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State cites Charlottesville SPCA for repeat violations

A Virginia Department of Agriculture inspection has found repeat violations of state law at Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s animal shelter.

The Charlottesville Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been under fire since the start of the year, when current and former employees and volunteers launched a campaign calling for the SPCA’s leadership to step down amid allegations of animal mistreatment and general mismanagement.

At least some of those claims appear to be true, according to a Feb. 14 inspection which found several documents at the shelter were missing information required by law.

“The animal custody records did not include all of the required elements. Animal breed description was missing on several of the records viewed,” according to a copy of the inspection report obtained by The Daily Progress.

The inspection also found that records for two animals at the shelter were not made until the day after “the initial custody event and the disposition of the animals.”

Further, an animal custody records summary submitted in January of 2022 indicates that no animals were transferred to the local SPCA facility from an out-of-state agency during the prior year. However, the state inspection found “at least six animal custody records for such dogs … received by the contracted public animal shelter from an out-of-state agency that were not included.”

The report said it is the second time the local SPCA has been found in violation of the same Virginia law.

According to the Code of Virginia, “An animal control officer, law-enforcement officer, humane investigator, or custodian of any public or private animal shelter, upon taking custody of any animal in the course of his official duties, or any representative of a humane society, upon obtaining custody of any animal on behalf of the society, shall immediately make a record of the matter.”

The local SPCA was cited for the same violation on Sept. 7, 2021, according to the state report.

“This case has been referred for determination of civil penalty assessment,” the report says, adding further details and instructions would be made available later.

The report mentioned no evidence of animal abuse, neglect or other mistreatment.

The SPCA did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Progress on Saturday.

The animal shelter is supported financially by both Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville.

That relationship – as outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the three – has the city and county pay the SPCA for pound services. In the 2023 fiscal year, the county gave the shelter $699,122 for those services. While representatives for the city of Charlottesville have not responded to multiple request for comment from The Daily Progress, workers and volunteers at the local SPCA have estimated the city provides roughly $300,000.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors consulted with legal counsel regarding the county’s relationship with the local animal shelter during a closed meeting on Feb. 15. And Albemarle officials have said officers with the county police department are supporting the Department of Agriculture’s “efforts.”

In addition to the state inspection, the animal shelter has been pursuing a review of its own.

The SPCA has hired international law firm McGuireWoods to investigate claims of animal and worker mistreatment.

The shelter’s board of directors said in a Feb. 8 statement that the investigation would take 90 days to complete.

“The Board will assess the results and recommendations of the independent review and will take appropriate actions and make appropriate policy changes that stem from it,” the board said at the time.

The shelter has declined to comment on the allegations while the McGuireWoods investigation is ongoing.

A group of disgruntled current and former SPCA employees and volunteers, which calls itself CASPCA Concerns, has said any McGuireWoods investigation will be biased and meaningless.

The SPCA board’s vice president, Mike Derdeyn, was an attorney at McGuireWoods’ Charlottesville office from 1998 until 2003, according to his LinkedIn profile.

CASPCA Concerns has instead called on the city and county to push for reform at the animal shelter.

Since January, the group has said that misconduct and mismanagement at the shelter has translated into animal neglect bordering on abuse. The shelter, the group says, is overcapacity and understaffed, with animals often kept in unsafe living conditions and their carers overworked in order to keep adoption rates high and contributions rolling in.

The group has specifically targeted the shelter’s CEO Angie Gunter and called for her resignation or dismissal.

A letter addressed to the SPCA board earlier this year includes photos of dogs in pens full of urine and feces, animals living in crates the group says are stored in the shelter’s basement and facilities that appear to be unclean, unkept and dangerous to the animals living there.

Since then, that letter has garnered more than 100 signatures, there have been two protests outside the SPCA’s main offices on Berkmar Drive, the shelter’s animal care manager has resigned and a veteran volunteer dog walker has been dismissed after raising concerns about animal safety.


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