Whiskey the pitbull puppy’s death has haunted the Kissel family for close to a decade. The family has always felt a “wicked-looking” Boulder City animal control officer bullied them into letting her kill their puppy.
This week, they found out they weren’t alone.
Mary Jo Frazier, now a former Boulder City Animal Control supervisor, had needlessly killed animals for years, according to a police detective who investigated her actions. Her coworkers told police she found joy in killing animals.
On Thursday, following a Las Vegas Review-Journal article about a city police detective’s effort to bring charges against former Animal Control Supervisor Mary Jo Frazier, Boulder City Police Chief Bill Conger reversed course and said he would forward the case to the Clark County district attorney. Earlier, he told the newspaper he saw no point in pursuing a criminal case because Frazier resigned after being placed on administrative leave as he investigated her handling of animal shelter money.
Frazier, who sold her home and moved out of Nevada after resigning from the city, could not be reached for comment.
An adoption into a happy family
The Kissel family rescued Whiskey from the Lied animal shelter in Las Vegas in 2005, shortly after moving to Boulder City from Orange County, Calif.
At the shelter, the pit bull puppy mix literally stood out from the pack. Everyone fell for Whiskey when he stood on his hind legs and hugged one of Kissel’s sons. Rob Kissel hadn’t set up his business in the city yet and was commuting out of state, so Whiskey became protector of and friend to his wife, Darla, and their two teens.
“The dog was our child, basically” Rob Kissel said Thursday.
About eight months after Whiskey joined the family, Darla Kissel needed her puppy more than ever. In April of 2006, Darla Kissel was diagnosed with breast cancer. There would be surgery and radiation treatment, with Rob still working out of state.
“I needed a friend,” Darla said. “It was a horrendous time.”
But Whiskey wouldn’t be there for Darla’s surgery or her recovery.
With Rob Kissell visiting Boulder City, the family planned a day at Lake Mead to take their mind off the diagnosis. As they prepared to leave home, a neighbor rushed in to their garage to deliver a lake wind report and yelled a loud greeting.
Startled, Whiskey bit the neighbor, leaving a small puncture wound on his elbow, Darla Kissel said.
The neighbor didn’t fault the dog and said he was fine, the Kissels said. But when he went to a clinic to get the bite examined, medical staff called Boulder City Animal Control. Soon an irate Mary Jo Frazier was calling.
Kissel said Frazier demanded he bring Whiskey to the animal shelter for a 10-day quarantine, but not until after the weekend. He recalls thinking it odd that Frazier insisted Whiskey might be dangerous, but did not want to take the dog in right away.
It was just the beginning of Frazier’s demands regarding their dog — demands the Kissels have since learned violated animal control protocol.
While Whiskey was in quarantine the family visited daily, playing with him and wondering why if their dog was really in “quarantine” because he was he allowed to be around other dogs and people.
One day, they found Frazier banging a cup against his cage. The family was horrified.
Frazier told them she was trying to see if the dog would be aggressive, Darla Kissel said.
Eventually, Frazier agreed with what they knew all along — Whiskey wasn’t aggressive.
But then she told them that she had to kill Whiskey. The alternative, she said, was her personal recommendation that Boulder City press charges against them, Darla Kissel said.
Frazier didn’t say what those charges would be, but the family felt they didn’t have a choice. New in town, with surgery imminent, they relented.
Frazier’s records show that Whiskey was in quarantine for 17 days, then euthanized in May, 2006.
Official: Whiskey didn’t need to die
Boulder City officials say they see nothing to support Frazier’s demand.
“From what I’ve looked at, that dog should have been returned to its owners after 10 days. I don’t have an explanation for why it was not,” said Animal Control Supervisor Ann Inabnitt, who has been with Boulder City Animal Control for 2½ years and took over after Frazier resigned.
The 10-day count starts from the day of the bite, not the day Animal Control learns about it or picks up the dog, she said. Also, if a dog does need to be quarantined the owners are often allowed to do that themselves if the dog’s shots are current and especially if the dog was provoked.
“The circumstances of the bite count,” Inabnitt said. “Whiskey was defending her owners, the way I understand it.”
Yet Frazier told the pleading family that if a burglar broke into their home and Whiskey bit him, the burglar could sue them.
Inabnitt said anyone can sue over anything, but that “if a dog bites a burglar, the dog is doing its job. As an animal control officer you have to know the difference.”
The family still mourns Whiskey. Darla Kissel said her 26-year-old son was in tears as she told him that Frazier has since been accused of needlessly killing animals.
“I want her prosecuted to the fullest extent. We moved here and she just thought she would intimidate us,” Darla Kissel said. “It’s been a nightmare. It’s horrible.”
On Thursday Rob Kissel joined a protest at Boulder City police department headquarters, meeting others who said Frazier killed their pets.
He said he hoped Conger or some other city official would address the crowd, particularly after state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, got involved.
“I think people were hiding behind their desks,” Kissel said. “I think all of our stories need to be heard.”
Contact Bethany Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes