EDITORIAL: Citizens, journalists force Boulder City’s hand in animal shelter probe

From the day the Review-Journal broke the story of the whitewashing of needlessly speedy animal euthanizations in Boulder City and the potential for criminal charges against former Animal Control Supervisor Mary Jo Frazier, the comparisons to Disney villainess Cruella De Vil started pouring in via letters and online and social media comments.

They miss the mark. De Vil, the vile puppy hunter in “101 Dalmations,” was incredibly wealthy and wanted the dogs killed for a reason: her next fur coat. Ms. Frazier was neither rich nor in need of an expanded winter wardrobe. A much better animated comparison is Captain Chantel DuBois, the antagonist in “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.” DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand, was a fiendishly relentless Monte Carlo animal control officer who killed creatures for pleasure. “When I was 7, I strangled my first parrot, flushed my first goldfish and punched my first snake,” she gloated at one point in the film, before crossing the continent in pursuit of zoo animals traveling with a circus.

These characters were so over-the-top, so completely unbelievable, they were suitable for children’s movies (barely). But truth is stranger than fiction, and what happened in Boulder City has grown-ups justifiably enraged.

Ms. Frazier, now 61, worked with ruthless efficiency in keeping the Boulder City shelter quiet and empty. Workers said Capt. DuBois — err, Ms. Frazier — found joy in killing animals. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Bethany Barnes and Ben Botkin, Boulder City police began an investigation in April after allegations that Ms. Frazier had denied care to an injured puppy. A police review of shelter logs found many animals were put down the same day they arrived, in defiance of the five-day hold and veterinarian clearance required under city code before euthanasia. A separate investigation examined the shelter’s finances. Two days after being put on administrative leave, Ms. Frazier retired and began collecting her pension.

So the city dropped the matter entirely. “People get in trouble and resign all the time,” Boulder City Police Chief Bill Conger, who oversaw animal control, told the Review-Journal last week.

But victimized pet owners and animal advocates demanded justice and accountability. Their protests compelled the city to reverse course and forward its investigation of Ms. Frazier to the district attorney’s office. Angry residents and animal welfare activists came to Tuesday’s City Council meeting regardless to demand answers. Where was the oversight of Boulder City’s own Capt. DuBois? Why did the city do nothing when it knew the shelter had a ridiculously high euthanasia rate? The city has a lot of explaining to do.

Good journalism and citizen engagement can change government. If the public cared one-tenth as much about broader government waste and abuse as animal lovers do about the welfare of our four-legged friends, the valley would be a much better place to live.

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