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Former ACCT Philly employee charged in connection to death of family's dog

Former ACCT Philly employee facing felony cruelty charge
Former ACCT Philly employee facing felony cruelty charge 02:27

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A former employee of one of Philadelphia's largest animal shelters now faces a felony cruelty charge in connection with the death of a family's dog.

The disturbing details released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office are much different than what officials with the shelter initially told Eyewitness News last year.

"This is justice for Saint," Tiffany Lavelle said.

For Tiffany Lavelle, her dog Saint was her world.

"He was my shadow, a playmate. A food goblin, a protector," she said.

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Last August, the Bridesburg woman's ex-boyfriend was out driving with Saint when he was pulled over and arrested. An officer took Saint to ACCT Philly's shelter in Hunting Park to wait for family to pick him up.

However, that never happened. Saint had suffered injuries and was put down.

"I was mad, I was hurt and confused," she said.

An ACCT Philly official initially explained to Eyewitness News after the incident last year that an employee had used a metal catch pole instead of a leash to transfer Saint from the police car to the shelter.

"Based on his behavior that was reported to us, as well as the behavior staff observed, he was brought into our building on a control pole," Sarah Barnett said.

But the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office investigated and found that "Saint was observed to be in fair condition with no visible injuries, and showed no aggressive behavior."

"He never had any issues," Lavelle said.

ACCT Philly also said last year Saint bit the catch pole and broke his jaw.

But according to the DA's office, the police officer who drove Saint to ACCT Philly saw the employee, Terell Walton, making jabbing motions with the catch pole before then hearing a yelp from his patrol car.

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The DA's office says part of the incident was captured on camera.

Now, 31-year-old Walton is charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal in connection to Saint's death.

"Things need to change," Lavelle said.

ACCT Philly declined an on-camera interview but wrote in a statement it is making changes. Read the full statement below.

"ACCT Philly cares for more than 15,000 animals each year as the only open intake shelter and animal care and control provider in the City of Philadelphia. Since 2019, almost nine out of every 10 animals have been adopted, returned to their owners, or sent to rescue. The fact that Saint did not have that outcome is heartbreaking and unacceptable. And to now have additional information that indicates the injury happened while in our care is deeply troubling. Nothing we can say will change this, or eliminate the deep hurt Saint's family has experienced.

During ACCT Philly's internal investigation in 2021, we were not able to obtain all the information that led to this arrest. When we were made aware that investigating agencies had additional information, we immediately took appropriate action.

In 2021, we implemented changes in policy to prevent a tragic situation like this from ever happening again. Additionally, upon learning that additional information had led to cruelty charges, we arranged for a two-day dog handling training by outside experts for our entire staff. We will continue to conduct this expert training annually, in addition to ongoing internal training."

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