By ROBY CHAVEZ/myfoxdcWASHINGTON, D.C. - There are strong accusations against the D.C. Animal Shelter being made by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal rights group says the staff is untrained. They allege that the animals are poorly treated, and the conditions deplorable.
It is unusual to have these two groups on opposite sides. Now, the shelter run by the Washington Humane Society is fighting back.
PETA accuses the shelter of gross incompetence, but the shelter says adoptions are up and fewer animals are being euthanized. PETA has now fired off a scathing letter to the Mayor Adrian Fenty demanding action.
"I suspect that some of the things they are doing violate the D.C. cruelty code," said Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President.
It's a stinging criticism from the animal rights group. The complaints allege inhumane conditions at the D.C. Animal Shelter, run by the Washington Humane Society. On Friday, PETA's president showed pictures taken by staff at the shelter.
"You can see dog bite wounds that are really severe. It's a urine-covered pen with a piece of cloth," said Newkirk as she pointed out living conditions.
PETA says their own investigation show animals living in urine, diseased and unsanitary conditions.
"The staff is untrained. They are rude to the public and unresponsive to calls and we're hearing it to all over. Yes. Incompetent," said Newkirk.
"They care about the animals. They are hurt by this. I feel obligation to defend this. This is not the Washington Humane Society," said Lisa LaFontaine, CEO of Washington Humane Society.
FOX 5 wanted to show you the conditions inside the D.C. shelter firsthand, but the city and the health department would not let our cameras inside.
Lisa LaFontaine is the director, and says it's a snapshot that doesn't tell the full story of care.
Fox 5 obtained health department letters where inspectors cite a list of unsanitary conditions as late as last July, calling it dirty and cluttered, extreme overcrowding transmission of disease and offensive smells.
PETA says it goes back two years and they say an inspector from the health department who wrote the report has been banned from the shelter. The health department has oversight over the D.C. shelter.
"Absolutely not. We have not banned anyone. One of the things we hope come out of this, we welcome the community. We want people to come see for themselves. They are malicious and unverified allegations," said LaFontaine.
PETA also says some of the acts are illegal. Its own research of health department documents show alleged acts of animal cruelty. For example, the director of the shelter, Nick Gilman, euthanized an animal with a needle thru his heart.
"In D.C., like many areas, it is illegal to cause unnecessary suffering and this causes unnecessary suffering. It is not an acceptable way to euthanize and animal," said Newkirk.
"That was not true. There was one or two occasions where that method was used on animals sedated and unconscious. That is acceptable means of euthanasia," said LaFontaine
PETA says other memos and its own pictures point to piles of feces and bad smells. Citizens have also complained to PETA. The animal rights groups is so disturbed its taking on the Humane Society and the city's health department.
"It pains me to criticize the Humane Society," said Newkirk. "I don't want to do it and I don't want people to put on street. What I want is a shelter to be proud of. ""We are upholding the contract. We are working with city and doing the best for people animals and city," said LaFontaine.
A spokesperson for the health department would only say the city is working with the Humane Society to ensure the highest quality of animal care, and did not answer questions about why no action was taken with such serious complaints from its own inspectors.
The Washington Humane Society says it fired one employee cited for neglect in those inspections.