Cheyenne Animal Shelter Leader, Employees Facing Abuse Charges
The pepper spraying occurred on Sept. 5, a day after the shelter dog -- an 80 pound pit bull named Tanner -- attacked employee Marissa Cox. The dog was euthanized on Sept. 6.
"It was Smale who sprayed the dog," said Officer Kevin Malatesta. "It was being held by Johnson and this was done at the direction of Fecht."
"At the time that the dog was pepper sprayed it wasn't posing a threat to anybody," Malatesta added. "It was pulled from it's kennel and pepper sprayed."
Malatesta says detectives completed a thorough investigation and concluded that the three committed animal abuse by tormenting Tanner unnecessarily.
"We have recommended that charges be filed in this case," said Malatesta. "We've submitted affidavits of probable cause on those three individuals to the Laramie County District Attorney's Office."
"Some folks in the community (are) pushing for a felony animal abuse charge on this, (but) there's really no evidence that such a crime occurred," added Malatesta. "At the time the animal was euthanized it was under the shelter's care, therefore the felony statute doesn't apply here."
Fecht said in a statement that he did not intend to hurt Tanner, noting that he made a "personal and emotional" decision to order the pepper spraying.
The Cheyenne Police Department issued the following release Wednesday morning:
The Cheyenne Police Department has concluded its investigation into the allegation of animal abuse at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter (CAS) occurring on September 5. The CAS is a private non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Cheyenne Police Department. Officers were initially dispatched to the complaint on September 7, and informed that a dog in the shelter’s care bit an employee on September 4, that it was sprayed with pepper spray on September 5, and on September 6 it was euthanized. The report was forwarded on to the CPD detective division. During the investigation, CPD detectives conducted 10 interviews and completed a thorough investigation of the facts.
Based on the evidence presented, the CPD determined that a violation of Wyoming state statute 6-3-203 (a) (ii) occurred and that CAS employees Robert Fecht, 64, Eric Smale, 29, and Ryan Johnson, 25, all of Cheyenne, did commit animal abuse by unnecessarily tormenting the dog when it was sprayed with pepper spray, a day after biting an employee. The CPD investigation concludes that the dog was held by Johnson when Smale sprayed it with pepper spray at Fecht’s direction. This event occurred a day after the dog bit an employee and at the time it was sprayed it did not pose a threat. The dog was euthanized the following day and because it was surrendered to the shelter and was done so in compliance with Wyoming state statutes, no crime was committed when the animal was euthanized.
The CPD found probable cause that this crime occurred and forwarded affidavits to the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office to recommend charges. This case remains under investigation by the Cheyenne Police Department.