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Former Humane Society Employees Speak Out, Allege Horrific Abuse at Shelter

"Every day we see those animals in our mind. We can see the faces of the ones that were looking at us crying because they’re hurting so bad," said former HSWC employee Amanda Surber.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Several former employees are speaking out about alleged animal abuse at the Humane Society of Washington County (HSWC), after one of them filed a civil lawsuit against the organization.

As we've previously reported, Amanda Surber, a former animal care technician at HSWC, claims she was wrongfully terminated when she refused to stay quiet about alleged animal abuse at the shelter.

The Humane Society is denying these allegations. They told WHAG Friday the lawsuit is a personnel issue and not an animal abuse issue.

However, these employees say it is mainly an animal abuse issue and say they are haunted by the abuse they witnessed.

"Every day we see those animals in our mind,” said Surber. “We can see the faces of the ones that were looking at us crying because they’re hurting so bad."

Four employees of HSWC, two of whom claim to have resigned due to conditions at the shelter, say they saw too many animals die from abuse.

"For at least two months [in the summer of 2013], it was every day there was something dead," said former Animal Care Supervisor Candace Dillman, who resigned in August after working at the Humane Society for seven years.

They say the quality of care at HSWC went downhill after new management came in January 2013 and tried to limit the number of euthanizations.

The result of the extreme "no-kill attitude," they say, was nothing short of horrific.

"They were just stacked up in the hallways, in the rooms. Just cages and cages of sick cats,” said former HSWC Customer Service Representative Karen Anderson. “Every morning you'd go in and you'd start crying."

Anderson says she reported concerns about animal abuse to a board member in June. However, she says she was reprimanded when she tried to blow the whistle.

"We no longer had an area in which to isolate sick animals from healthy animals [due to overcrowding],” said Andrea Carroll, a former animal care technician at HSWC who resigned in August. “Euthanasia isn't done just to be killing animals. There are reasons for why it needs to happen."

These women claim one cat had to get its leg amputated after it got caught in a cage it was not meant to be housed in. They say animals were being kept in improper cages and were often crammed into cages in inappropriate quantities.

Surber says there were at least four mass euthanizations carried out as a last-ditch effort to alleviate overcrowding and contain disease. She claims that in one instance, 160 animals were killed in a single day.

These former employees also allege behavioral assessments were no longer given under new management.

"Because of them taking it away it led to two injuries to myself, to other animals being attacked, it led to some of my other coworkers being attacked and bitten too,” said Surber.

When Amanda had enough, she says she started taking pictures and talking. And when she refused to sign a non-disclosure form in September, she says she was fired the very next day.

But despite these issues, Amanda says she wants to go back to work at the shelter.

"I want to be back there so I know I can make a difference again. I never wanted to leave that place. I went to school to get my degree so I could come back and work at a shelter,” said Surber.

As for the $100,000 Amanda is asking for in the lawsuit, she says it is not about the money. She wants management to be held accountable so that abuse is no longer an issue at the shelter.

Amanda's lawyer says he sent a letter to the State's Attorney's Office, but no criminal charges have been filed against the HSWC.

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