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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The state of Kansas has initiated administrative proceedings to revoke Unleashed Pet Rescue’s animal shelter license, a spokesperson with the Kansas Department of Agriculture Animal Facilities Inspection program said in an email Wednesday.

The confirmation comes less than a week after FOX4 Problem Solvers aired an investigation on the shelter, prompted by numerous complaints from former employees, volunteers and foster families concerned about Unleashed Pet Rescue.

Many of them provided photos and videos showing dog bowls full of cockroaches, injured or sick animals and a behind-the-scenes look at the employee-only sections of the building, one of those areas being where they house the dogs.

Many of the individuals Problem Solvers spoke with cited overcrowding and poor building maintenance as key factors in their decision to part ways with the shelter. State inspection records backed up several of their concerns.

Unleashed responds

An attorney for Unleashed Pet Rescue released a statement Wednesday after news of the state initiating proceedings to revoke its license:

On November 22, 2022, the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division (“AHD”) commenced agency proceedings seeking to impose monetary penalties and revoke Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption Inc.’s license to operate for alleged violations of AHD’s regulations adopted under the Kansas Pet Animal Act (“KPAA”).

The alleged violations arose from an October 24, 2022, inspection conducted by three inspectors of the Animal Facilities Inspection Program (“AFI”), which is the branch of the AHD responsible for regulating facilities required to be licensed under the provisions of the KPAA. The conditions noted as alleged violations in the October 24, 2022, inspection have all been corrected, many of them immediately upon completion of the inspection.

Although some of the conditions were not in fact violations of any identifiable AHD regulation, Unleashed has gone above and beyond to satisfy AFI’s demands and firmly believes the agency proceedings will be resolved in favor of Unleashed continuing to operate as it has since 2011 for the benefit of the animal community.

While these proceedings were pending, Unleashed discovered that one of the dogs in its care (“Dexter”) had skin irritation under an anti-anxiety vest that was placed on him by Unleashed to sooth his anxiousness and panting in the shelter.

As soon the situation was discovered, he was immediately provided adequate veterinary medical care by Unleashed’s attendant veterinarian as required by AHD regulations. The veterinarian determined that the skin irritation occurred due to a combination of Dexter’s drooling on the vest, which was designed to fit snug, and the vest rubbing on his skin. Unleashed is aware that AFI is also investigating this situation. Unleashed is cooperating fully and is confident that no regulatory violations occurred.

Overcrowding allegations

Danielle Reno, owner of Unleashed Pet Rescue, invited Problem Solvers on a tour of the facility. At the time, there were only 37 adult dogs in the shelter.

But a six-year review of state inspection reports revealed that for Unleashed Pet Rescue, 37 dogs is remarkably low.

“Every dog that you see here would be dead if we didn’t take them here, every single one,” Reno told FOX4.

In 2022 alone, the state inspected Unleashed Pet Rescue at least five times. During each inspection, data shows the number of adult dogs housed in the shelter never stayed below 65 and often rose above 90.

“There were too many dogs to adequately take the best care of them and get them out of their small spaces for more than, I mean, some of them only got out 15 minutes total of the day,” Karen Swanson, former manager at Unleashed Pet Rescue, told FOX4.

The Department of Agriculture said it continues to investigate Unleashed Pet Rescue as it receives additional complaints.

Unleashed Pet Rescue’s attorney later sent a second statement:

The conditions noted as alleged violations in the October 24 inspection had nothing to do with the animals’ being injured, ill or lacking veterinary care in any way. The issues had to do with the facility and a handful of kennels that the inspectors felt did not have sufficient floorspace due to dog beds that had been placed in them.

The AHD regulations lack any definition of floorspace and are silent on whether dog beds should or should not be counted as floorspace. At any rate, Unleashed immediately removed the dog beds to satisfy AFI’s demands. At the time of the inspection, Unleashed had 68 dogs in inventory but were not otherwise cited for any spacing or overcrowding issues.

Problem Solvers will update this story as we learn more.