Detroit animal shelter ex-worker claims it has ‘slaughterhouse’ conditions

© Wade Payne
A former Detroit city employee says she was fired from an animal shelter after reporting disturbing conditions at the facility, likening it to a slaughterhouse. Now she’s filing a whistleblower lawsuit alleging wrongdoing on the part of the management.

Former animal control officer Brittany Roberts claims to have witnessed and documented numerous instances of abuse that violated state law and department policy since she began her job at Detroit Animal Control in March.

Many animals died from filthy conditions that made them sick, and others met their end from a lack of food and medical care, according to the lawsuit.

“I was almost embarrassed with myself to be part of a team that played a role of the death of so many dogs in their cages,” she told FOX 2 Detroit. “The dogs, they don’t get exercise; they’re not let out of their cages; they’re fed on the floor with feces.”

Roberts, who has nine years of experience working for shelters across the country, says that the department is also guilty of faulty record-keeping that resulted in lost dogs. For example, while dogs are supposed to be scanned for microchips to reunite them with their owners, many are euthanized instead. 

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She says she was fired after repeatedly taking up the issue of abuse with the shelter’s management.

"It’s our job to enforce the laws, and I just feel that me speaking up and asking, ‘I’m going to complain, I’m going to go to the state, I’m going to go higher.’ Eventually they said, ‘She’s got to go,’” she told Fox.

When she requested her personnel file, Roberts says that some of her reports and documentation of abuse had been removed. This is corroborated by a police internal affairs report on an officer who suspended a dog from its neck by a catch pole.

Roberts is suing for violation of Michigan whistleblower protection laws, wrongful termination and violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

In addition to the city, Detroit Animal Control and the Detroit Police Department, the suit names Animal Control director Harry Ward, the supervising Animal Control officer and chief veterinarian, as defendants.

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“The allegations in this lawsuit are deeply troubling and we take them very seriously,” city spokesman Joan Roach said in a statement. “The city is committed to ensuring the humane treatment of all animals in the care of Animal Control.”

Roach added that changes are already in the works. The city announced changes to policies just last week, including plans to move animal control from police department oversight back to the oversight of the health department.