Animals

National Animal Welfare Group Alleges Mistreatment In Berkeley, Purchases County Land

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The Bethesda, Maryland-based Animal Defense Organization that works to protect animals from abuse filed a petition last week with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals alleging that Animal Control Berkeley County is not providing adequate veterinary care for many of its animals.

The day before the filing, the advocacy group had purchased a large estate in the county for more than $300,000.

The Alley Cat Allies said they conducted an in-depth investigation for more than a year that revealed that Berkeley County Animal Control “knowingly and recklessly withheld necessary medical treatment for the animals in their shelter, causing severe suffering and in some cases death.”

The deposit details cases of malnutrition, untreated infections, bulging eyes and tongues, hernia ruptures, and a broken leg. It was alleged that two animals were in such poor condition that they had to be mercilessly killed.

On November 23, Alley Cat Allies filed the petition asking the state Supreme Court to intervene and ordering Berkeley County Animal Control to “act in accordance with its statutory duty” and provide veterinary care to the animals at its shelter.

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, which includes the animal control unit, has not issued an official statement on the matter. But according to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, there will be a press conference sometime next week to address the allegations.

The day before the filing, November 22, Alley Cat Allies purchased more than 17 acres of land in Berkeley County for $311,000, according to a bond filed with the county clerk’s office.

Alley Cat Allies told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that they purchased the property “to further our business and further our mission in the area.” They did not provide further details about the property’s future.

They’ve been doing business in Berkeley County for decades, said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a Washington, DC-based magazine that covers charitable and nonprofit organizations around the world, wrote an in-depth report in 2018 claiming that “Robinson runs the organization with few checks on its power.” The Chronicle also noted in its story that the non-profit organization is not subject to proper scrutiny regarding purchases of real estate and the salaries of its employees.

The organization, according to its 2020 IRS 990 report, made about $10.7 million that year. Robinson’s compensation was more than $247,000.

In contrast to the report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Alley Cat Allies holds a platinum rating on GuideStar, which claims to have “the most complete and up-to-date nonprofit data available” on its website. The organization’s platinum rating indicates a high ranking in transparency for tax returns, leadership, and mission, among others.

Alley Cat Allies have been around for more than 30 years and have 650,000 supporters worldwide, according to their website.

Berkeley County Animal Control has favorable ratings on its Facebook page and posts photos and activities often. At the time of writing this story, the shelter has a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars based on 127 reviews on Facebook. However, many recent reviews, dating back to 2019, are negative.

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