Fremont County Humane Society investigated after volunteers claim animal abuse

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DENVER -- When you think of the Humane Society, you picture a place where animals up for adoption are given a second chance at life. But a FOX31 Denver investigation found one Colorado shelter has been cited for 11 critical violations within two months by state inspectors.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture, the state agency in charge of regulating animal shelters, cited the Humane Society in Fremont County in June and July 2013 for poor record keeping, animals being euthanized incorrectly and lost pets being put down before their owners were given a chance to reclaim them.

“I think we should call it the house of horrors,” said former volunteer Laura Ornelas.

She spent a year at the shelter located in Canon City, southwest of Colorado Springs.

“It was different than anywhere I have seen,” Ornelas recalled.

The certified animal trainer was in charge of taking pictures of dogs and cats up for adoption, but she says her snap shots quickly turned into documenting the poor treatment of animals.

“I saw animals that needed medical care that didn’t get medical care,” she said.

Her photos are being used in an investigation by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the department that licenses veterinarians.

DORA is looking into whether the staff veterinarian, Dr. Michael Gangel, provided inadequate care for dogs and cats at the Humane Society.

“I saw neuters not done properly,” said Ornelas.

She provided FOX31 Denver several pictures of dogs that had neuter procedures by Gangel.  She claimed those photos, which show dogs bruised and bleeding days after surgery, are a result of botched operations.

“They had to know that was not standard for dogs to bleed out after surgery,” she said. “I personally saw at least five dogs that had horrible complications from their neuter surgery.”

Ornelas claimed at least one terrier mix, named ‘Yoda’, died after complications for the basic neuter surgery.

“I try to do my job. I wish some of those had been better, I do,” Gangel said.

He insists the claims by former volunteers are “trumped up,” but he admitted two of the dogs had problems after the surgery.

“They took them to a vet when I was away. I had other things to take care of. Next week they were fine,” he said.

Volunteers said the only reason those two dogs survived is because they begged the Humane Society staff to allow them to get outside veterinarian care for the wounded animals.

Gangel sent his response to the Colorado Veterinarian Board last year when they began investigating the claims against him. His response and the board’s investigation remain sealed until a decision is made at the next board meeting. That happens Thursday.

The board could vote to revoke Gangel’s license, suspend him or do nothing and allow him to continue to practice veterinary medicine in the state. Gangel said he expects the board to allow him to keep his license.

The allegations against Gangel’s surgeries are only one issue the Humane Society of Fremont County is facing.

An unscheduled inspection by the Colorado Department of Agriculture found he was absent many times when animals were euthanized.

Inspection reports from July 2013 found an employee “was allowed to perform the procedure unattended despite her lack of training.”  The unannounced inspection also found injured animals were not always given medical care in a timely manner.

Another volunteer, Veda Overy, told FOX31 Denver she saw workers spraying down kennels with high pressured water while dogs were still inside their cages.

“A lot of times the dog’s paws got red and irritated from that because they weren’t removed,” Overy said.

State inspectors backed her story.  The July inspection reported an employee admitted the shelter didn’t remove dogs to clean kennels.

Overy, who volunteered at the shelter for two years, said it was especially bad for puppies who didn’t know to get out of the way. She said the wet dogs would be left in their kennels, shivering until they dried off.

After being scrutinized by the media, the Humane Society board hired an outside spokeswoman to handle public relations for the Fremont County shelter.

Deb Muehleisen told FOX31 Denver that all issues have been addressed and corrected, but when we pressed for more specifics, she had a hard time answering many of our questions.

“Certainly we are devastated by the charges there’s no if’s and buts about that. We immediately put a plan in place with significant changes to turn our shelter around,” Muehleisen said.



  • Cristie Caldwell

    People who was involved should be charges for animal cruelty and get maximum punishment!!!

  • Davyd Smith

    Thank you for exposing the story of the Fremont County Humane Society. This story has been an ongoing initiative for over a year by caring volunteers to expose this shelter and the poor leadership. When these volunteers first brought problems to the attention of authorities they were thrown out by the management. When they went to the local paper, they were called liars, disgruntled, one editorial even called them “terrorists”. The management at this shelter has shown little compassion for the homeless pets in their care. It desperately needs new leadership. The community wants it. Join us in improving this shelter and changing leadership there.

  • Kathy Deleon

    Here we go again, the people in charge of our most neglected population (shelter animals) are the worst. How does this happen, just callous after years of doing this?? Get the hell out if you do not feel compassion for these souls. This makes me sick and a year is TOO long to be investigating. Just get it taken care of, should not be rocket science to see what needs to be done. These volunteers are heroes.

  • Chris Gartenmann

    What is amazing is the shelter is going on attacking the TV stations!! WOW!!!
    1: Admitting they did it
    2: Making Fox 31 the bad guy
    3: While changes have been made, the results are the same.

  • Humane Society of Fremont County

    The “exclusive investigation” touted by this TV station surrounds events that happened well over a year ago; events that have been reported extensively in southern Colorado media.

    We are disappointed that a news organization would portray events more than a year old as a “current” investigation. We are also disappointed that the station chose to omit any reference to the extensive improvements that have been made at the shelter since the actual events. The station failed to report that the shelter passed inspection by the Department of Agriculture, continues to pass numerous unannounced inspections by an independent third-party investigator, and is in the process of conducting a nationwide search for an executive director to lead the organization to a higher level of excellence.

    We cannot undo what is past. We can only focus on the future. To that end, the shelter has made significant improvements in the past year to its facility, operations and procedures. Unfortunately, it does not seem to matter to this news station that the issues they reported as current news have long since been corrected.

  • merannicuill

    ^ How long has this ‘nationwide search for an executive director to lead the organization to a higher level of excellence.” been going on? In the meantime, who’s ‘leading’? You need to move faster. Regardless of how much you’ve improved, if your search hasn’t been concluded, your facility should be closed until it’s under new management.

    I notice that the person (or persons) who wrote that comment hasn’t signed the name(s) of the writers. Makes me ~suspicious…..

    When someone harms a human in the same manner (well, let’s call it surgery, not ‘sterilization’), wages are paid, rights are curtailed, insurance goes up, the hospital changes policies AND SHOWS IT. These may be non-humans here (pets), but they still have rights.

    Either get someone NOW or close until you do. Confidence in your facility won’t change until you do.

    Just some friendly advice.

  • Kathy McGregor

    Yes, while there have been improvements made at the shelter, it is only because the volunteers brought it to the State’s attention after repeated pleas to help the animals were denied. The volunteers, previous volunteers and anyone associated with the Stop the Human Society Facebook page have been banned from ever volunteering again. The new policy for volunteers is no cell phones or cameras allowed. No pictures are allowed to be taken by anyone visiting the shelter. Most shelters encourage sharing photos of the animals to aid in their adoption, not this shelter. It is funded by the $4,000,000 Wann Foundation and the 3 Board Members are paid $62,000 per year. One of the Board Members does not even live here & the other two reside here only part of the year. The current Shelter Director/Manager has been in that position for over 16 years and was investigated for animal cruelty in 1998. The Board chose to leave him in that position since that time and have only begun to search for a new director because of the outrage of this community at a Manager allowing such atrocities to happen to the animals in his care. Yes, changes have been implemented and extensive improvements made, but only because they were forced to come into compliance with the regulations, and this community is demanding better care for the animals that enter that facility. Thank you to Fox New for bringing this information to the community.

  • Roy Million

    It is amazing the same leadership remains in place. This board of directors continue to draw a salary from this private non profit which is in direct violation of Article VII of the original articles of incorporation dated December 21, 1950. It would be very interesting to see how long they would remain on the board if they were not receiving these undeserved salaries. Having been in violation of the original articles of incorporation, by drawing salaries for 44 years, you can bet they will hang on for dear life.

  • Susan

    I run a shelter, I run a GREAT shelter!! We are open admission and have a live release rate we brag about, including myself. Until you get a Director, Vet AND Board there that are ABOUT the animals and ALL the rest takes a backseat, sadly things won’t AND can’t change! Until the Board, Management, VET and staff make the commitment to the animals, and from what I have read, that’s not gonna happen, the animals are AND will pay the price. Sad, very sad!!! I have pulled pups from there and they ALL got and still have GREAT families!! Step up, speak up AND stand out!!! We are their voice!! I’m proud to be their voice… If you are not…step down!!!

  • Elaine Million

    It is so sad, and a constant source of frustration and stress, that in our town (Canon City) there exists such a place. Animals are considered “commodities” to sell and make money from. Money earmarked for the animals’ care, by way of a trust, is used towards board salaries for do-nothing board members and a bloated staff that does not work for the animals (volunteers are directed to clean dog and cat cages!). There is so much to tell about that place and how they conduct themselves that it could become a mini-series! Thank you Tak Landrock and crew for asking the tough questions. Please do not forget the animals forced to be at the Fremont County Humane Society, or the many, many people working tirelessly for a change in staff, board and attitude.

Comments are closed.