MISSION, Kan. – Unleashed Pet Rescue in Mission became the focus of a FOX4 Problem Solvers investigation after former volunteers and employees spoke out about what they say were abhorrent conditions.
Insect infestations, severe overcrowding and poor management are just some of the complaints Problem Solvers received.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Animal Facilities Inspection program says it received over 20 complaints about the shelter in just one week after the results of Problem Solvers’ investigation were released.
One of the complaints came from Jessica Palacio, who is still fighting to reclaim her lost dog almost two years after Unleashed Pet Rescue picked him up and refused to give him back.
“I said, ‘Whatever you want, just give me back my dog,” Jessica said.
In 2021, Jessica said her dog named Capone, who she adopted from Unleashed Pet Rescue, escaped from her Kansas City, Kansas, home and was nowhere to be found.
“Every day after school, I’d walk around my neighborhood, hopefully that like, ‘Oh, maybe he’s in someone’s backyard,’ or, ‘Maybe he’s just hiding somewhere and he’s just lost,” Jessica Palacio’s daughter Anais said.
Somehow, the dog ended up at Unleashed Pet Rescue, even though the shelter doesn’t have a contract with the city of Kansas City, Kansas, to pick up strays.
“They won’t tell us who brought him in,” Jessica said.
The family didn’t know where Capone was until Palacio received an email from the shelter, telling her she would have to pay $165 to pick him up.
“Well, when I went to go pick him up, of course, they were like, ‘It’s past the stray hold,’” Jessica said.
She said she was told she couldn’t have Capone because more than three days had passed since the family had been notified. But Jessica said she didn’t even get notified that Unleashed Pet Rescue had him until four days had already passed.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t know where he was because we did, but the fact that we couldn’t get him back was really hard,” Anais said.
A former Kansas City, Kansas employee, who asked not to be identified, told Problem Solvers they also tried to help the Palacios get Capone back, but was told ‘no’ by Danielle Reno, who runs Unleashed Pet Rescue.
The former employee said Reno told her Jessica did not deserve the dog.
Reno posted a video on her shelter’s Facebook page saying the dog had a bad skin condition and she feared Capone was not being properly taken care of.
Jessica denies that and even showed us vet records indicating Capone was being treated for the skin condition.
She says she even agreed to continue to take the dog to Unleashed Pet Rescue’s veterinarian if they would just give him back – but that never happened.
“Everything stopped cold turkey,” Jessica said. “No more messages. Every time I would call, they wouldn’t answer.”
Problem Solvers contacted Unleashed Pet Rescue’s attorney for comment, but he said everything we need to know is posted in videos on the shelter’s Facebook page.
“Fox4 already did a story regarding Capone in April 2021,” the attorney stated in an email. “At that time, Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption posted two videos to Unleashed’s Facebook page fully explaining the situation regarding Capone, including Unleashed’s legitimate concern regarding Capone’s welfare should Unleashed waive its legal right to retain ownership of Capone and return him to Ms. Palacio. The videos were posted on April 15 and 19, 2021. Please refer to those videos for any further information.”
When Problem Solvers visited the shelter in January, Reno told us that the dog, whose full name is Benedict Capone, was still there.
Capone has been at the shelter for almost two years, something that makes Jessica even more upset.
She said she is still determined to reunite Capone with the family.
“There’s no reason why he should be in a kennel,” Jessica said. “It hurts me.”
Meanwhile, a state proceeding to revoke Unleashed Pet Rescue’s license is still being pursued by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled.
The Mission Police Department says it stopped using the shelter to house stray animals in March.
Less than two weeks later, the Kansas Department of Agriculture issued an emergency order to the shelter to stop taking animals.
Reno was ordered to pay over $15,000 in civil penalties for violating the Kansas Pet Animal Act.
Nearly half of the civil penalty sum comes from health inspection violations that were documented during a single inspection in late October, records from the department show.
The shelter has also been ordered to stop operating as an animal shelter at a t-shirt business in Lenexa, Kansas, which is not licensed to house animals.
Problem Solvers will update you as we learn more.