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Former Employee Alleges Animals Mistreated at Washington County Humane Society

Allegations against the Humane Society of Washington County have been filed in Circuit Court by a former employee who claims she was fired after making efforts to expose instances of animal mistreatment at the facility.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Allegations against the Humane Society of Washington County have been filed in Circuit Court by a former employee who claims she was fired after making efforts to expose instances of animal mistreatment at the facility. 

WHAG got our hands on the paperwork that was filed. The former employee, Amanda Surber, says she was fired in September after refusing to sign a nondisclosure agreement. She filed the paperwork in December 2013. Surber makes 86 separate allegations, some regarding pay, others how animals were mistreated. 

The allegations include several claims; including the company did not pay overtime, a supervisor made inappropriate remarks to employees and a supervisor engaged in dangerous practices that injured or killed several animals at the facility. 

The paperwork details instances when sick animals were housed with healthy ones, spreading disease and times when animals were euthanized out of frustration and not according to industry standards. The paperwork also outlines instances when a worker didn't use euthansia correctly, causing painful deaths for the animals. 

Thursday afternoon the Board President of the Humane Society Shannon Cianelli released a statement: 

"The Humane Society of Washington County was recently notified that a lawsuit was filed by one of its former employees. We strongly deny the allegations in the lawsuit and will defend ourselves at the appropriate time in court. As always, we remain focused on our mission of improving the quality of life for all animals. Through education, legislation, action and leadership, we strive to eliminate animal overpopulation and to foster an environment of respect, responsibility and compassion for animals."

Again, at this time these are simply allegations. Be sure to stay with us on this developing story. Below are all the claims filed within the document:

  • Upon information and belief Executive Director Michael Lausen was hired to reduce the number of euthanizations performed at HSWC, with the goal of making HSWC a "low kill" facility. 

  • Under this mandate, Lausen engaged in dangerous practices and ignored a number of industry standards that injured HSWC staff and killed or injured many of the animals in HSWC's care. 

  • Lausen ceased canine behavioral assessments, leading to dangerous animals injuring staff;

  • Lausen knowingly placed dangerous, aggressive dogs up for adoption;

  • Lausen hoarded animals beyond capacity of the facility, creating dangerous and unhealthy conditions for the staff and for the animals;

  • Lausen directed that sick animals be housed with healthy ones, spreading disease to otherwise healthy animals, adoptive families and their pets, and staff;
  • Lausen euthanized animals out of frustration rather than according to industry practices or for good reason;
  • Lausen also euthanized animals in an attempt to hide the number of sick animals at HSWC;
  • Lausen euthanized animals although he is not properly certified to do so;
  • Lausen improperly euthanized animals, causing them very painful deaths rather than the peaceful deaths of a proper euthanasia;
  • Lausen improperly stored kittens in cages designed for adult cats that resulted in injury and unnecessary amputation;
  • Lausen improperly stored cats in travel cages not designed for long-term storage, creating dangerous conditions for the staff and discomfort for the animals;
  • Lausen failed to provide staff with appropriate protective gear, including gloves that extend to the elbow to prevent scratches and protective shoe covers to prevent ringworm, which resulted in injuries and infestation;
  • Lausen knowingly gave a dog owner the wrong ashes from another dog when he mistakenly cremated her dog with a group of others, and then Lausen euthanized a dog of similar in siz to cover up his wrongdoing. 
  • Lausen ignored the instruction of a veterinarian on the dosage of medicines to administer;
  • Lausen needlessly tranquilized animals to use up the medicine before it expired;
  • Lausen falsified documentation, and instructed staff to falsify documentation of HSWC's regulated supply of Fatal Plus Solution (A DEA controlled substance used in the euthanasia of animals)
  • Lausen made sexist and other inappropriate remarks to staff; and 
  • Lausen did not pay overtime to employees who worked overtime in a given work week. 
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