CINCINNATI (WXIX) — A former Hamilton County animal shelter worker faces larceny charges in Springdale.
Investigators believe the suspect conned a local veteran, Nick Nunlist, who needed a helping hand.
Nunlist had a dog named “Sam” for about a year, whom he described as a loveable companion who helped him with his anxiety.
However, when Nunlist hit hard times and had to live in a hotel earlier this year, he decided it would be best to hand Sam over to an animal rescue.
Nunlist said he contacted Cincinnati Animal CARE, the Hamilton County animal shelter, for help finding a rescue and was put in touch with an employee identified by Springdale police as MeAna Vice .
Court documents show that Vice told Nunlist she was at a rescue called “Lucky Tails” and would pick up and take Sam as long as Nunlist paid a fee.
“It would mean a $300 pickup fee and a $50 travel fee for them to pick him up,” Nunlist said. “I understood that he would go to a nursing home, not the animal shelter, because I didn’t want him to go there.”
According to Nunlist, he paid Vice the fee, and she came to the hotel on February 28 and took Sam with her. All seemed well until Nunlist and his niece Trina Shields received a warning from Sam’s microchip about half an hour later.
Vice, police said, pocketed Nunlist’s money and took Sam straight to the animal shelter where she worked.
“I just feel like I stabbed him [Sam] in the back. People care about the money, so she got me for $350. It’s the dog. I hurt the dog and it hurts me,” Nunlist said. “I think she should go to jail for a while for stealing my money. She cheated on me. She lied. Did she do it to others? If so, I hope they come out and tell them.”
Police believe Vice was never with the ambulance she was allegedly connected to. The county shelter where she worked at the time has a drop-off fee that ranges from $50 to $75.
Furgotten Dog Rescue’s Stephanie Weddle said anything higher was unlikely and unreasonable.
“It could happen to anyone, especially someone who is as passionate and committed to their dog as Nick is because they paid Nick $350 so he didn’t have to make sure his dog went to a good home,” Weddle said.
Ray Anderson, a spokesman for Cincinnati Animal CARE, said Vice was terminated immediately after the allegations became known.
He said they determined Vice acted alone and had no reason to believe the theft happened before or after.
Anderson also said in a statement: “We were appalled that an employee would take advantage of a person in need and bring a dog into the shelter under false pretenses while the shelter is critically overloaded. Cincinnati Animal CARE has cooperated fully with the detectives involved in this case and looks forward to seeing justice served.”
Nunlist said he was told Sam was still at the shelter. Weddle works to place Sam in a nursing home at Nunlist’s request.
Weddle says if you find you need to give up an animal, do your research, look for red flags, and ask to see the facility or foster home ahead of time.
Vice could not be reached for comment. She was not arrested and is considered “wanted” for theft.
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