Should the state shut down a no-kill animal shelter in Cape Girardeau County?
It's a story that has many of you fired up, on both sides of the issue.
The Heartland News I-Team has been looking into this situation for weeks, and as we recently told you Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary is temporarily closed while the state investigates.
"Our disgruntled board members kept saying they'd shut us down," said Alice Wybert, director of Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary.
Alice Wybert is on the defense.
She is fighting to keep Safe Harbor open after recent allegations lead to a temporary closure.
"I was mad, I was saddened," said Wybert.
Anna England recently adopted a pet from Safe Harbor.
"My daughter begged me," said England. "She'd been begging me for two weeks to adopt an animal for a companion for our other cat."
So, they went to Safe Harbor and found a black and white kitten named Lucy.
"When we left, she sneezed and this green goop came out of her nose," said England.
They took the cat home, then made an appointment at their veterinarian's office.
"They informed me that she had feline herpes," said England.
She says Lucy infected the family's other cat which racked up hundreds of dollars at the vet.
"I believe it should be shut down and scrubbed clean and start all over," said England.
Under a court order, Safe Harbor is currently not allowed to take in or adopt out animals while the Missouri Department of Agriculture investigates.
Heartland News was on location on October 31, 2014 when members of the Department of Agriculture came to take inventory, and inspect the animals.
Safe Harbor is accused of violating the Animal Care Facilities Act.
There are four counts listed in the petition for a temporary restraining order.
They include allegations of inadequate veterinary care, inadequate housing, inadequate health and husbandry practices, and inadequate record keeping.
"Sometimes what we do is not enough, but we try very, very hard," said Alice Wybert.
Safe Harbor is well known in the community, and has a lot of support.
"We adopted a dog out there," said Stephanie Clark. "He's been a wonderful addition to our family."
Stephanie Clark and her daughter, Alexa are volunteers.
We asked Clark if during her experience there if she ever thought it was filthy or the animals all looked sick.
"No, absolutely not," responded Clark.
Alice Wybert says the so-called disgruntled board members are now off the board.
However, those members tell Heartland News that as far as they are concerned, they remain on the board.
"Our bylaws state we can vote them off for just cause, or not," said Wybert.
One woman would only speak to Heartland News if we concealed her identity.
In fact, for this story we had several people change their mind about being interviewed.
"I think a lot of people are not speaking out for fear." That woman says she worked for months as a volunteer at Safe Harbor.
"The smell is just atrocious...you cannot take a breathe," she said. "I've seen several sick cats with the runny eyes, eyes matted shut, goop coming out of their noses."
Safe Harbor began in 2005.
"I kept having animals dumped at my house and thought, there ought to be a better way," said Wybert.
Wybert wanted a no-kill shelter so there would be a place for unwanted animals to get every chance to find a home.
"We've had over 1,000 cats and kittens and dogs number in the hundreds," said Wybert.
Overpopulation has been a concern.
According to the Missouri Attorney General's office, last summer 106 animals, mostly cats, were removed for that very reason.
Wybert feels like her cause is under attack.
"It's spite, and in my way of thinking it's wrong," said Wybert.
"I think they work tirelessly to you know keep up with the number of animals," said Stephanie Clark. "Their heart is definitely in it."
The woman who asked we not reveal her identity said, "Unless you've been to Safe Harbor and witnessed it... it's hard to believe." She went on to say, "Sometimes what goes on behind closed doors is very different from what is going on on the outside world."
When asked if she had anything to hide, Alice Wybert said, "I don't think so...I can't think of anything"
Wybert says the violations listed in the petition have been corrected.
The temporary restraining order is for 30 days.
As soon as that expires, the situation will be evaluated to see what happens next.
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