MISSION, Kan. — The Kansas Department of Agriculture has ordered Danielle Reno, who runs Unleashed Pet Rescue, to stop operating as an animal shelter at a t-shirt business in Lenexa, Kansas, which is not licensed to house animals.
The department also ordered Unleashed Pet Rescue in Mission, Kansas to pay over $15,000 in civil penalties for violating the Kansas Pet Animal Act on Wednesday.
Nearly half of the civil penalty sum comes from health inspection violations that were documented during a single inspection in late October, records from the department show.
During the inspection, the shelter was cited for numerous violations, including cockroaches, inadequate spacing in dog enclosures, floors completely covered in water, a lack of resting surfaces for cats in cages, inadequate ventilation, fecal matter on the walls, and more, records show.
The department continues to seek revocation of the shelter’s license.
The action comes two months after FOX4 Problem Solvers released its investigation into the controversial pet shelter.
Cockroaches, overcrowding, and poor management are just a few of the many complaints Problem Solvers received on Unleashed Pet Rescue during a four-month investigation into the shelter.
Last Monday, the department issued an emergency order to Unleashed Pet Rescue to stop taking animals.
Reno has maintained that the shelter operates at the highest standards and has denied many of the allegations made against her by former employees and volunteers.
New findings from Kansas investigation
Records obtained by FOX4 Problem Solvers from the department over the weekend reveal the city of Lenexa discovered Reno had been using an unlicensed property to house or maintain “overflow” of animals in the shelter’s care.
Terra Merys, a former employee at Unleashed Pet Rescue, said relocating animals to avoid the state’s detection is not an uncommon practice within the shelter.
“Yeah, I do know of dogs being put into cars and being shuffled around and being put into the Unleashed van and all stacked up in kennels,” Merys said.
She said she understood that the reason animals were being moved around is that there were too many dogs in the shelter.
“It’s always a scramble when the state shows up,” she said.
A former volunteer with the shelter sent Problem Solvers social media messages which show Unleashed Pet Rescue volunteers asking staff to drive to the t-shirt business to take care of dogs there on Reno’s behalf.
Records show animal control officers responded to an animal welfare complaint in late February at the t-shirt printing business in Lenexa.
Reno’s employees told officers that two dogs currently housed there were Reno’s foster dogs and that “the premises is often used to maintain dogs available for adoption, where prospective owners would meet the dogs and conduct the transfer of animals there, and where dogs would rotate to and from (the shelter),” records show.
FOX4 called Reno’s attorney for comment at least two times but did not receive a response. FOX4 also visited the t-shirt business in Lenexa but Reno was not on site.
Nearly a week after FOX4’s initial investigation, the department said it had received over 20 new complaints.
In early March, the city of Mission announced it was no longer partnering with the pet shelter. The city had, until recently, listed the shelter as its source to house missing and stray animals.
“If Danielle or Unleashed is not doing anything wrong, then the investigation will prove that – that’s how I look at it,” Gillian Gollehon, former volunteer and animal foster at Unleashed Pet Rescue, previously told FOX4. “Any backlash that I’ve received, that’s what I tell people, ‘If they find nothing wrong, I trust in the process of the system.’”
In January, Problem Solvers were invited on a tour of the shelter. At the time, Reno said she only had 37 dogs in the shelter at the time.
A six-year review of state inspection reports from the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health reveals that for Unleashed Pet Rescue, 37 dogs is remarkably low.
In 2022 alone, Unleashed Pet Rescue was inspected at least five times. During each inspection, data shows the number of adult dogs housed in the shelter never stayed below 65.
In March, the facility had 91 adult dogs. In September, it had 89, state inspections showed.
“There were always too many dogs,” Merys said. “Always.”