ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office has closed its investigation into animal cruelty and neglect allegations against the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, located at 100 Savannah Rd. in Fort Pierce.
Even though detectives recommended criminal charges against at least one shelter employee, the State Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue criminal charges.
Assistant State Attorney Felicia Holloman stated in an explanation:
"As with any arrest, we are constrained by the evidence available and the applicable law. While these allegations expose serious issues with the operations of the shelter, they do not at this time rise to the level of probable cause justifying an arrest."
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Investigative documents showed 20 people were interviewed, including numerous shelter volunteers, staff members, and county and city animal control staff. Many provided the same concerns to detectives.
Some complaints described animals not being humanely euthanized and not being given the medication that was prescribed to them, which led to their death, according to those documents.
Others described animals coming into the shelter healthy, but becoming seriously ill after staying at the shelter and needing emergency care.
Volunteers described a problem with rats at the shelter, and expressed concerns that rats caused the death of puppies.
County animal control staff said they took animals home at one point because they feared they would die at the shelter.
During a felony search warrant served in August, deputies noted serious maintenance concerns and safety issues, such as exposed wiring, and water leaks near electrical wires. They also described the kennels as being in poor shape, holes in walls, rodent droppings, and a cat without food or water.
Deputies also noted concerns over medications for animals not being properly documented.
The veterinarian in charge of the medication records declined to be interviewed in the investigation and hired an attorney. She exercised her right to remain silent, according to records.
The State Attorney’s Office said there were no photos or records to support all of the allegations made against the shelter.
The complaints were not listed as unfounded, but the investigation has now been listed as inactive unless more evidence comes forward.
Former volunteer Dale Mutchler said he's disappointed no charges were filed.
"The State Attorney’s Office, I think, really dropped the ball," said Mutchler. "I think they were very lax, and I think they just didn’t want to carry it forward is my opinion. I’m sure they have all kinds of little reasons they’ll give. They had witnesses, multiple, not just myself. They had city and county employee witnesses, but they still didn’t want to proceed with anything and carry it forward, which is kind of ridiculous, I think."
This is a developing story and will be updated.