Liz McCormick Published

National Animal Welfare Group Alleges Mistreatment In Berkeley, Purchases County Land

Dog paw on cage

A Bethesda, Maryland-based advocacy organization that works to protect animals from abuse filed a petition last week with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals alleging that Berkeley County Animal Control is not providing proper veterinary care for several of its animals.

The day before the filing, the advocacy group purchased a large property in the county for more than $300,000.

Alley Cat Allies said they conducted an in-depth investigation for more than a year that allegedly revealed that Berkeley County Animal Control “intentionally, knowingly and recklessly withheld necessary medical treatment for animals in its shelter, causing extreme suffering and in some cases death.”

The filing details cases of malnourishment, untreated inflammation, swollen eyes and tongues, a ruptured hernia, and a broken leg. Two animals were allegedly in such poor condition, they had to be euthanized.

Alley Cat Allies, on Nov. 23, submitted the petition asking the state’s high court to intervene and order Berkeley County Animal Control to “act on its legal duty” and provide veterinary care for the animals in its shelter.

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s office, which houses the animal control unit, has not yet released a formal statement on the matter. But according to a spokesperson with the sheriff’s office, there will be a press conference sometime next week to address the allegations.

The day prior to the filing, on Nov. 22, Alley Cat Allies purchased more than 17 acres of land in Berkeley County for $311,000, according to a deed filed with the county clerk’s office.

Alley Cat Allies told West Virginia Public Broadcasting they purchased the property “to further our work and advance our mission in the area.” They did not detail further on the future of the property.

Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, said they have done work in Berkeley County for decades.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a Washington, D.C.-based magazine that covers philanthropic and nonprofit organizations around the world, wrote an in-depth report in 2018 alleging that “Robinson runs the organization with few checks on her power.” The Chronicle also noted in its story that the nonprofit is not properly scrutinized for real estate purchases and for the salaries of its employees.

The organization, according to its 2020 IRS 990 report, brought in about $10.7 million that year. Robinson’s compensation was more than $247,000.

In contrast to the report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Alley Cat Allies holds a platinum rating on GuideStar, which claims to have “the most complete, up-to-date nonprofit data available” on its website. A platinum rating from the organization signifies a high ranking in transparency for tax filings, leadership and mission, among others.

Alley Cat Allies was founded more than 30 years ago and has 650,000 supporters worldwide, according to its website.

Berkeley County Animal Control has favorable ratings on its Facebook page and posts photos and activities often. At the time of this story, the shelter received 4.3 out of 5 stars based on 127 Facebook reviews. However, several recent reviews, dating back to 2019, are negative.