Shelter with a History of Animal Cruelty to Close, Asks Public to Adopt Pets in Danger of Being Euthanized

SPCA of Connecticut in Monroe is closing. Some are sad. Others are relieved.

The property where the shelter operates at 359 Spring Hill Rd in Monroe is under foreclosure and going to Auction on May 6, 2023.

A press release issued Feb 28 quotes a volunteer saying, “We are most concerned that any animal not adopted or placed in another shelter would be at high risk of being euthanized.”

As of March 6, 2023, the SPCA of Connecticut, which is not affiliated with the ASPCA or SPCA International, said on its home page says that 13 dogs and 6 cats still need homes.

“Many of these cats and dogs are in perfect health, are socialized, and are highly adoptable. Some of these cats and dogs, while loving and affectionate, are older and/or have medical conditions. There are also a significant number of very shy or otherwise behaviorally less desirable animals that need patient homes understanding of their special needs….We are most concerned that any cats or dogs not adopted would be at high risk of being euthanized. This letter is a desperate plea for their lives.”

A GoFundMe page to raise money for for vet care and re-homing animals had exceeded its $25,00 goal, with over $27,000 as of March 6.

The fundraising page says: “Donations are still desperately needed as we have several ‘unadoptable’ cats and dogs that to save their lives we will have to buy them a spot at another shelter (placement fees).”

acker in litchfield courthouse
Charged with animal cruelty, then director of SPCA of Connecticut, Fred Acker during a break in court proceedings, Litchfield Courthouse, December 2012. Credit: Leslie Yager

SPCA of Connecticut was opened by Fred Acker in 1999.

Over the years Acker has had two convictions on charges of animal cruelty.

Back 2012, Mr. Acker was arrested and charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty after animal control found dogs in under-heated and under-lit conditions in a rented barn. That was before the shelter moved to 359 Spring Hill Rd in Monroe. Over 60 dogs were seized by animal control.

Acker faced a maximum of 15 years in prison. In 2014 he was convicted on 15 counts of animal cruelty stemming from that cold day. In Litchfield Superior Court Judge John Danaher III gave Acker a six-month suspended sentence and two years of probation, and he avoided jail time.

Acker then faced animal cruelty charges in Superior Court in Milford.

At his sentencing hearing in 2016, Judge Denise Markle said, “Something just doesn’t smell right..You’ve got some negatives against you. You’ve made neighbors unhappy. You’ve been involved with law enforcement, and both neighbors and people who visit the shelter you’ve made unhappy. I am not pleased by the fact that you do not give proper deference to the laws in place…”

SPCA of Connecticut. File photo

State’s attorney Matt Kalthoff said at the time that Acker’s conduct since previous animal cruelty convictions in Bethlehem suggested he was “more defiant than contrite.”

In 2016 Acker was sentenced to one year in prison, followed by three years probation and was told he was not allowed to own animals or work with any animal rescue groups.

While out on bond, Acker vanished and remains on the lam.

At some point during Acker’s travails, Susan Fernandez, formerly the group’s kennel manager, was appointed “director.”

A check of the Secretary of the State website shows SPCA of CT as having forfeited its business status, not having filed an annual report since 2014.

Partly in response to Acker, state legislators in Connecticut took up the cause of animal welfare.

At a 2016 press conference held in Monroe by then House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), she said, “We all believe in second chances, but I don’t know of numerous convictions in two courts, within a 12 month period, of animal cruelty yet someone is still allowed to get out and rescue and shelter animals.”

In 2017 a law was passed requiring Connecticut animal shelter facilities not located in a home be registered, regulated, inspected and provided oversight by the state.

At the time, Klarides (R-114) said in a statement, “For years, Fred Acker and others got away with abusing and neglecting animals at their private shelters and were able to continue to operate an animal shelter after being convicted of animal abuse. I found this out after visiting a shelter to adopt a cat for myself. I was sick and angry that as a state we let this happen. Passing this legislation today will help prevent sick and disturbed individuals from operating an animal shelter.”

In 2020, Craig Malisow wrote a scathing critique in The Houston Press about dogs shipped from Texas to shelters in Connecticut, including SPCA of Connecticut.

“The animals are delivered to the SPCA of Connecticut, run out of a foreclosed home that is set for court-ordered auction in March. The home doubled as the residence of former director Fred Acker…”

Fast forward to today.

In a post on a Reddit community called Pet Rescue Exposed, a group that “advocates for responsible rescues and reputable preservation breeders,” is skeptical:

“SPCA of CT closing due to financial collapse after ignoble history of abuse, neglect, lies, etc. – The drama is strong in this one….Forgive my cynicism; I watched a no-kill facility near me claim to be on the verge of closing for about 15 years. When they finally did close, they shipped their unadoptable pit bulls off to other no-kills.”

See also:

Milford Judge Sentences SPCA of Connecticut’s Fred Acker to One Year in Prison Sept 13, 2016

In Monroe, Home to Fred Acker’s SPCA of Connecticut, Legislators Vow to Toughen Rescue and Shelter Laws

Convicted of Animal Cruelty: Still “Rescuing” Dogs

A Conversation with Fred Acker, Former Director of SPCA of Connecticut

ACO Judy Umstead: It’s Hard to Keep up With Fred Acker’s Lies