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    The director of Louisville Metro Animal Services and the city’s top labor negotiator are the subject of an ongoing police investigation involving allegations that the director illegally performed a euthanasia and illegally transported a federally controlled substance used for the procedure.

    Current and former LMAS employees allege that LMAS director Jessica Jo Montgomery performed a euthanasia on an animal owned by O’Dell Henderson, who is liaison between metro government and local unions, at Henderson’s home on Sept. 10 despite being unlicensed by the state to do so, potentially violating state and federal laws concerning the transport of lethal injection drugs in the process.

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    Jessica Jo Montgomery (photo from Mayor Fischer's Twitter)

    Official government documents — obtained via the Kentucky Open Records Act by sources who then provided the documents to Louisville Magazine — reveal that Montgomery was not properly licensed in the state of Kentucky to perform euthanasia at the time of the alleged home euthanasia. If unlicensed, the sources allege, Montgomery should not have had direct access to, or been able to possess, sodium pentobarbital, a lethal-injection solution known by its brand name Fatal-Plus, which is a Schedule II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

    The allegations are the latest for an animal control agency that has endured multiple controversies and high-profile resignations of top management over the last several years.

    The official documents reveal that Montgomery ordered a euthanasia of Henderson’s dog, a two-year-old black Labrador retriever referred to as “Sammy,” via the LMAS Chameleon computer system on Sept. 10. (The Chameleon system is the intra-agency software LMAS uses to track the animals under the agency’s care.) That record suggests that Henderson paid for the euthanasia, which has a transaction receipt number within the Chameleon system.

    Chris Poynter, a spokesperson for Mayor Greg Fischer, said in a statement that the mayor was aware of allegations “similar” to those raised by the anonymous sources. Poynter said those allegations were brought to the mayor’s attention in mid-September and that they “merited a follow up by [the Louisville Metro Police Department’s] Public Integrity Unit,” which Poynter said was ordered by the mayor around that time. Poynter said it was “premature to comment” on the situation because the PIU investigation remains ongoing. (Fischer appointed both Montgomery and Henderson to their current roles.)

    Calls to Montgomery’s office number and to her government cell phone were not returned. LMAS spokesperson Leslie Hawk also declined to comment on the PIU investigation or any of the allegations raised by current and former staff.

    When initially reached for comment, Henderson answered the phone, confirmed his identity and hung up after being asked about the alleged euthanasia. On a follow-up call, he said, “I don’t know how you got this number, but don’t call it again.” He called back a few days later to apologize. “You caught me off guard,” he said. Henderson still refused to discuss the matter, citing the open PIU investigation, and added that he had no idea when the investigation would be completed.


    Henderson (From his Facebook page)

    The sources — who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal by the agency and by metro government — allege that Montgomery used her power over subordinates to gain access to the euthanasia drug, and that an LMAS employee accompanied Montgomery to Henderson’s home but refused to perform the euthanasia, which they claim Montgomery did herself. “I think she saw the opportunity to get in good with her higher-ups,” one of the anonymous sources said. “Somebody really high up in metro asked a favor, and she did it without thinking.”

    Information provided by the state Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees LMAS, shows that Montgomery officially obtained euthanasia specialist licensure from the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners on Oct. 22 — more than a month after she allegedly euthanized Sammie. Internal LMAS documents provided by the sources show that Montgomery co-signed a withdrawal of eight ccs of Fatal-Plus on Sept. 10. Her signature appears alongside a subordinate who records show was a licensed euthanasia specialist at that time. “[Montgomery] had to have somebody get [the drug] out for her, because the euthanasia room and the [drug] safe have locks that are only administered to people who are trained to euthanize,” one of the sources said.

    Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, illegal possession of a Schedule II drug — an umbrella designation that includes cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine and pentobarbitals like Fatal-Plus — carries a five-year maximum prison sentence on a first-time felony offense. State laws governing breaches of euthanasia regulation permit fines up to $5,000 and a maximum 90-day jail sentence, and also authorize the state veterinary board to “suspend, revoke, impose probationary or supervisory conditions upon, impose an administrative fine, issue a written reprimand, or any combination thereof.”

    Government phone records provided to Louisville Magazine show communication between Montgomery and Henderson on and after the Sept. 10 euthanasia date, with 23 separate calls between then and Oct. 15, totaling approximately 96 minutes in cumulative call time. Five of those calls occurred on Sept. 10. On Oct. 15, about a month after Fischer is said to have started an LMPD investigation, Henderson called Montgomery and they spoke for 19 minutes, which was their longest conversation, according to the records.

    The American Veterinary Medical Association does not restrict where a euthanasia can take place, stipulating in its published guidelines that those who administer the euthanasia via lethal controlled substance injection must be properly licensed to prevent causing potential harm to an animal. According to those guidelines, properly certified euthanasia specialists may choose a setting outside shelter or laboratory to end an animal’s life to “avoid distress.”

    “Veterinarians should strive to euthanize animals within the animals’ physical and behavioral comfort zones (eg, preferred temperatures, natural habitat, home) and, when possible, prepare a calming environment,” the guidelines state.

    The allegations against Montgomery describe actions that violate LMAS’ own standard operating procedures — specifically those governing euthanasia by Fatal-Plus or other intravenous solutions, and their administration in LMAS’ “euthanasia room” only to animals in LMAS custody. The LMAS procedures require that “only personnel certified in humane animal euthanasia by injection shall administer the euthanasia solution” and that a lethal injection can be administered only if “the employee has been properly instructed by a state licensed veterinarian and/or his/her designee; has completed a state approved course in humane animal euthanasia by injection techniques; and has been certified and is currently licensed by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners.”


    LMAS main Manslick facility (Photo from LMAS Facebook page)

    The investigation makes Montgomery the latest LMAS director to generate controversy. In 2009, director Gilles Meloche quit amid accusations of sexual harassment and mismanagement. His successor, Wayne Zelinsky, resigned after reports surfaced that he was involved with an adult-themed entertainment business. In Spring 2014, a pit bull named Sadie was euthanized after months of suffering, awaiting a leg amputation, because of alleged money misallocation and neglect by LMAS officials. In October 2014, Fischer appointed Montgomery, who spent a decade with the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and worked as a veterinary hospital administrator in San Antonio. The PIU investigation into her alleged activities remains ongoing.

    The sources said they want a change in management at the agency. “We’ve gone through too many strings of bad managers, and questionable or illegal activity, and that’s not a service to the employees who are there, and it’s not a service to the animals, and it’s not a service to the community,” one of them said.

     

    Cover photo: Shutterstock/stocksolutions

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