Humane Society of the Delta sues Helena-West Helena for closure

The shelter was closed in October 2021 after a disputed water bill led to a search in which police said they found animals in inhumane conditions.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Humane Society of the Delta said it is suing the City of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, and Mayor Kevin Smith for its forced closure in October 2021.

the court case claimed that the city and the mayor “wrongfully seized property that forced the closure of the county’s only animal shelter.” And he said the shelter, located at 8480 Phillips Road 300, is not under the jurisdiction of the city or the mayor.

Animal cruelty charges and director’s arrest

This all comes after Helena-West Helena police claimed they found inhumane conditions at the shelter in October 2021 after being called by the city’s water department, which was trying to collect an overdue water bill. of $29,000.

After the city says former volunteers reported animal abuse, Helena-West Helena Police and Phillips County Deputies executed a search warrant at the shelter and mobile home of manager Reta Merritt Roberts on the property. They said they found 240 dogs and 45 cats, many of whom were malnourished and some had infected open wounds. Investigators said several of the animals were in their own feces and urine, and several rats, both alive and dead, were around the property.

Roberts was arrested and charged at the time with 285 counts of aggravated cruelty to a dog, cat or horse, which is a Class D felony. The prosecutor handling Robert’s case told ABC24 Monday that he had just received the case last week and that no hearing date was currently set.

RELATED: Humane Society of the Delta Director Faces 285 Animal Cruelty Charges

The shelter forced to close

The lawsuit said the mayor told city workers to padlock the doors to the private shelter and would not let the owner, the shelter’s 18 workers or legal counsel enter. He said the mayor and city employees then removed personal property and veterinary supplies belonging to the owner of the shelter.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the city never provided any funding or support to the shelter and has no ownership over it or what was inside.

We need volunteers now to help feed and water the over 300 animals housed at the animal shelter which is located at 8480…

posted by Mayor Kevin Smith on Thursday, October 21, 2021

RELATED: Some Helena-West Helena Dogs Are Getting the Care They Needed and Deserved

Dispute over a large water bill

The lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the Delta also focused in part on this contested water bill. He claimed the city’s bills for May and June 2021 were well above the shelter’s average usage and that the shelter reported excessive spikes. The lawsuit said the shelter hired a licensed plumber who found no leaks or problems to explain the sudden increase, “and that it was physically impossible for the piping supplying the HSD to supply so much water even if it was running at full capacity for the whole month.

The lawsuit said the city’s water department never assessed the situation or adjusted bills and violated state regulations from May to September 2021.

What happens now?

The lawsuit says the shelter has remained closed since May 2022, with no water service, and the site has been burglarized multiple times.

‘What the mayor did was not only unfair,’ said Gloria Higginbotham, owner of a local business which the lawsuit said provided funding to the shelter, ‘but also a huge disservice to the community, which does not has nowhere left to house and manage its growing population of strays. Citing a disputed water bill, the mayor unnecessarily closed our establishment and dramatically worsened the city’s stray animal problem, with no alternative solution. in sight.

Read the full trial HERE.