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Rural Ontario shelter operator under fire for alleged neglect of animals

The Tweed man says he's the victim of a Facebook mob, but concerned citizens wonder if he's still fit to run an animal shelter.

Warning: This story contains allegations that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised. 

An animal control officer in a rural municipality in eastern Ontario is under fire for allegedly neglecting the animals in his care.

Fernley Davies, who is in his mid-80s, says a so-called “Facebook mob” has tarnished his reputation, accusing him of neglecting the animals he keeps at his shelter in Tweed, Ontario.

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“I’ve lost a lot of sleep because of the untruths,” Davies said.

A number of photos were posted to Facebook by Janelle Tulloch, taken at some point inside the Tweed animal shelter. Tulloch did not respond to a request for comment.

The photos appear to show cats cramped in small cages and dogs in cages surrounded by feces and murky drinking water.

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These images caught the attention of Courtney Stapley, a resident of Cloyne, Ont., who felt compelled to take action.

“I saw the conditions and I knew I couldn’t leave any animals behind,” said Stapley.

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Stapley says she went to the shelter and rescued two cats and two puppies. She still has the cats in her care but the dogs have been taken in by the Humane Society of Durham Region.

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Stapley worries about Davies being able to take care of the animals. When she arrived, she says one of the animals was very sick, and had feces and vomit in the cage. When she asked to adopt it, Stapley says Davies told her the dog was already promised to someone else.

She also pointed to the fact that Davies has mobility issues, and is contracted by several municipalities in the area to do animal control.

Davies admitted that he does have a bit of trouble getting around, but is expecting a medical procedure to help him out.

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“Once I get my knees done, I’ll be more agile, and provided I have drivers license, I can do it,” Davies said.

Stapley also says the shelter is not easily accessible for those who lose their animals, pointing to the fact that Davies does not have any online forum to post notices about animals that he confiscates, and only has a phone number where he can be reached, which has no voicemail.

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Nevertheless, Davies has held this position in Tweed for the last three decades, and he says during that time, he has never received a complaint.

Davies says he doesn’t know when the photos were taken and believes he is the victim of a baseless social media attack.

“To do it like they’ve done by spreading lies and everything — I’ve been to the police station about it and they told me anyone can put anything on Facebook,” he said.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that they have received a complaint about the Tweed shelter, which they say they are investigating.

“Staff are working with the operator to ensure the operation meets the regulatory requirements specific to municipal animal shelters and while the Municipality is responsible for any outcomes related to the operation of the shelter, we will continue to work with the local municipality to ensure all the animals are being treated humanly,” said Bianca Jamieson, a spokesperson for the ministry, in an email.

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According to Stapley, a group of concerned citizens have organized to bring the issue to the attention of Tweed’s town council on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, almost all animals had been adopted from the shelter, with only one cat remaining.