Former animal shelter veterinarian sues CAA and city-parish

Published: Jun. 3, 2013 at 9:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2013 at 12:11 AM CDT
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Amy Cangelosi
Amy Cangelosi

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An employee at the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Shelter reported what she believed were illegal practices and found herself without a job 16 hours later.  Monday, the veterinarian filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Companion Animal Alliance.

"They have this little room where dogs are in cages here and right on the floor in the middle is where they cut the dog's head off," said Dr. Amy Cangelosi. It's a gruesome description, but Dr. Cangelosi says that's what happened to a dog with rabies.

She describes another incident where a pit bull was so thin and feeble, it had to be carried in. Cangelosi says several employees nursed the dog back to health. When she returned to work the next day to check on the pit bull, she was stopped by another employee.

"She stopped me as I walked in. She says she's gone. I said she died? She says 'No, right after you left they euthanized her.'"

Cangelosi says when she first joined the CAA in August 2011, things were good. In fact she says she enjoyed her job. But when a new director took over in April 2012, things began to change dramatically.

"She brought in a veterinarian that didn't have a license to practice," Cangelosi said. "Hired somebody that was not certified to do euthanasia."

Under that director, Dr. Cangelosi says some employees began euthanizing dogs before their hold period was up. She says other dogs were released from the shelter without rabies vaccines.

"There's just a right way to do things. Maybe I'm a goodie two-shoes, but I follow the rules," she said.

Cangelosi's lawsuit, filed Monday, names the Companion Animal Alliance, Kimberley Sherlaw, who was the shelter director at the time, and the City of Baton Rouge.

In the suit, Cangelosi says Sherlaw constantly harassed her and threatened to terminate her. She says she was also told not to question certain procedures.

Cangelosi and other employees wrote a letter to the city-parish notifying them about their concerns.

She says cats were found dead in their cages because of the deplorable conditions at the shelter. She also reported illegal euthanizations and animals beheaded in front of other living animals. All of which she says violate state law, shelter standards and euthanizing guidelines.

When nothing was done, Cangelosi went to the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine, where she says her concerns about illegal practices at the shelter were confirmed. 16 hours later, on October 11, 2012, Cangelosi was fired. The lawsuit states the only reason she was given is the "CAA is moving in another direction." She was then told to leave immediately.

Cangelosi's attorney, Jill Craft, says the law clearly states if someone blows the whistle on what they perceive is illegal practice in the workplace no action can be taken against them in retaliation. She believes that law was broken in this case.

"There's a lot of evidence as to what was truly going on. I hope that somebody finally listens," Craft said.

9News did contact the CAA for comment, our calls were not returned. The city attorney's office has not yet received the lawsuit.

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