By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A north Georgia animal shelter's "Lucky Dog" adoption program deceived pet owners by promising not to euthanize their dogs for a $100 fee, then killed them instead, authorities said.
Dozens of animals were euthanized in this way, a 60-count indictment alleges.
Charges against the shelter's former director, Lowanda "Peanut" Kilby, include theft by taking, theft by deception, computer theft and racketeering, Rabun County District Attorney Brian Rickman told Reuters on Thursday.
Pet owners surrendered their animals to the Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter for a variety of reasons, including the owners' failing health or an animal's incompatibility with children or grandchildren, Rickman said.
"They had researched and were specifically looking for a shelter that did not euthanize," the prosecutor said.
After paying $100 for a guarantee that the pets would not be killed, the owners would receive emails and hand-written notes from the shelter saying that the pets had been adopted, said Rickman.
"In fact the pets were already dead," the district attorney said.
The criminal investigation was prompted by stories about the shelter on Atlanta television station WAGA, the prosecutor said. Kilby was later removed as director and the shelter was transferred to a new nonprofit group.
The indictment, returned Wednesday, alleges that Kilby received money from owners of 28 animals who were falsely promised that their pets would not be euthanized. She is also charged with stealing more than $10,500 in shelter funds.
Kilby turned herself into authorities Wednesday and was released on bond, said Rickman. She could not be immediately reached for comment.
In an interview with WAGA last year, Kilby denied the allegations.
"No kill means no kill," she told the television station. When presented with the case of one "Lucky Dog" who was euthanized, Kilby said it was because the animal had a failing heart.
(Editing by Jane Sutton and Andrew Hay)