Updated: Glocester police, former ACO dispute accounts of ‘kill shelter’ following death of three dogs

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GLOCESTER – Glocester police are responding to allegations on social media regarding the town’s animal shelter after three dogs were reportedly euthanized over “behavioral issues,” and the town’s animal control officer was terminated earlier this year.

In a memo to the Glocester Town Council on Wednesday, April 6, Police Chief Joseph DelPrete responds to “social media chatter and misinformation about the Glocester Animal Shelter converting to a kill shelter.”

The memo follows statements from former Animal Control Officer Penny Silivia on Facebook stating she was, “forced out,” of her job and that, “many animals were put down.” Many residents reacted to the comments, expressing outrage on social media.

DelPrete responded to the allegations this week, saying that three dogs were, “behaviorally euthanized several months ago,” at the shelter after being evaluated. The Chestnut Hill Road facility operates as a division of the Glocester Police Department, and the chief notes that the former ACO, Silvia, was terminated in February.

According to DelPrete, policy at the shelter has not changed, and police administration would not direct an ACO to euthanize an animal unjustly.

“The Glocester Animal Shelter is under new supervision, operations are running efficiently and [we] reaffirm that no other animals have been euthanized,” DePrete wrote. “Any other animals brought to the shelter were properly cared for and adopted out in a timely manner to their forever homes.”

The change in management comes following an inspection of the facility by the Rhode Island SPCA and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management in October at which several violations were reportedly found at the facility. Since the report, the shelter has seen a new heating and air conditioning unit installed, kennels rearranged and officials have reportedly begun implementing a new computer management system.

The violations were among the issues brought up at a discussion of Silvia’s job performance at a meeting held on Thursday Feb, 3. DelPrete presented a letter sent to the ACO pointing to issues with the her job performance, including the story regarding one of the dogs that was later euthanized.

According to the letter, published with minutes from the meeting, the dog, named Butch, was brought to the shelter three years ago because he was considered a bite risk. Police said they advised the ACO that the dog should not be made available for adoption until it was evaluated.

“You then arranged for Butch to be adopted by an individual from Massachusetts,” the letter notes. “One day later, Butch bit someone in Massachusetts and was returned to the pound.”

Police state that Sylvia later denied knowledge of the bite. The letter also states that the ACO held a fundraiser for the shelter in October in which $362 was raised, but never accounted for in records at the office.

Silvia did not attend the hearing, but Town Clerk Jean Fecteau told councilors that the ACO sent an email earlier the same day requesting the discussion be held in open session. Discussions of the job performance of municipal personnel are exempt from Rhode Island’s Open Meetings law, and typically held in executive session.

Silvia responded on Thursday evening to NRI NOW‘s request for comment on the discussion and disputed several elements of the account.

“I had a stellar reputation within the town and with most of the RI shelters and the SPCA,” she said in a statement. “I have worked in animal control for 11 years in Glocester and also for Cranston for a year and a half. Never in those 11 years was I , or the towns I worked in, sued or had a suit filed for liability from any adoption. Suddenly, when I was going to expose negligence and huge liability risk of someone working for the town, I was suspended. It then took them 9 weeks to form any kind of complaints about me – most were twisted or completely untrue.”

“When I was suspended, there were eight dogs in the shelter,”Silvia said. “Only one of those dogs needed to be put to sleep. That dog was Butch, but nothing the Chief stated was true. Butch was not brought to the shelter, he was a stray I picked up when a resident found him running loose.”

“I was contacted by the man in [Massachusetts] and spent hours with him and Butch. The man did not keep Butch away from strangers as he was told, and he bit a stranger. it was not the day after he was adopted, it was a week later.”

“So far, only one dog adoption has been confirmed,” Silvia said. “There [were] also two cats outside. One was mine who had to be an outside cat. Visitors loved her, and I used her to test and help train dogs. The other was a feral release not far from the shelter that came back for some reason. Both were spayed and vaccinated. Their whereabouts are unknown.”

“I am sick over the animals. I haven’t put three dogs to sleep in the six years I’ve been supervisor in Glocester, and I knew all those dogs,” she added. “They could have and should have been adopted.”

Silvia said the money from the fundraiser has been handed in.

“It was a check I had that I kept forgetting to bring into the town hall,” she said.

Silvia’s lengthy statement has been shortened for publication, but she said it will be published in full on a Facebook page she plans to name, “Rescued in RI.”

“Everything I did was for the animals,” she said.

Councilors unanimously voted to terminate Sylvia at that first meeting in February and authorized the chief to seek a replacement to fill the vacant position at the following February meeting.

The appointment of a new Animal Control Officer was among the items on the agenda up for discussion and/or vote at the council meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 7.

DelPrete recommended that the town’s assistant animal control officer, Jennifer Grundy, be appointed the town’s new ACO.

“As Assistant ACO she was able to manage the day to day operations of the Animal Shelter when called upon,” notes DelPrete. “In the absence of the full time animal control officer in November 2021 Ms. Grundy assumed all of the Animal Control operations while working the shelter part‐time.  She further assisted in cleaning, renovating, and updating the shelter and management system over the past four months.”

DelPrete notes that the position was advertised and Grundy, who has worked for the department since March of 2021, was one of four candidates to step forward. He adds that the full time role will take effect on Sunday April 10.

The chief also recommended that Glocester resident Victoria Kramer, who has worked at the shelter for 22 years, be officially elevated to assistant animal control officer, with a pay increase to $19.50 per hour from $16.50. 

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