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Warner Robins Animal Shelter investigation ends with no abuse charges filed

Warner Robins council reallocates funds once earmarked for animal shelter

About $250,000 once earmarked for possible expansion of the Warner Robins animal shelter was reallocated by council members Monday. Some animal welfare advocates did not like the move.
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About $250,000 once earmarked for possible expansion of the Warner Robins animal shelter was reallocated by council members Monday. Some animal welfare advocates did not like the move.

No criminal charges will be filed following a state probe of alleged animal abuse at the Warner Robins Animal Control shelter.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig announced in a letter to the GBI Tuesday that his office did not find any “credible evidence” that any government worker employed by Warner Robins, Centerville or Houston County committed any unlawful “acts of cruelty to animals or aggravated cruelty to animals” after a GBI investigation.

Former shelter worker Samantha Okalani sought an investigation after alleging cruelty at the shelter in 2017.

Okalani filed a “whistleblower” lawsuit last year stating she was fired for seeking the investigation and raising allegations.

In October of 2017, Okalani filed a complaint with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office stating she witnessed multiple acts of child cruelty by shelter workers for about six months dating back to when she started working there May 2, 2017.

“The inhumane, cruel handling of animals about which Ms. Okalani complained, included but was not limited to, using animal control poles to swing around and slam animals down, standing on animals’ tails to control their movement, and euthanizing animals prior to end of their statutory holding period,” the suit states.

She alleged shelter employees were using inhumane methods of euthanasia that violated state law, including injections directly into the heart while the animals were still conscious.

According to a letter Hartwig’s office released Wednesday, the DA reviewed the GBI case file which included interviews with a dozen people, including Okalani.

The GBI also pulled euthanasia certification records for all animal control officers and reviewed the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s report where inspector Thomas Sheffield found “nothing to prove allegations (by Okalani) to be true at this time.”

Georgia’s legal definition of aggravated cruelty to animals requires that a person “maliciously” case the death or physical harm to an animal, Hartwig’s letter states.

Okalani complained to her supervisor shortly after she was first assigned to euthanasia detail.

She offered to work additional details to document abuse and bought a small pen camera, the letter states.

“It is worth noting that Ms. Okalani, despite her best efforts, provide no video evidence or abuse or neglect at the Warner Robins Animal Shelter,” Hartwig stated in the letter.

Once Okalani complained, the city of Warner Robins and the police department took action to address issues and concerns, Hartwig stated in the letter.

The shelter contracted with a veterinary technician for euthanasia procedures, updated guidelines, obtained additional licensing and improved record keeping, the letter stated.

Okalani’s civil suit against the city of Warner Robins and Houston County is still pending.

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