowed to come up here and speak." Citizens seated in the gallery interrupted Champion several times, forcing Chairman John Allocco to warn they would be removed if the outbursts continued. Champion continued, "It's been three years and you haven't heard anything from anybody - Literally no complaints about the animal shelter.

It's like Donald Trump, 'Let's put him in jail, and let's not even hear from him.'"

Terry, who was sitting in the gallery, approached the podium and defended his leadership and the job of the volunteers, stating, "The allegations of using a heart stick are completely inaccurate without sedation, ever, and that the information that has been shared repeatedly from forum to forum to forum on Facebook, and it got many people upset, as it should because that is a terrible process." Terry goes on to explain what really happened to the dog in question. "The animal had already bitten two people and was given a dangerous dog warning letter. The procedure was to put the animal on a pole, sedate the animal, which was done, then the animal was transported to complete the euthanasia to the euthanasia room." Terry says the entire process was within standards with the exception of the process taking place in front of volunteers in the garage. Terry says they should have asked the volunteers to leave, and Terry accepts responsibility for the mistake. Terry vehemently denied the use of heart stick during that incident and even provided written evidence of the animal's sedation record.

After clarifying what actually took place at the shelter that day, Terry turned his attention to those who he says have a history of attacking him. Terry said, "Unfortunately, some have decided to attack animal services based on a long preexisting agenda it's the same people who have tried to get me fired at least 5 times in the past and each time the allegations were unfounded, and the difference is this time, this campaign of psychological warfare on Facebook as effected your employees." Terry is referring to Bob and Kelly Detwiler who he says used to volunteer at the shelter. Bob and Kelly have held resentment towards Terry since Bob's termination from the shelter in 2018 for "lying on Facebook" about the shelter.

Regarding the audit, Terry says, "Bring 5 audits, 10 audits, I have no problem with audits. Let's do it."

In a tearful response to the allegations brought against the shelter, HCAS staff veterinarian Melissa Brady said no one talks about the success stories at the shelter. "Those are the things that you guys don't hear about. And not everything that happens at the shelter is good. We don't have a beautiful facility; we don't have a lot of people. We do what we can with staff and the staff that works very hard. It's not uncommon for me to put in a 60 or 80-hour week. Being on call every weekend. It's very hard and we can't save them all. And all you hear about is the ones that we couldn't save. And nobody says anything about those that we did get out."

At the conclusion, all commissioners agreed that a third-party review of the facility would be appropriate to, at the very least, determine if better policies could be in place to reduce the number of euthanized animals.

Some speculated that the meeting had the appearance of a political "hit job" because James Terry has hinted at running against Sheriff Al Nienhuis in the upcoming 2024 election. Four of the five commissioners are staunch supporters of Sheriff Nienhuis, which is why some say would make sense that the board was quick to chastise Terry and call for an investigation into his practices.

The "squad," as some have referred to them, refuses to consider any action in forcing Sheriff Nienhuis to implement body cameras with his deputies, despite Florida Statute giving them a mechanism to demand consideration of a budget item. They've also ignored calls to investigate a local taxpayer-funded nonprofit that promulgates a transgender agenda with children and has been suspected of committing federal fraud because the Sheriff has direct ties to the organization.

Residents have begun to question whether four of five commissioners are working for them or if they are beholden to a "higher power," like State Senator Blaise Ingoglia. R News addressed the concerns with Commissioner Jerry Campbell who called those allegations "foolish." Campbell went on to ask why R News had not already written an article about the allegations at the shelter, stating, "If the Sheriff was in charge of the Animal Shelter, you would have already written a very unfavorable story." In response, R News replied, "It's responsible journalism to get both sides of the story before publishing a story."


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