BAYTOWN, Texas -- Three former Baytown animal control officers are accused of subjecting animals to pain and anguish while improperly euthanizing them, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Tod Brooks, 53, Veronica Jimenez, 33, and Christopher Nightingale, 27, are each charged with improper euthanasia of animals for incidents involving dogs in May 2015.
An investigation was launched by Baytown Police after a former employee claimed that procedures were not being followed at the Baytown Animal Control & Adoption Center.
Surveillance video showed the officers were “intentionally, knowingly and recklessly” carrying out euthanasia without prior sedation, according to prosecutors. The suspects are also accused of disposing of the animals’ bodies, including stuffing them into plastic bags, without first checking vital signs to confirm they were dead.
Not all euthanasia procedures in Texas require the use of a sedative drug prior to the lethal injection. However, in the procedure the Baytown officers were using, the lethal injection must be administered directly into the heart of the animal, which requires the sedative, according to the DA's Office.
“When people think of their local animal shelter, most are realistic and recognize that animals are being euthanized every day,” Assistant District Attorney and Animal Cruelty Section Chief Jessica Milligan stated in a press release, “but they don’t want the animals to suffer.”
“The job of an animal control officer is not an easy job, but it requires compassion and empathy,” Milligan said. “It’s unfortunate that these particular officers didn’t exhibit the compassion towards animals that we as a community expect and Texas laws require.”
The City of Baytown released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
The City of Baytown has been advised by the Harris County DA’s Office that three former Animal Control Officers have been charged stemming from a 2015 complaint. The city has cooperated with the investigation and has overseen two separate reviews of the Animal Control Division to ensure that our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Policies are in line with and exceed State requirements. None of the three individuals named in the case are current City of Baytown employees.
“The City of Baytown does not condone the inhumane treatment of animals, especially those in our care. Our procedures and policies reflect that,” said Public Affairs Coordinator Patti Jett. “We have and will continue to cooperate with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.”