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    First-hand accounts detail potential violations, neglect by local animal rescue

    By Eran Hami,


    6 Investigates has been looking into complaints against a local animal rescue operating out of San Patricio County.

    Dogs have been crammed into carriers and transported across the country without proper care, people have paid for animals they never receive, and in some cases, people received animals that haven't been medically cleared and who have died soon after adoption.

    KRIS 6 News spoke with adopters and animal rescue workers and discovered practices that violate the Animal Welfare Act, create financial hardships for adopters and have led to animal deaths.

    Rural Texas Animal No Kill Rescue or Rural TANK Rescue (RTR) was founded in October 2019 by Kayla Denney, a former employee at the Taft Animal Shelter.

    Denney received a national award from PETCO in 2019 , for her work clearing out that shelter and awarded $35,000.

    While the rescue does not have a facility the public can visit, she operates out of San Patricio County.

    Sick Animals

    Texas has the second-highest stray population in the country. In a KRIS 6 News interview in 2021 , Denney said this is why she finds adopters in the Northeastern part of the United States.

    However, on June 30, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources issued a cease and desist order to RTR and Denney, to stop sending animals into the state.

    On June 21, they received a complaint that a dog that recently entered Massachusetts had Parvovirus. An investigation found several dogs on that transport, belonging to RTR, had Parvovirus.

    The State of Massachusetts contacted Denney during their investigation. She told them she did not have the dogs examined by a veterinarian before being transported.

    That's a violation of the Animal Welfare Act , the legal standard on animal care. It requires animals to be disease-free and inspected by a licensed veterinarian within 10 days before transport. They also should have a health certificate from a licensed vet.

    6 Investigates learned these weren't the only dogs RTR transported with Parvovirus.

    Caroline Adams adopted from RTR in December 2021. She and her husband fell for the dog named originally Kraven, which they changed to Tuck.

    "I had four breakdowns while I was pregnant, like hysterical breakdowns, and they were all over the fact that I lost my dog. I had no other hormonal meltdowns except for the fact that my dog was not going to get to meet my baby and that is just and there's no way that, that could ever be fixed," she said.

    RTR was recommended to Adams by a coworker, but the process of adopting from them was surprising to Adams.

    After applying, Adams received a phone call from Denney that lasted under a minute, just letting Adams know she was approved.

    "There was no follow-up questions asking us about our other pets or things that we had been through. And like I said, we had been through the adoption process before and in the past it's been very, with other rescues, very lengthy. I reached out to my references I had put down and our veterinarian and none of them got a phone call," Adams said.

    Adams paid $700 and was happy when Tuck arrived, but she said she did not receive a health certificate like she should have. What she got was a rabies certificate and a handwritten vaccination list, which she believes was forged.

    "I have a copy of Tuck's sibling's record as well and it is very clearly photocopied the only difference is that the name and the gender are different on the pieces of paper, down to the rip in the stickers from the vaccination vial," she said.

    A few weeks after adoption, Adams learned Tuck had heartworm. He was not tested in Texas before he left. Adams said Tuck was two weeks shy of being six months old when he was adopted and was marked "too young to test" on his paperwork.

    Adams said in her contract, it states RTR would provide financial assistance if an animal had a health issue within 10 days of adoption.

    Adams reached back out to Denney, she said she hoped RTR would let Tuck's sibling's families know about the heartworm diagnosis. She also wanted to see if Denney would provide financial assistance.

    After a second message, Denney responded with surprise at the diagnosis. Again, Adams asked Denney to check with Tuck's siblings. That's when Denney stopped responding. Adams reached out to the other families and found out they were positive for heartworm. She did not receive a response from Denney.

    Adams said she was blocked from the RTR Adopters Facebook Group. She then left a negative review on the main RTR Facebook page.

    Tuck eventually was treated and heartworm free, but four months later began having respiratory issues. He went on antibiotics, but didn't seem to get better.

    "He never peed in the house and he had an accident on our bed. And it was just, you could tell that, I knew something was wrong," she said.

    Adams took Tuck to an emergency vet and waited eight hours to be seen. Some tests were run and blood was taken then Tuck went back to the waiting room.

    "They were getting ready to take him back. I had handed over the leash to the vet tech and Tuck collapsed," Adams said.

    It took 45 minutes of CPR to revive Tuck. They found that Tuck had Cardiomyopathy which can cause cardiac arrest. Tuck went into cardiac arrest again, but would not come back a second time.

    Tuck died 11 months after being adopted.

    Adams had a necropsy done on Tuck and found that he was sick well before he was adopted.

    "He had Cardiac Parvo, in addition to the Heartworms, and essentially was just a ticking time bomb with us. We're really truly lucky that he made it as far as he did," Adams said.

    Adams never heard from Denney or anyone associated with RTR.

    "The neglect that he suffered across the board both medically and just with their response, or lack thereof was really unfortunate. Even if they had just responded and said "We're so sorry, this is terrible. We can't offer you any financial assistance, but we'll share your story or share a GoFundMe, or let us know if we can do anything," she said.


    In a story with KRIS 6 News in 2021 , Denney said when she gets animals, they are sent to fosters in the area before being adopted. Fosters are now spread out from Texas to the East Coast according to , the site RTR primarily uses for adoptions.

    In January 2021, an RTR transport truck got stuck in a snowstorm in Virginia. Page Hearn is a local animal rescuer in that area who responded to help the animals. She said what she found shocked her.

    In a Facebook post, Hearn detailed seeing about 100 dogs and cats crammed in the truck. She saw large dogs in crates not big enough for them to stand up. She saw entire litters of puppies, sometimes between six and 10 puppies, in one crate. Hearn said some dogs were defecating blood.

    The Animal Welfare Act requires animals in transport to be fed once a day and have access to water at all times. They must be able to stand up and turn around in their crate. It also states crates cannot have more than four dogs or cats per crate.

    Keri Morales is a former volunteer with RTR who was trying to help the situation from the Coastal Bend.

    “I reached out to a local hotel that was remodeling that delivered blankets. The townspeople delivered food, but when I started to get pictures and people started to correspond back with me, I was horrified of the conditions. I had no idea there were animals fresh out of surgery, if you will, on that transport. It was horrific,” she said.

    Fast forward to December 10, 2022, another RTR transport van was involved in a crash in El Campo, Texas.

    "This is an emotional thing to talk about. It was a terrible day," Morales said.

    Morales said about 48 animals were on board. One dog and one cat died in the crash, another dog had a leg amputated.

    Denney was in Australia during the time of the crash. Several volunteers from Corpus Christi and animal rescues in the El Campo area came out to help find the animals that got out of the van and treat them.

    "I reached out to Kayla on my messenger and over a phone call. I told her blatantly, Kayla I need every dime that the rescue has. I knew there were roughly $50,000 on that transport van..." Morales said. "I was told sitting in my vehicle with other rescuers around me that there was no money for these animals."

    Christine Stransky is president of Wharton County Stray Pet Outreach Team (SPOT), one of the rescues that helped out that month. She had little interaction with Denney, but said Denney was negligent during the whole incident.

    “Kayla was not willing to release any records including the microchip numbers, ever. We had to go under the assumption that the animals had not received proper vet care or a health certificate. I never saw any of those records,” Stransky said.

    Stransky said there wasn't any paperwork for these animals. Had they crossed state lines without that health certificate, it would have been a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

    "The dogs did not go with paperwork, which we were not aware of. We, being the people, the fosters that put these animals on there. We were not aware the dogs did not have proper paperwork and they did not have the paper because the clinic that vetted them was holding the paperwork, because Kayla owed a balance to them of $750," Morales said.

    It was after that crash, Morales realized her suspicions of financial concerns with RTR and stopped volunteering with them.

    “We had made a Facebook page right after the accident and people started gravitating towards the Facebook page to tell me their horror stories. That Kayla was promising them dogs, taking money from them, they weren’t getting the dogs,” Morales said.

    Missing Animals

    Stories have flooded that Facebook group for over a year now.

    One of those stories came from Katie Iandolo of Haverhill, MA. A friend had adopted a dog from RTR, had a good experience, and recommended them to Iandolo. She was looking for a kitten for her daughter.

    She started communicating with Denney who sent her pictures of kittens and Iandolo picked one out, sending $325.

    Iandolo said the transport kept getting pushed back until she was finally told it was arriving. It would be in the middle of the night in a parking lot.

    "I said I was there for the kitten, she was like, 'Oh, I'm so sorry we gave it to a foster by accident.' And I was like, 'OK well my daughter's expecting a kitten when she wakes up,'" Iandolo said.

    Iandolo added there was no paperwork for the animals on the transport.

    Iandolo contacted Denney who offered a fully grown cat that was on the transport. Iandolo said no citing her daughter expecting a kitten. Denney offered to send pictures of the kitten so Iandolo knew it was okay. However, Iandolo said Denney sent her photos of a completely different cat.

    At that point, Iandolo just wanted her money back. For about a month, she heard nothing from Denney and RTR. That is until she threatened legal action.

    "She's like we're working hard on getting your payment back. And I mean, she did, I believe she got it all back to me, but it was over the course of, I believe I received the last payment like a month ago (December). It was like a $50 payment, so it would be like $25 here, $25 there, which isn't very helpful."

    Iandolo never had contact with Denney after that.

    Positive Adoptions

    As mentioned, not all adoptions have been negative with RTR.

    Nancy Bannerman had been searching for the right dog to adopt for two years, until she found Timmy with RTR. Bannerman said she "paid on the higher end" for the dog she named Wasabi. He was being fostered in Farmingham, MA.

    “I look at this little dog and the idea that he could have been destroyed because he was so, so fearful, it just breaks my heart. So, I’m one person that’s very grateful for Kayla,” Bannerman said.

    Wasabi came with all his medical records and vaccinations, Bannerman said. However, she did adopt him while in Boston in June 2023, well after the cease and desist was issued to Denney.

    Bannerman had no knowledge of the cease and desist.

    While Rural TANK filed as a non-profit when it opened, it lost that status in October 2022 because it never filed paperwork with the IRS.

    We spoke with Denney to give her the opportunity to address these claims, however she declined an interview and directed us to her attorney.

    Denney continues to send animals to the Northeast. The State of Massachusetts declined to comment further because it is still investigating.

    There is a complaint against RTR that has been filed with the Texas Attorney General's Office. We were not given specifics to what the complaint is about.

    For the latest local news updates, click here , or download the KRIS 6 News App.

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