Animal control staffer under investigation for horse neglect


This young pinto stallion was impounded by Lake County Animal Care and Control officials on Friday, February 5, 2010. The horse was significantly underweight and had a serious injury to its genitals, according to officials. The stallion's former owner is an Animal Care and Control staffer, who sources close to the investigation confirmed is Officer Terrie Flynn. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – County officials have asked an outside agency to assist with the investigation into allegations that a Lake County Animal Care and Control staff member did not properly care for her own horses.

As part of the case a horse with a serious injury that also was significantly underweight was relinquished to Animal Care and Control last week, Deputy Director Bill Davidson said Friday.

In addition, the care of another five horses, all of which also are underweight, is being investigated, Davidson said. However, those animals have not been impounded.

Davidson would only say that the person at the center of the case was a staff member. However, sources close to the investigation identified the person as Officer Terrie Flynn.

Flynn has, in her capacity as an animal control officer, worked on horse neglect and abuse cases around the county, as Lake County News has reported.

Last April, the Board of Supervisors voted to send Flynn to Reno for the National Cruelty Investigators School Level 1, according to county documents.

The current case led Animal Care and Control administration to consult with County Counsel Anita Grant, Davidson said.

“The conclusion of the whole discussion was that this should be handled by an outside agency,” he said.

Grant said Mendocino County Animal Control has been asked to come in and take over the investigation.

“The department head in this case is out of the mix,” Grant said of Animal Care and Control Director Denise Johnson. “She has voluntarily removed herself.”

In addition to being Flynn's boss, Johnson also is Flynn's mother-in-law.

Davidson said Senior Animal Control Officer George Hodgson from Mendocino County is due to meet with Lake County officials on Tuesday to take over the investigation.

Flynn has not been placed on administrative leave and was at work on Friday. She was paged to go to Johnson's office while a Lake County News reporter was on the scene to photograph the injured horse whose ownership she had signed over to the agency.

A determination about administrative leave likely would come at the end of the investigation, Grant said.

Such administrative leave decisions usually are made within a department, but in this case Grant suggested that the decision would be turned over to another official, possibly in the Human Resources Department or the County Administrative Office.

While Flynn was out of town last week, a report came in about the condition of her six horses.

A small pinto stallion, estimated to be about 4 years old, was impounded by animal control officers last Friday, Feb. 5, Davidson said.

The horse was “significantly underweight,” said Davidson, with a body conditioning score of two – meaning very thin and emaciated – out of a possible nine, with the highest score denoting an overweight animal.

However, Davidson said, “The main issue surrounding the impoundment was due to the injury.”

The horse had suffered an injury to its genitals, likely due to being caught in a fence, Davidson said.

The injury required immediate health care, which Flynn paid for initially. The horse later was signed over due to the owner – who Davidson again didn't identify as Flynn – realizing they were in “over their head” because of the injury, he said.

On Friday the stallion, being kept in a paddock behind the Animal Care and Control building, was active and his wound appeared to be healing. Davidson said the wound had improved since the horse was taken into care.

The animal also appeared to have put on some weight, although his ribs were still very visible through his thick winter coat.

The other five horses in the case are all “generally underweight but they're not significantly so,” Davidson said.

On Saturday, the pinto stallion is due to be picked up by a Modesto-based rescue group that has agreed to find the horse a new home, he said.

As for possible prosecution in the case, Davidson said, “We're going to wait and see what Officer Hodgson finds.”

Grant said the county is hoping for a “good and fair view” of the case by bringing in an independent, outside agency to conduct the investigation.

“The public deserves to be assured that people in animal control aren't going to be treated any different than members of the public,” she said.

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