Earlier cases allege rehoming dangerous cats, too
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico––Already sued half a dozen times in under four years over issues pertaining to rehoming dangerous animals, the city of Albuquerque was in the fourth week of October 2018 sued yet again, this time by former Albuquerque Animal Welfare employee Victoria Murphy.
Murphy in her filing alleges that “In 2014 she went to [then-Albuquerque Animal Welfare director] Barbara Bruin — who was her boss at the time — and the [Albuquerque] Inspector General’s office, concerned the shelter was adopting out dangerous dogs,” reported Rachel Knapp of KQRE-TV, a dual Fox/CBS affiliate.
Not seeking money
“Murphy said she was fired a week after speaking out. She claims the city violated the New Mexico Whistleblower Act, which protects employees from notifying authorities of wrongdoing,” Knapp summarized.
“The lawsuit also lists former Animal Welfare employees who say they’ve also faced retaliation for speaking out against the shelter,” Knapp added. “Murphy is not asking for any money in the lawsuit, only asking for the shelter to admit that its practices have been unlawful. She also hopes to get her job back.”
40-year shelter veteran
A 40-year animal care-and-control professional, working entirely within the state of New Mexico, Murphy includes in her resumé stints as Dona Ana County Humane Society executive director and two tenures as Albuquerque Animal Welfare kennel supervisor.
In between, Murphy was animal control program manager for the city of Edgewood and shelter program manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico, the biggest nonprofit humane society serving Albuquerque.
Barbara Bruin “argued that dogs shouldn’t be put down or not adopted because they failed a behavior test,” recalled Knapp. “Bruin stepped down soon after a city investigation in 2015 found she had taken dogs labeled ‘dangerous’ off the suggested kill list to adopt them out.”
Three previous whistleblower cases
The end of the Bruin regime, however, was scarcely the end of the dangerous animal issues at Albuquerque Animal Welfare. The Murphy lawsuit follows whistleblower cases brought by three other former staff.
Joan “Bet” Lotosky, previously coordinator for volunteers and foster care, in March 2018 “filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired [in late 2017] in retaliation for blowing the whistle on a top agency official’s practice of sending highly adoptable dogs to unlicensed, illegal shelters in Colorado for a profit,” wrote Albuquerque Journal investigative reporter Colleen Heild.
Heild noted that the lawsuit came just as “the city is preparing to settle a whistleblower case filed six months ago,” at about the same time Lotosky was fired, “by two other top Animal Welfare officials.”
“Cherry-picked adoptable dogs”
In those cases, Heild recounted, “Animal Welfare operations manager Joel Craig and Sarah Wharton, an animal behaviorist, alleged that they were demoted and their salaries and job responsibilities reduced after they filed complaints about mismanagement and abuse of authority with the city’s Office of Inspector General.”
All three plaintiffs were represented by Albuquerque attorney Michael Cadigan. No settlement amounts have been disclosed.
Lotosky, Craig, and Wharton had all complained that then-Albuquerque Animal Welfare assistant director Deb Brinkley “cherry-picked adoptable dogs, including puppies, from the city shelters for transfer to her private animal rescue. The rescue sold puppies for $250 when the city of Albuquerque was charging $80,” Heild reported.
Dogs transferred to unlicensed facility
Brinkley was placed on administrative leave on January 29, 2018.
“City public records reveal that Brinkley transferred 28 City of Albuquerque dogs to her non-profit DMK Rehoming in Aurora, Colorado, over a nine-month period,” elaborated 4 Investigates reporter Jen French of KOB-TV.
“IRS non-profit records reveal that DMK Rehoming is owned and run by Brinkley, though Brinkley reported no compensation to the IRS for the tax year 2015,” French continued.
“Albuquerque adoption fees are waived for animals that are transferred to nonprofits,” French explained. “However, Colorado Department of Agriculture spokesperson Christi Lightcap told 4 Investigates that DMK Rehoming failed to renew its Pet Animal Care Facilities Act license, or animal shelter license, in March 2017,” a month after Brinkley took the Albuquerque job.
“Adopted out dangerous dogs”
Brinkley meanwhile took dogs from Albuquerque to DMK Rehoming from April to December 2017, French summarized.
“DMK Rehoming’s website, as well as Brinkley’s Instagram posts,” French said, “suggests she held several adoption events months after her [shelter] license expired in Colorado.”
The Craig and Wharton lawsuits against Brinkley, former Albuquerque Animal Welfare director Paul Caster, and the department itself, besides alleging “gross mismanagement, waste of funds and abuse of authority,” French summarized, “allege the managers adopted out dangerous dogs who should have been on the euthanasia list,” much as Bruin had.
Three lawsuits allege animal injuries
“Caster resigned in December 2017 amid the allegations,” French finished.
At least three lawsuits alleging injuries inflicted by shelter animals were pending against Albuquerque Animal Welfare at the time, according to Albuquerque Journal staff writer Maggie Shepard.
In one case a man was facially injured by a dog of unspecified breed who being walked by an employee at the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Lucky Paws Pet Adoption Center. In the two other cases, women were injured by recently adopted cats who allegedly had undisclosed histories of dangerous behavior.
No case outcomes have been reported.
$15,000 settlement in earlier case
Before the most recent rounds of filings, Albuquerque paid more than $15,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former Animal Welfare
program analyst Jim Ludwig “after the city failed to provide him the findings of an internal investigation into allegations that the city was permitting aggressive and potentially dangerous dogs to be adopted from its
shelters,” Albuquerque Journal investigative report Colleen Heild reported in January 2016.
Ludwick had complained to the Albuquerques Office of Inspector General in March 2015 “that he believed public safety was at risk due to the shelters’ practices of adopting out dogs known to have failed aggression tests or either attacked humans or killed other family pets,” Heild recounted.
The internal investigation affirmed Ludwick’s contentions.