(The interior of Wind River Veterinary Clinic’s kennels as of the morning of Oct. 25. A hole in the wall had been covered with plastic and insulation is visible. Joshua Scheer photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – Following public accusations of mistreating animals, veterinarian Rich Boulette told County10.com this morning that he is severing his contract with the City of Lander to impound stray dogs.
“I am going to terminate any and all involvement with the Lander Pet Connection,” Boulette said on a local radio show last week. In an interview with County10.com he said he felt like he did not deserve the personal attacks levied against him by the local no-kill nonprofit.
Boulette’s business, Wind River Veterinary Clinic, suffered a fire in July that caused damage throughout his structure, including the kennels where impounded dogs are kept.
It is the public words from the LPC and repairs under way to his business that have led him to quit taking impounded dogs, he said.
On Oct. 10, the LPC sent an email to City of Lander staff and City Councilors identifying problems they’ve observed with the kennels. Similar communications were also sent to the Fremont County Commission.
“That fire caused severe damage to the kennel area where impounds are kept, creating a large hole in the roof, allowing in snow and rain,” states the email. “The last time we were allowed in the kennels, it was our understanding that there was no heat, power or running water in that area. As such, the animals that are impounded there are not being humanely treated.”
Mayor Mick Wolfe said he didn’t appreciate the city being pulled into a personal dispute. He said that if he felt the dogs were being mistreated, he would work to rectify the situation.
“It also affects the Lander Pet Connection, as we must treat the animals that come in to our facility after receiving substandard care while impounded,” states the email. LPC representatives later clarified to County10.com that they intended to state “substandard conditions.” “We were not referencing the actual human care the animals were receiving but the conditions of the facility,” they said.
The letter states that the LPC board does not believe independent vets would find the situation acceptable. Per the city’s contract with Boulette, the impound facility must comply with all professional standards and rules.
Boulette let County10.com into the kennels where he keeps impounds. A hole in a wall above a door had been covered with plastic, and the rest of the room’s roof and walls were intact. There was no working heat in the kennels, but the walls are insulated. Water is available via a hose.
Lander Police Chief Jim Carey, Lt. Chuck Carr and Wolfe all said they have no concerns with the conditions at Wind River Vet. Carey said the situation was investigated by multiple officers in his department. “They were found to be in good condition,” he said of the dogs. “The dogs are not being abused,” Carr said.
LPC Board member Devon Petersen said, “We’re not trying to put Rich out of business, we’re just trying to get a short-term solution.” He also said the nonprofit’s board does not find the dogs’ living conditions to be OK.
The board also has raised concerns about a $30 euthanasia fee the city pays Boulette to put animals down with, in conjunction with him no longer giving discounts to the LPC for exams and vaccinations. Petersen said it had been the board’s understanding that he was using the euthanasia fee to cover the discounts he was providing. Boulette says he uses the euthanasia fee for boarding costs and that he’s donated thousands to LPC over the years.
“Wind River Vet has done a lot of positive work for the City of Lander,” Carey said. He had not yet been informed that Boulette was planning on ending his contract with the city, but he said he would be disappointed if the current relationship wasn’t continued and he hopes to be able to resolve the issues.
When asked what LPD would do with dogs at large since Boulette is no longer taking any animals, Carey said he did not know of any other options. Calls to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, which also uses Wind River Vet as an impound facility, were not immediately returned.
“The Lander Pet Connection is happy to help the City with its current impounding situation, but we need time and advance notice to accommodate changing situations,” states the nonprofit’s email. “We would like to be involved in any discussions regarding impounding or answer any questions you may have.”