ST. LOUIS ( -- PetSmart is suspending their relationship with one of the largest no kill animal shelters in the St. Louis area. It follows recent allegations about the organization operates.

A former employee and board member at Open Door Animal Sanctuary told News 4 they're concerned about how drugs are administered inside the facility.

Cat at Chesterfield

Open Door Animal Sanctuary in House Springs, which has been around since 1975, cares for nearly 400 animals each day. Some are adopted at the PetSmart in Chesterfield.

“I've been involved with this organization at least eight years,” said Ashley Sims, who most-recently served on the Open Doors board but was removed from that position by other board members in October.

Sims says during her tenure she expressed concerns about the way animals were cared for.

“I had seen from the veterinarian there some animals that had gone years without getting their shots, there was one example of a cat going seven years without seeing a vet,” Sims told News 4.

Facilities like Open Door are overseen by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. In June of 2018 the agency conducted an investigation. A former veterinarian at the facility echoed similar concerns, telling investigators "some of the animals had gone years without a vaccination or veterinary examination.” That vet also stated, "some shelter animals went days without veterinary care" and there were instances "where treatment was initiated without veterinary approval."

Some of Sims’ concerns focused on the organization’s executive director, Tracie Quackenbush.

“The board is aware employees and the executive director has given rabies shots and told employees to give rabies shots to animals,” Sims said.

The state is clear, it's not illegal for someone other than a veterinarian to administer a rabies vaccine, however a veterinarian must administer rabies vaccinations for it to be considered an official rabies vaccination.

The report stated the allegation that Quackenbush and another individual were administering rabies vaccines was not substantiated during the state investigation. Open Door staff denied it, and three veterinarians stated they were personally administering the vaccines.

The investigation partially substantiated another claim - that Quackenbush and another individual forged a veterinarian’s signature on rabies certificates, and that Quackenbush, by her own admission, signed a vets name on rabies certificates for cats housed at the Chesterfield PetSmart.

Former Open Door employee Tina Roesch told News 4 she was banned from the facility in April 2018. She also says she expressed concerns about animal care. Roesch shared a story about what happened after she was bit by a dog at the facility.

“Bites happen all the time,” Roesch explained. “Anybody would be bit, Tracie would just say get Cephalexin out of the dog kennels, it's in a plastic cabinet, used to never be locked.”

“You took drugs intended for animals?” asked News 4 Investigates’ Chris Nagus. “Absolutely,” Roesch, who was an employee for almost three years, answered. Roesch said the drugs were given by the staff, as opposed to going to urgent care.

“We were made to feel guilty if we went to urgent care because of the copay,” said Roesch. “That copay was for the dogs, that's how Tracie would present it to us.”

During the state investigation, Quackenbush denied that prescription or controlled drugs had been dispensed to employees.

The State of Missouri did not speak with Roesch for its investigation but notes Cephalexin is a drug approved for human use, but it should be prescribed by a medical doctor.

The facility was most recently inspected in February. No major infractions were discovered.

On Wednesday, News 4 received the following statement from Tracie Quackenbush, who called the allegations false.

We are aware that two individuals, Ashley Sims and Tina Roesch have made false allegations regarding issues of this nature to members of the media and possibly others. We are saddened that this former volunteer and this former staff person have chosen to attempt to discredit our organization in this way. We appreciate that you are willing to report the accurate facts regarding our facility that are detailed below.

Open Door Animal Sanctuary is a licensed animal shelter in the State of Missouri and a federally tax exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization founded in 1975. Our mission is to provide homeless cats and dogs with the highest quality of life and a second chance to find a forever family. We are a “no-kill” quality of life shelter and only euthanize animals in cases of incurable injury or disease or extreme aggression. Our services include dog and cat rescue, care, and adoption in addition to our low-cost, needs based spay/neuter/vaccination clinic for the public. We serve an average of 350 animals each day, 25 clinic clients each week, and 1,200 adoptive families each year.

Our veterinary services are administered by paid staff veterinarians and include the provision of rabies vaccinations and the prescription, dispensing, and use of animal medications on a daily basis including those regulated by the Missouri Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. We are in compliance with all requirements of this agency (2018 review) and other applicable regulatory agencies including the Missouri Department of Agriculture (2019 review) and are not operating in violation of or outside of our scope of service as a licensed animal facility. Our facility does not dispense controlled prescription medications to the public nor allow our staff to prescribe and/or administer medication and vaccinations that are required to be prescribed/administered by a veterinarian. Our facility has the required procedures, staffing, and safeguards in place to assure any misuse or abuse of vaccinations, controlled substances, and other medications do not occur.

As for now, PetSmart says open door can't facilitate adoptions at their facility until they are declared in good standing.

An Open Door representative made it clear to News 4 all cats at PetSmart got rabies shots, and they will work with the company to remedy any concerns.

UPDATE [April 25 at 5:30 p.m.]:

Open Door released another statement saying: 

We are aware that two individuals have made false allegations regarding our programs and our organization to members of the media and other entities. We would like to inform the public that our organization always has been and remains a licensed animal facility in Missouri which is in compliance with all required protocol, documentation, staffing, and safeguards in place as required by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and all other applicable regulatory agencies. Our operations are continuing uninterrupted and all of our animals are safe and being cared for at the same high level we have always provided.

We are saddened that this former volunteer and this former staff person, who were removed from Open Door Animal Sanctuary, have for their own reasons chosen to attempt to discredit our organization in a way that could impact our life saving work. We are also highly concerned that the individual behind this organized effort to malign our organization is raising funds around the publicity this has caused for his own organization, the Animal Justice League of America. We are investigating the activities of all individuals and entities involved in this effort and will pursue appropriate legal remedies to stop these false accusations.

Open Door has been a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and a licensed animal shelter in the State of Missouri in good standing since 1975. We serve an average of 350 animals each day and rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome an average of 1,100 each year. We also support the community and work to reduce the unwanted pet population with a low cost spay/neuter/vaccination program and a pet food pantry for low income families. We ask the community for their support at this difficult time as our programs are supported 100% by donations. We also ask the public to trust that we will continue to meet our mission of providing homeless cats and dogs with the highest quality of life and a second chance to find a forever family. Thank you.

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