Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Animal Care and Control Advisory Board issues final letter on neglect case

LAKEPORT – Lake County's Animal Care and Control Advisory Board has issued a final draft of its letter to the Board of Supervisors with findings and recommendations in relation to the handling of a horse neglect case involving a county animal control officer.

Dr. Susan Cannon, chair of the advisory board, provided a copy of the letter to Lake County News this week, which discusses the case of Officer Terrie Flynn, who in February received two notices of violation regarding the care of six horses.

One of the horses, a stallion with an injured penis, later was surrendered to Lake County Animal Care and Control, and it – along with another of Flynn's horses – was sent to Rehorse Rescue in Jamestown, as Lake County News has reported.

At a Monday meeting, the advisory board unanimously approved the letter drafted by Cannon.

The letter is being sent to the Board of Supervisors, although the Board of Supervisors' Office couldn't confirm this week if the letter had been received yet. As such, the matter has not yet been agendized for discussion by the board.

At the Monday advisory board meeting, Deputy Animal Care and Control Director Bill Davidson said the department had opened an investigation into the Flynn case, which County Counsel Anita Grant confirmed.

“It should have begun today,” Grant said on Friday.

“We're looking at the conduct of the people involved,” said Grant, who explained that the investigation is administrative in nature.

Grant said an independent private investigator will handle the case. She didn't have a timeline for how long the investigation would take to complete, but estimated a week or possibly a little longer.

She said the county, by moving forward with the inquiry, wants to make sure that the public has confidence that the matter was handled correctly.

“That's why we're taking this next step,” she said.

The letter is published below in its entirety.

April 13, 2010

To: Anthony Farrington, Chair

Board of Supervisors

From: Animal Care & Control Advisory Board Lake County

Subject: Animal Control Officer Neglect Case

Dear Supervisors:

Since the stated purpose of the Animal Control Advisory Board is “to provide liaison between the community, Board of Supervisors, and Animal Control Director” we would like to bring to your attention the following:

In February of 2010 the on-line newspaper “Lake County News.com” published an article describing how a horse belonging to Animal Control Officer Terrie Flynn had been impounded for neglect and malnutrition. Members of the Advisory Board immediately began receiving complaints and questions from the public, many of them speculating that Flynn was given special treatment, not only because she was an Animal Control Officer but because the Director of Animal Care & Control, Denise Johnson, is her mother-in-law. On March 22 and April 12, 2010, the Advisory Board held special meetings to inquire into the facts surrounding this case. Based on the information provided at these meetings the Advisory Board has come to the following conclusions:

1. We believe that Officer Flynn was given more leniency than a private citizen would have received under similar circumstances. Deputy Director Davidson issued two Notices of Violation on Feb. 9, 2010 which required Flynn to improve the care/feeding/and hygiene of the horses at both locations. After the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office Report was filed he then nullified those violations. That report apparently exonerated Flynn and found no violations. We disagree. Specifically, the report confirmed that Flynn had in fact left her horses without food or medical care for three days while she left the state and that she failed to seek veterinary care at the time of her horse’s injury. We also feel the report downplayed the malnutrition of Flynn’s horses. We feel Mendocino County AC Officer Hodgson failed to ask critical, obvious questions and that his report was incomplete. Whether this was intentional on Hodgson’s part is unknown, but it allowed Davidson to interpret the report in a more favorable light than it deserved.

2. That it was only because the Advisory Board began inquiring into the case that the Notices of Violation were re-instated. We believe that had there been no inquiry by the Advisory Board this incident would have gone unnoticed and the public’s desire for justice unfulfilled.

3. While on the surface the decision to request an outside investigation appears commendable, Deputy Director Davidson admitted that the only reason Mendocino County was called in was because the story was about to appear in Lake County’s on-line newspaper, more than a week after the initial impoundment occurred. This delay left an eleven day gap in the time line for the investigation which undoubtedly influenced the final results.

4. The decision to redact the officer’s names from the Mendocino County sheriff’s Office Report, which was supposed to be a matter of public record, contributed to the impression that the county agencies were “covering up” for Officer Flynn.

5. We found no direct evidence that Director Johnson was involved, other than the fact that one of the six horses in Flynn’s care actually belonged to Johnson and has since been returned to her. It was also suggested that Johnson may have known there was a malnutrition issue with Flynn’s horses months before this.

We recommend the following:

1. In the future, any Animal Control Officer who is suspected of abuse or neglect of any animal should be treated exactly the same as a private citizen. Attempts to minimize bad press may be well meaning but are ultimately destructive to the public trust.

2. Investigations of abuse within the Animal Control Department should be immediately investigated by someone outside the department, preferably with no prior ties to Animal Control. A neutral third party could also be asked to provide oversight (the Advisory Board being one such option).

3. Officer Flynn’s failure to provide adequate care for her own horses calls into question her fitness to investigate similar cases on the job. While Flynn’s actions may not have been criminal, they are an embarrassment to her department. Officer Flynn should receive appropriate disciplinary action for the reasons listed in the County of Lake Personnel Rule 1303 “Causes of Disciplinary or Adverse Action” Item (O), “Any failure of good behavior either during or outside of duty hours which is of such nature that it causes discredit to his/her agency or his/her employment.”

4. This Board does not believe Officer Flynn is representative of the officers of Animal Control or the department in general. In the eight years this Advisory Board has been in existence we have seen steady improvement in the quality of the services provided by Animal Control to the community. We believe the majority of our Animal Control Officers and staff are well trained, caring people dedicated to improving the quality of life of the residents and animals of Lake County.

5. Finally, we believe Officer Morgan Hermann should be commended for taking action in what was undoubtedly a very uncomfortable set of circumstances.


Susan A. Cannon, DVM

Chair, Animal Care & Control Advisory Board

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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