St. Louis County Animal Control admits mistakenly returning dogs to alleged abuser

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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis County Animal Care and Control seized three dogs from an alleged animal abuser in April.

Internal emails revealed county workers mistakenly returned two of the dogs to the person who’s still being prosecuted for his treatment of them.

Annie Sandfort was waiting to take them in. She runs an animal rescue called “Diamonds in the Ruff.”

“I told the worker we would definitely take them whenever they get off of stray hold or surrendered. They were both in terrible condition,” Sandfort said.

She rescued one of the three dogs because the owner had signed away his rights to it. That was Leo, who’s now healthy in the home of Sarah Gregory who is also a vet tech.

“He loves coming to work with me, which is fun. He’s just a great dog overall,” Gregory said.

According to Gregory, Leo was sick and skinny when she adopted him, but said he quickly improved.

“He is very hyper – loves his toys and everything. He is doing very well with us,” Gregory said.

Sandfort was prepared to wait as long as she needed to in order to get the other two dogs, but since the owner didn’t sign them over – she’d have to wait until the end of the animal violation court case against him.

“This kind of abuse doesn’t happen overnight. Arthur’s legs were splayed. His feet were in terrible condition. You could tell he had been malnourished. It was just awful,” Sandfort said. “You felt bad you had to leave them there but they were part of an ongoing investigation.”

St. Louis County emails document “the puppies were in horrible shape – emaciated, malnourished” and “…one almost died…”

Yet the owner was somehow allowed to pick them up. Another email says, “When the owner picked up his dogs today, he was witnessed choking them with the leash to put them in the vehicle. He picked them up by the leash, not using his hands at all.”

Sandfort said, “I can’t get anybody to hold the people who did this accountable. (The dogs) should’ve never been allowed to be returned to his abusive owner and they should’ve done the checks they promised they would do whenever they started this.”

St. Louis County responded to FOX 2 with this statement:

In the case of three animals impounded on April 15, 2020, multiple staffers failed to follow the impoundment process before returning the animals to their owners. We are conducting an appropriate conversation about the expectations for this policy within the department. Currently, DPH does not have the authority to impound the animals again without new evidence of ongoing violations. To protect the animals and monitor their welfare, animal

control officers have been instructed to perform welfare checks with photographs of all care, feeding, and condition. Any violation of county ordinances will result in additional action by the department to protect the welfare of the animals. A welfare check was done on 07/17/2020 and the two remaining dogs were fine, with no additional evidence of violations observed. The department will continue to monitor the situation regularly.

At this time, one of the animals has been transferred to a new owner, who we are also in communication with, and continues to be in good health.

In addition to addressing the specifics of this situation, I am reviewing all procedures related to these types of decisions and identifying areas in which communication, documentation, and decision-making authority are conducted to reduce any further issues in the future.

Spring Schmidt, acting director, St. Louis County Department of Public Health

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