CINCINNATI (WXIX) – A former Hamilton County animal shelter employee is facing a theft charge in Springdale.
Investigators believe the suspect scammed a local veteran, Nick Nunlist, who needed a helping hand.
For about a year, Nunlist had a dog named “Sam,” who he described as a loveable companion that helped him with his anxiety.
However, when Nunlist fell on hard times and had to live in a hotel earlier this year, he decided it would be best to give Sam to an animal rescue.
Nunlist said he reached out to 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 Vice told Nunlist she was with a rescue called “Lucky Tails” and would pick Sam up and take him in, as long as Nunlist paid a fee.
“It would be a $300 pick-up charge, and a $50 travel charge for her to come and get him,” Nunlist said. “I was understanding that he was gonna go to a foster home, not the pound, because that’s where I didn’t want him to go.”
According to Nunlist, he paid Vice the fee, and she came to the hotel and took Sam on February 28. All seemed well, until about half an hour later, when Nunlist and his niece Trina Shields got an alert from Sam’s microchip.
Vice, police said, had pocketed Nunlist’s money and taken Sam straight to the shelter where she worked.
“I just feel like I stabbed him [Sam] in the back. People are about the money, so, she got me for 350 bucks. It’s the dog. I hurt the dog, and that’s what hurts me,” Nunlist said. “I think she should go to jail for awhile ‘cause she stole my money. She deceived me. She lied. Has she done it to other people? If she has, I hope they come out and let them know.”
Police believe Vice was never with the rescue she had claimed to be connected to. The county animal shelter where she did work at the time has a surrender fee that ranges from $50 to $75.
Stephanie Weddle with Furgotten Dog Rescue said anything higher than that is unlikely and unreasonable.
“This could happen to anyone, especially someone who is so passionate and dedicated to their dog like Nick, because to Nick, he paid $350 that he didn’t have to ensure that his dog went to a good home,” Weddle said.
Ray Anderson, a spokesperson for Cincinnati Animal CARE, said Vice was terminated immediately after the allegations came to light.
He said they have determined Vice acted alone and have no reason to believe the theft has happened before or since.
Anderson also said in a statement: “We were appalled a staff member would take advantage of a person in need and bring a dog into the shelter under false pretenses while the shelter is critically over capacity. Cincinnati Animal CARE has cooperated fully with the detectives involved in this case and looks forward to justice being served.”
Nunlist said he has been told Sam is still at the shelter. Weddle is working to have Sam placed into a foster home per Nunlist’s request.
Weddle says if you find yourself needing to surrender 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 has not been arrested and is considered “wanted” on a theft charge.
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