Stormy’s Case File

Dayton, Ohio

 

Executive Summary

Stormy was a two-year-old dog in foster who had received no complaints. She was euthanized against local regulation and without due process.

Local advocates and the Animal Justice League of America put significant and ongoing pressure on the county to address several issues, including agreeing to a third-party investigation and removal of key members of the organization.

The Montgomery County ARC is well on its way to becoming a model for other shelters facing similar pasts.

Background

Stormy was a beautiful dog whose life was unjustly ended too soon. She helped pave the way to make massive changes in the system that failed her.

Stormy was brought in as a stray to the Cincinnati SPCA around two years of age. Stormy made fast friends with her dog “roommates” and staff and never had a complaint filed in regards to her behavior or demeanor. However, she was never adopted. She began to deteriorate, losing weight and losing her spirit.

Stormy became close to a volunteer, Kristi, who worked diligently to find a foster for her. Kristi was ecstatic when she found a loving foster, Robin, who was willing to open her home to Stormy. With Robin, it didn’t take long for Stormy to make herself at home. She enjoyed having a human sibling and found her new “spot” was curled up in bed with her new favorite human. She was silly, she was bubbly, and her personality came back.

On a summer day in May, 2018 her teenage human sibling took Stormy out for a walk around the neighborhood when a smaller dog came running up towards Stormy. This dog was not on a leash and the owner was too far away to control their dog. The other dog continued to jump at and torment Stormy. After some time, Stormy picked the other dog up with her mouth and gave it a shake, and it did not survive its injuries.

The police arrived at the scene and had Robin put Stormy in her car while they worked the investigation. Not realizing how long the investigation would take, Robin complied. The investigation took two hours, and as it was nearly 90 degrees outside, Robin was worried for Stormy’s health and safety inside the locked car. To no avail, Robin pleaded with the officers to allow her to check on Stormy, crack the windows or give her water.

After they concluded the investigation, the owner of the other dog was cited for not having his dog properly restrained, and Stormy was sent to Montgomery County ARC.

Robin was cited by the police, even though she was the foster and not the owner. The Cincinnati SPCA was the legal owner and signed Stormy over to the ARC. They quickly put Stormy on the euthanasia list without proper assessment or investigation.

Due to the circumstances of the case, word began to spread online about Stormy and the injustice she was facing.

Through it all, one of Stormy’s biggest advocates, Lisa, encouraged Kristi and Robin to continue to fight for Stormy. Lisa contacted Animal Justice League of America and our team quickly took action.

Investigation

Animal Justice League of America sent our mobile command center to Dayton, Ohio to meet with the Montgomery County ARC in June, 2018. When we arrived, multiple local residents flagged us down to tell Shane their stories about the Montgomery County ARC and the then- director Mark Kumpf. To make sure they were noticed, a few tapped their brakes and pulled in front of the mobile command center. After hearing their reasons, it was obvious they were desperate for changes to be made. We learned that there were groups of local citizens who had been working diligently for months, trying to bring about changes in the ARC system, whose problems were very well known among the residents.

We knew we were right to join the fight based on reports we were hearing:

  • Lost animals were being euthanized almost immediately, before the owners had a chance to reclaim them.
  • Local residents lived in fear of repercussions for their animals from the ARC and its director, Mark Kumpf, and many reported they were harassed and intimidated by Kumpf.
  • Sick animals with treatable conditions were euthanized rather than offered medical care.

The ARC would not work with local rescue groups to adopt out animals, choosing instead to euthanize. (We were even provided with a list of organizations “banned” from working to adopt out animals from the ARC).

Calls and emails to the Montgomery County Commissioners to address residents’ concerns were not returned or acknowledged (and are well documented)

Even as the above were brought to our attention, we still believed Stormy was alive and being held at the ARC. Attempts to gain access to see Stormy and requests regarding a verbal confirmation of her well-being were refused by the ARC.

Court Date

Animal Justice League of America founder, Shane Rudman, appeared in court alongside Stormy’s foster, Robin, as a non-legal advocate. Robin was facing a charge of having a “dog at large” and “failure to register a dog” (which, as a foster, she had no legal requirement or ability to do) for the incident involving Stormy. There were two separate prosecutors on her case as BOTH the city and county were pursuing charges.

When AJLA founder Shane Rudman was introduced in the courtroom alongside Robin, the prosecution asked the judge for a temporary delay in the proceedings. Shane, Robin, her teenage daughter, and Danielle Reno (founder of Unleashed Pet Rescue, a Kansas City area rescue who had agreed to take custody of Stormy and remove her from Ohio) were escorted to a private room.

When the prosecutors came in the room, Robin shared she felt intimidated and was strongly pressured to plead guilty to all charges at that time. They communicated to Robin that maximum penalties would be sought if she refused and the case were to be continued in front of the judge.

Advocating for Robin, Shane Rudman made it clear that not only would Robin NOT plead guilty, but the charges should be dropped altogether. Further, Shane expressed that an investigation into the ill-treatment and intimidation of Robin and her minor daughter by the ARC from the beginning of the incident were warranted instead. Having then stated his intention of conducting media interviews about what was transpiring within the private room, the prosecutors left for around 30 minutes and appeared frustrated as they did so.

When the city and county prosecutors returned, they asked Robin to meet with them privately, without Shane present, presumably in another attempt to elicit a guilty plea. Robin declined and it was again made clear that we expected the charges to be dropped completely, and we would recommend to the judge that Stormy should be released to Unleashed Pet Rescue and transported to Kansas City.

Shane went on to explain that AJLA had personally called and faxed the ARC, and called and texted Mark Kumpf’s cell phone (and confirmed with the phone company that the messages had been delivered). AJLA also delivered messages to the ARC front desk via courier, and maintained documentation as proof.

At that time, it became clear to AJLA that Stormy had likely been euthanized almost immediately upon her intake to the ARC. Furthermore, we were concerned that the prosecutors planned to elicit a guilty plea from Robin, allowing the judge to order a euthanization so the truth about the timing of her death would never be known. Unfortunately, the ARC under Mark Kumpf was notorious for prematurely euthanizing animals, according to local residents and the stories they shared with us.

The prosecutors again left the room, this time for just under two hours, and confessed that Stormy had been euthanized 10 days earlier. This was the first time the information was disclosed to anyone requesting it in the days leading up to the court date. The bailiff then escorted everyone back to the courtroom.

The hearing was brief and the judge allowed Shane to appear with Robin as an advocate. Both the city and county prosecutors stood and announced that they would be dropping all charges.confirming that Stormy’s life was ended by the Montgomery County ARC without following local regulations.

Action

Following the revelations from the day in court with Robin, it was clear that the residents’ and local groups’ allegations of mismanagement at the ARC had merit, and changes were desperately needed at the ARC.

AJLA remained in Dayton and requested meetings with officials at the ARC, though access was repeatedly denied and then-director Mark Kumpf was not able to be located. Furthermore, calls were not returned.

Directly following the court hearing, Shane contacted the office of the County Commissioners to schedule a meeting with them. After being placed on hold multiple times, he was told that no one was available, but someone would return his call within the hour.

The call came from Amy Wiedman, Assistant County Administrator, who relayed that the Commissioners were gone for the day and urged us to return home to Kansas City, saying they would be in touch. Shane believed the conversation was evasive and expressed that AJLA planned to stay and investigate until the Commissioners were available.

Shane, Danielle Reno, and the team returned to the ARC after speaking with Weidman, in another attempt to meet with the decision-makers there and refused to leave without being granted a meeting. Weidman almost immediately arrived on scene at the ARC and expressed that Mark Kumpf had been called away on a family emergency and would be unreachable indefinitely.

Weidman was Kumpf’s direct superior, and Shane expressed that being such, she had the authority to terminate Kumpf’s employment in light of the numerous allegations against him and the management of the ARC. Shane offered Weidman a choice: if she fired Mark Kumpf OR agreed to an independent third-party investigation of the ARC, AJLA would leave town right then and there.

Weidman refused, stating there were no grounds for either such action. She also reported that all three County Commissioners were gone until the following week. The indication was that Weidman did not want AJLA’s investigation to proceed, even though she provided assurances that she would do everything she could to help, and would follow-up with Shane via conference call with the head District Attorney at 4pm that same day.

In an attempt to move things forward, Shane and the team agreed to the conversation between Weidman and the District Attorney.

On the call, it was revealed that we were speaking with the Assistant District Attorney, despite Weidman’s assurances of a conversation with the head decision-maker. The Assistant District Attorney was apologetic for this, and did admit that charges again Stormy’s foster, Robin, should never have been brought. The Assistant District Attorney also apologized for the actions of the other prosecutor in court, and promised to investigate how that was allowed to happen.

At the end of the conversation, both Weidman and the Assistant District Attorney asked for some time to learn about AJLA before recommending to the County Commissioners to meet. Both again relayed that the Commissioners were unreachable until the next week in any case. We were concerned that this timeline was an effort to encourage us to leave the area for home, though we agreed to those terms knowing that we would continue to follow-up.

Following that encounter, AJLA formulated and emailed an 8-point action plan to Weidman, and we made it clear that our goal was simple: to help animals by making serious changes to the ARC. It included the following:

  1.  Agree to an outside, third-party, independent investigation of the ARC
  2. Temporarily halt all euthanasia pending results of the third-party investigation
  3. Work with local shelter advisory boards to increase adoptions and placement of animals
  4. Follow the recommendations resulting from the third-party investigation
  5. Fire ARC Director Mark Kumpf and the veterinarian under his leadership
  6. Allow leaders of the advisory board have input on filling those roles
  7. Consider and follow the recommendations of the advisory board
  8. Suggested: publicly thank AJLA for our input and commit to supporting our work to help animals there in the future

After receiving this email, Weidman directed Shane Rudman to correspond through the District Attorney’s office and halted direct communication with him. Multiple calls over several weeks were made to the office of Mat Heck, Montgomery County Prosecutor, in an attempt to schedule a call between Mr. Heck and Shane. Eventually it was communicated to us that the District Attorney was not affiliated with the ARC and did not wish to be involved in any investigation or communication in regards to such.

Weidman proposed an internal investigation to be conducted by the local sheriff office, which would have been tainted with conflict of interest as the sheriff reported directly to Weidman. We refused that solution and continued to demand REAL accountability.

Throughout this process, we compiled a great deal of evidence and first-hand testimonies. With this information and back at AJLA’s home base in Kansas City, we reached out to and spoke with respected business leaders in Ohio. We were referred to top class-action law firms, and, based on those conversations, AJLA informed Weidman and county leadership that AJLA would be filing lawsuits if two demands (launch of a third-party investigation and termination of Mark Kumpf) were not immediately met.

AJLA continued to hold press conferences and and conducted interviews with news media to shed more light on the issues at hand and the changes we proposed. Local groups continued to spread awareness through social and news media and were unrelenting in their attempts to communicate with the Board of County Commissioners and in shining light on the ARC’s mismanagement and the lives affected.

Results

The Montgomery County ARC did agree to the third-party investigation, which was conducted by Team Shelter USA, LLC, a national animal-welfare consulting service in November, 2018. The investigation was thorough and the findings confirmed what AJLA and local advocates for a better ARC suspected.

A sample of the results of the third-party investigation included:

  • Problems and mismanagement at several levels within the organization
  • “Live release rates” severely below normal (significantly higher euthanasia rates relative to other facilities)
  • Improperly stored vaccines (indicating neglect for best practices and care)
  • False data reported by staff
  • Over 30 other “emergency action items”

The full report is available here.

As a result of the investigation, Mark Kumpf was officially terminated from his position as director and was replaced with a new interim director who has expressed his commitment to turning around the ARC.

In February, 2019, it was announced that the live release rate had improved to 90% (up from 50-56% from 2014-2017 and 65% in 2018). As of early February, 2019, 5% of the recommendations from Team Shelter USA were complete, 42% were in progress, and 43% were under review, according to the county.

The ARC plans to hire additional staff members to improve the shelter’s ability to manage and care for animals (including feeding and medicating), and report plans to work with rescues to increase adoption rates. The Drug Enforcement Agency also arrived at the ARC in early January, 2019 to follow-up on their management of medication for the animals in their care as a result of Team Shelter USA’s findings.

Benchmarks as of early 2019 show that the ARC is moving beyond its past and becoming a high-quality shelter with its new initiatives and policies. This is thanks to the combined efforts of everyone who worked tirelessly to shine a light on the Montgomery County ARC and hold them accountable for their responsibilities to animal welfare, and the citizens of Montgomery County, Ohio.

Weidman announced an early retirement and will no longer be affiliated with the ARC.

Looking to the Future

Animal Justice League of America is committed to ensuring the Montgomery County ARC continues to follow-through with the recommendations from Team Shelter USA’s investigation, and that changes and improvements continue to be made. Under new leadership and with the intense public scrutiny it now faces, the Montgomery County ARC is on its way to setting the example for others to follow.

Further Reading

Critics target Montgomery Co. Animal Resource Center for animal deaths

County commissioners officially fire animal shelter director

County animal center report: ‘Avalanche of negative consequences’

Animal shelter shows dramatic drop in euthanasia rate