Photo by Danny Wicentowski
Former Stray Rescue manager Kristin Boyd.
For the past three months, Stray Rescue, a widely respected St. Louis animal shelter, has been targeted by lawsuits
from former employees over a range of allegations, from sexual harassment
to open drug use. But in a just-filed lawsuit, former shelter manager Kristin Boyd claims Stray Rescue isn't just abusing its human staffers, but its animals as well.
Filed Wednesday in St. Louis City Circuit Court, the lawsuit's targets include Stray Rescue founder Randy Grim, three executive staff members and the entire board of directors.
During an interview at the office of her attorney, Boyd explained that the death of a beloved pet first motivated her to volunteer at the shelter in July 2013. However, not long after she was hired as a paid staff member, she says she realized Stray Rescue was violating its purported "no-kill" policy.
It started with a dog named Flapjack, who she says bit a volunteer. The dog was taken to a veterinary hospital, she says, "so we didn't have to do it at Stray Rescue, to kind of sweep it under the rug. I was devastated."
Boyd claim that, to her knowledge, two other dogs were killed before she was fired this January.
On its website, Stray Rescue touts itself as "the largest no-kill organization in the city of St. Louis and surrounding area." In a statement, the organization strongly denies Boyd's claims, painting her as a disgruntled former employee.
Boyd's lawsuit also accuses Stray Rescue of keeping dogs in crates "for hours" — contradicting claims that the animals are allowed to run free — and failed to vaccinate, leading to a distemper outbreak that took the lives of 43 dogs last year
The lawsuit specifically accuses the shelter of retaliating against Boyd for sounding the alarm about racial discrimination in its hiring process. The suit alleges that one manager "would talk about African American employees behind their backs and complain that they were 'too ghetto.'" Boyd also claims that one manager — whom Boyd explicitly accuses of racism — threw away a job application because it was submitted by an African American.
In January, Boyd claims she reported the situation to a manager. Four days later, while on vacation, Boyd says she received a call from Stray Rescue founder Randy Grim, who told her she was being fired for insubordination.
"We're suing the board of directors at this point, because going after individuals who engage in acts of discrimination have not changed the culture or environment there," says Lynette Petruska, Boyd's attorney. Petruska also represents Gary Gray
, a former Stray Rescue manager who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the shelter in May.
"What Stray Rescue does is good, it’s important, but they need to change their leadership," Petruska adds. "We're hoping to give a wake-up call to the people that lead Stray Rescue, the people who are ultimately responsible for it, that there really needs to be change."
In response to a request for comment, Stray Rescue provided a statement from the shelter's attorney claiming the organization implements "policies and procedures that strive to prevent and remedy all forms of illegal discrimination in the workplace, including race discrimination and retaliation."
But the statement doesn't stop there.
Stray Rescue also accuses Boyd of becoming "irate, profane, threatening and belligerent" after the shelter refused to let her boyfriend adopt a dog. But, the statement says, he had previously been convicted of animal cruelty.
The statement concludes, "Stray Rescue will defend itself vigorously against these baseless allegations and is very confident it will be fully vindicated when the evidence is presented in Court."
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com