Lisa Wier, Indiana County Humane Society’s humane officer and kennel manager, is being accused of falsifying a document certifying that a shelter dog had been neutered when, in fact, it hadn’t.
According to state police in Indiana, Wier, for unspecified reasons, forged kennel veterinarian Dr. Robyn T. Barton’s name on the certificate last year and later admitted to having done so. As a result, she was charged Wednesday with a single misdemeanor count of forgery.
Wier’s attorney, however, denied that she was the one who forged Barton’s signature and said her confession was coerced. As the humane officer, Wier is charged with enforcing the state’s animal laws.
Police said questions about the spay/neuter certificate’s authenticity arose sometime last year, when the family that adopted the dog began doubting whether it really had been neutered. When then-kennel manager Tracey Singer examined the dog, she confirmed it hadn’t and scheduled a surgery at an Action For Animals Humane Society shelter in Derry Township, Westmoreland County.
In addition to Barton, that shelter and its staff were at the time providing veterinary services for the local humane society.
Police said that Action for Animals shelter manager and humane officer LuAnn Hutcheson eventually called Wier to inquire about the dog and the spay/neuter certificate. Wier, police said, insisted the dog was neutered.
Hutcheson disagreed and contacted Barton.
Barton reviewed the certificate, confirmed the signature was not hers and filed a complaint with the humane society’s board of directors.
“However, as time passed the matter was not resolved,” police wrote in the charging documents.
So, Hutcheson contacted state police, which opened an investigation on Nov. 12.
Police said that Wier denied “having any involvement with the forged signature and provided several excuses as to why it was not her.” But during a second interview last week, she admitted she forged the signature, though she didn’t explain why, police said.
Despite that, Wier denies that she is responsible, said her attorney, Christopher Welch.
For one, he said the confession was coerced. He contends that Wier was told she was not allowed to have a lawyer present during the police interview. And, he said, police told her she was not allowed to leave until she admitted to forging the signature.
Welch said Wier, 48, of Homer City, wound up telling police what they wanted to hear because she was in rush to go that day — she had several young puppies in her care and needed to leave to feed them, he said.
That aside, he said there’s no reason for Wier to have forged Barton’s signature. Doing so wouldn’t have returned any money to the shelter, nor would it have allowed the dog to be adopted any faster, he said.
On top of that, he said the spay/neuter certificates were readily accessible by anyone in the shelter.
“I think the commonwealth is without any direct evidence to support these charges,” Welch said.
The humane society’s board apparently is standing by Wier.
In a statement to the Gazette, the board said she remains the kennel manager and will continue to report to work under one restriction until the matter is resolved — she will be temporarily barred from signing checks and documents.
“Lisa has been forthcoming with all information about the Pennsylvania State Police’s investigation since she was initially accused in October 2012,” the board wrote.
“The board feels that Lisa’s alleged action of falsifying a veterinarian’s name on the neuter certificate did not put the shelter, its animals or its staff in imminent danger. Therefore, the decision was made to allow her continue to serve as kennel manager,” the statement read.
In addition, the board said Heidi Malin, the shelter’s interim executive director, has begun “a thorough internal investigation into the allegations” and will “review findings with the shelter’s attorney as new information becomes available.”
But so far, Malin said she is unimpressed with the allegations laid out in the charging documents.
She said she has noticed several inconsistencies and omissions, chief among them that investigators failed to note the dog is a cryptorchid, meaning that one or both of its testicles hadn’t descended. Therefore, she said, it appeared to Wier that the dog had been castrated, she said.