More than she could chew

Shye Virgilio pets her pet cat after having her rescued animals taken and relocated to other shelters.
Phillip Harnden

Shye Virgilio’s recent experience is a cautionary tale about good intentions leading to bad outcome.

Shye started the aptly named Just For The Love Of It private animal sheltertwo years ago after volunteering at shelters for more than 10 years.

“Friends would bring me strays and I started finding foster families to watch them,” Shye said.

She never wanted her shelter to be an pet storage facility. Instead, she modeled her setup around foster families able to house the animals while she worked on finding them permanent homes.

This system worked well for the first year and a half, but last summer, a large number of her foster families brought their shelter animals back to her while they traveled and played during the warm months, she said.

She wound up with an overabundance of animals at her home in June. That’s when the trouble started. Her drive to help the pets left her overwhelmed and overworked, she admitted.

In June, she was cited for animal abuse and had to appear before a municipal court judge, according to Glenrock Animal Control Officer Stuart McCrary.

It is not uncommon for shelters to take animals that are in the process of illness and may die. It comes with the nature of the business. But McCrary responded to a call at Shye’s shelter in June, after someone called in a foul smell coming from the property.

McCrary found improperly handled animal carcasses as well as a mix of 35 dogs and cats. During June and into July, McCrary made daily visits to Shye’s place.

“She was making improvement and the animals were doing well during this time,” McCrary said Tuesday.

After the July court appearance, McCrary made regular visits and watched as Shye was able to find homes for more than half of the 35 animals.

Things changed on Aug. 25 when McCrary made another visit.

“There are no kennel ordinances in the town,” McCrary said. “This makes this situation difficult. I have to treat it like a residence and need probable cause to enter the property and check the animals.”

One dog, which was visible from the curb, allegedly was in a cage without food or water. That was enough for McCrary to investigate further.

He found 17 dogs in a single dog run with only one dog Igloo for shelter.

“Pets need food, water and shelter to be properly cared for. The 17 dogs had only a small amount of water that had a layer of moths across it, and shelter that could protect maybe three or four of the dogs,” McCrary said Tuesday.

“A few of the dogs I was monitoring weren’t improving and so we decided it was time to take the animals, for their sake and Shye’s.”

“In less than eight minutes and two phone calls, I was able to place all 20 dogs,” McCrary said with a shrug. “It broke my heart to do it, but I felt it was the right thing.”

Seventeen dogs went to the Cheyenne Animal Center and three were taken to Laramie Peak Humane Society in Douglas. McCrary and Shye had worked well together before the June incident. Shye had helped McCrary by finding homes for feral cats he had brought to her. “Shye has such a big heart, but she got in over her head,” McCrary said.

McCrary expressed that his concern is about the animals and he simply wanted to get the pets the care they needed.

“None of the animals were in immediate threat of death, but they were not getting better and starting to decline in my opinion,” McCrary said. “She (Shye) has been successful in the past, but I think she loves animals too much.”

McCrary stated that he isn’t trying to punish Shye. He felt municipal citations were a more moderate choice than pressing more severe felony charges.

This cautionary tale ends with Shye facing 20 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse. She must appear before a municipal court judge to resolve the tickets.

McCrary said the average fine in such cases is $260. But with 20 charges, even that could cost Shye $5,200. She actually could be fined as much as $750 each, for a total of $15,000, or she could be acquitted on one or all of the tickets. Her court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20 McCrary is happy that people like Shye are out there and trying help with the problem of feral cats and homeless dogs, but he urges caution.

“You have to know your limitations. Whatever you think you can handle, cut it in half. And make sure to do it right from the beginning. From what I’ve seen it’s harder to go back and fix it, and most people never do,” he said.

This entire situation is part of a bigger problem for both Shye and McCrary – the problem of unwanted pet procreation.

“In the end I am just happy they are being taken care of,” Shye said. “All I wanted was for them to find a home, and now they will.”

“It is so important to spay and neuter your pets,” McCrary said. “It’s impactful on the economy, expensive to society and hard on wildlife make more strays.”


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

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