Breckenridge Texan

Police chief addresses questions about Animal Shelter investigation

Police chief addresses questions about Animal Shelter investigation
March 16
11:23 2022

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

With a criminal investigation underway at the City of Breckenridge Animal Shelter, citizens in the community have been left with many questions about what happened at the shelter late last year and early this year, as well as about the future of the facility.

The investigation came about after several dogs at the City facility were discovered in early January to have been malnourished and neglected, with one dog allegedly having died. Additionally, the city’s animal control officer at the time reportedly resigned after the situation was discovered. The dogs were removed from the facility by the Stephens County Humane Society and taken to a local veterinarian and then fully recovered in another facility, according to those familiar with the case.

During a recent interview with the Breckenridge Texan, Breckenridge Police Chief Bacel Cantrell addressed many of the questions. However, because there is an active investigation underway, Cantrell said he could not discuss many of the specifics of the criminal case under investigation.

Also, since the incident came to light, there have been several changes made in the Animal Control operation to prevent the situation from happening again. For example, the police department has hired a new full-time Animal Control officer and a part-time employee for the facility is expected to start soon. They have also added a physical sign-in log at the shelter that anybody who enters the shelter has to sign. Each week, a copy of the sign-in log is sent to the Breckenridge City Manager’s office.

One question many people have is: Why was the city not more public and forthcoming about the situation when it was first discovered? For example, why didn’t they issue a public statement or news release about what was going on at the shelter as soon as it was discovered, instead of waiting until it was published and broadcast in local and regional media outlets?

Cantrell said one problem related to public information about the case was that he was out sick the first week after the situation at the shelter was discovered and didn’t have any information at the time. However, he said, he then did interviews with news outlets about the situation, including his interview with the Breckenridge Texan, which ran the story initially.

“I ran down how we found out, steps we took, what we did and (the case) we filed,” he said about his interview with the Breckenridge Texan. “I didn’t do a formal press release, (but) we (Cantrell and the Breckenridge Texan) had a conversation about it.”

Cantrell said he is willing to have a conversation with anyone who wants to discuss the situation and try to answer their questions. However, he said, he can’t discuss the specifics of the investigation.

“But yeah, anybody who has any questions, I’d be happy to have a conversation,” he said. “They can come down to my office, and I’ll have a talk with them, or I can come to their house and talk to them.”

Response to criticism for not getting outside agency to investigate

Another question in the community concerns the Breckenridge Police Department handling the investigation internally instead of using an outside agency since it involves the Breckenridge Police Department. This question has not been raised just by members of the public but also by some active and former law enforcement people the Breckenridge Texan has talked to about the case.

Cantrell said that when the incident was first discovered, the city manager contacted the Texas Rangers and spoke with them; and then Cantrell spoke with them. However, Cantrell said, the case is a fairly straightforward case and his department is more than capable of investigating the case. He said they put together the same facts that any other department would have put together and he believes that once the details of the case come out and are made public, everyone will see it’s a solid investigation.

“The Texas Rangers said, ‘Hey if ya’ll need anything, give us a call. I think you are more than capable of handling this investigation,’” Cantrell said.

He said they started documenting the evidence for the case the moment they found out about the situation.

The police chief said that there were rumors around town that officers cleaned up the shelter and tried to hide the problem. “That’s not true,” he said. “As soon as we found out, we (came) up here and took action.”

Cantrell said his department has done a good job with the investigation and built a solid case.

“All the information, all the facts are there (in the investigation report). Everything is there,” he said. “The photographs…we’ve got statements from the Sheriff’s Office, statements from all the officers. I mean it’s, it’s all there.”

The focus of his investigation has been on the criminal offense of neglect of the animals, Cantrell said. And, although a local veterinarian said that it would take several weeks for dogs to get in the condition they were in when they were found emaciated and in unclean kennels on Jan. 4, Cantrell says that he had been at the shelter a couple of weeks earlier and the dogs looked fine.

“I was up here pretty close to the timeline that we went back to, to start this investigation. These dogs weren’t in that shape, and the shelter wasn’t in that shape,” he said. “You know, we’re looking at 14- or 15-, maximum 15-day period.”

He also said that the police department waited a couple of weeks to file the incident because they were waiting to see if the dogs were suffering from any diseases that could have caused them to be in the condition they were in.

“Now, like I said, in this written report, the only thing we changed, was give them food and water, and they got healthy. So that eliminates those issues,” Cantrell said.

How could only one person be responsible for the neglect?

Another question that has been asked by several people is: How could only one person have been responsible for taking care of the dogs seven days a week, especially if they were working as a police dispatcher, too, as has been rumored? Also, if any police officers were helping out during that time, how could they not have noticed the bad condition the dogs were in and reported it?

Cantrell said the answer to those questions and the details are documented in the BPD’s investigation, which he can’t discuss publicly right now because of the ongoing investigation.

However, he said, as far one person being solely responsible for taking care of the dogs, it’s not an unreasonable task.

“Before I hired the last ACO (Animal Control Offer) guy…I did all this myself. It’s not an unreasonable task,” Cantrell said. “He didn’t work this and full-time dispatch. He would cover a shift from time to time…If someone called in, he’d cover a shift. That’s not the issue.”

He said as far as working seven days a week, including on weekends, that has been the case for every animal control officer since the police department took over the operation of the animal shelter over a year ago.

When asked if he believes his investigation will satisfy the public when it comes out, Cantrell said he thinks once everything comes to light, he thinks it will.

He said the District Attorney’s office or the County Attorney’s office can still ask the Texas Rangers to investigate the situation for any reason.

Possibility of Other Charges

Another question is: Is there a possibility that the former animal control officer could face other charges stemming from the investigation, such as official misconduct or tampering with evidence?

Cantrell said first they have to tackle the Animal Neglect charges and then see what stems from that. He said it will depend on what the prosecuting attorney wants to look at.

At this time, no charges have been filed in the case and no one has been arrested.


When asked what he could have done differently that might have prevented the situation from happening, Cantrell said one of the biggest things would have been to have a sign-in log at the animal shelter, like he does now.

“I should have had a log,” he said. “If I had a log down here to log this information in on the comings and goings of who was gonna be here…I should have had a log…that’s the biggest mistake on that. …it’s very, very unfortunate. I’ve got a sign-in, physical sign-in log (now), and I check it. For example, I come up there on Monday, and I know who’s supposed to be up there on Saturday or Sunday, and (if) they’re not on there, we got a problem.”

Cantrell said he wants the people in the community to understand if the police department would have ever thought that nobody was taking care of the animals, they would have done something.

Current Status

Cantrell said anybody is welcome to check out the current conditions at the animal shelter. He said if the animal control officer is at the shelter, anyone can stop by, or they can call and make an appointment and someone will meet them at the shelter.

On Feb. 28, County Attorney Gary Trammel told the Breckenridge Texan that he had returned the case to the Breckenridge Police Department for further investigation. During a phone call on Tuesday, Cantrell said he expected to have the additional information completed and returned to the County Attorney by this Thursday.

Coming up

This is part one of a two-part Breckenridge Texan series on the Breckenridge Animal Facility. The next story will take a closer look at some of the recent changes underway at the animal shelter.

Several dogs look out the back gates of their kennels at the Breckenridge Animal Facility on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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