TRAVERSE CITY — A police report that includes accusations that a Cherryland Humane Society official put a live kitten in a freezer after failed euthanization prompted outrage among some animal advocates.
Grand Traverse County sheriff's deputies didn't seek an animal abuse warrant for the August 2014 incident because an investigator found no evidence the employee -- shelter Supervisor George Sperlbaum -- intended to harm the kitten.
But the issue resurfaced this week after a blog post by Pet Friends Magazine about the case spurred outrage on social media. Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said officials in his office intend to review information provided them by Pet Friends representatives.
Rosemarie Yetter works for the Humane Society and levied the accusations against Sperlbaum. She said she doesn't want the incident to reflect badly on the shelter, nor does she think Sperlbaum purposely put a live animal in a freezer. Instead, she wants to make sure shelter staff follows proper procedures.
"We are here to help these animals," she said.
Cherryland Humane Society board of directors President Dave Burke, a licensed veterinarian, called the magazine account well-meaning but misinformed. He said Sperlbaum found no signs of life before he put the kitten in the freezer.
"The police report completely exonerated the Humane Society," Burke said.
The deputy's report states two Humane Society employees found an "almost dead" kitten in the shelter and tried to keep it warm and comfortable. Yetter later checked on the kitten and found it was gone and presumably euthanized by Sperlbaum. The report states Yetter then checked a freezer, found the kitten inside a bag, and detected movement.
"She stated at that point she 'freaked out' and ripped the bag open and believed that the cat still had a heartbeat," the report states.
Another employee also told a deputy the kitten was still breathing, albeit with very labored breaths, the report states. Sperlbaum again administered euthanasia drugs and all involved then agreed the kitten was dead.
Yetter raised concerns to a Grand Traverse County animal control officer that Sperlbaum's actions verged on animal cruelty and improper and inhumane techniques, the report states. She believed Sperlbaum placed a kitten in a freezer before it succumbed to euthanization drugs.
That prompted a deputy to investigate and interview Sperlbaum, who "adamantly" denied putting a live animal in the freezer, the police report states. Sperlbaum declined to comment for this story and directed questions to Burke and Cherryland Humane Society Executive Director Mike Cherry.
Burke said Sperlbaum followed standard protocol after he found the kitten had no heartbeat; he administered a sedative and an euthanasia drug. That's when Sperlbaum put it in the freezer, but soon removed it after an employee claimed it gasped for air. Burke said the descriptions match "agonal breathing," a nervous response that can occur after death.
Yetter disputed Burke's opinion.
"When I pulled it out of the freezer it was moving both front feet pawing at the bag," she said.
The report states an assistant prosecutor said charges were unlikely because "even if the animal had been placed in the freezer alive, there would be no way of showing intent by Sperlbaum."
Yetter acknowledged tension at work because of her concerns about Sperlbaum, whom she believes rushes his duties.
Burke said Yetter and another employee who raised concerns continue to work at the Humane Society. He said employees can have differences of opinion and do good work.