Complaints filed by a shelter volunteer at the Division of Animal Services on Jan. 21 led to the arrest and arraignment of 22-year-old honor farm inmate Santos Cuara for the alleged cruel handling of animals. According to officials with the Sheriff's Department, witnesses claim to have seen Cuara spray a cat with disinfectant compound after growing frustrated that the animal wouldn't leave its cage.
The suspect was arraigned Jan. 31 in San Luis Obispo on one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
The honor farm houses low-risk offenders at a facility adjacent to the Animal Services pound. Trustees perform routine cleaning and other menial duties at the shelter, among other lines of work.
"It's the first time I've seen anything like this happen," division director Eric Anderson said of the reported incident and the subsequent charges. "We continue to evaluate what we do on a daily basis.
"I don't think [this complaint] is representative of the conduct and standard performance of honor farm trustees."
News of the arrest arrived not long after local animal rights activists publicly criticized the division. Shelter volunteers also offered New Times accounts of an alleged previous episode of animal cruelty by trustees at the county shelter, but the recent alleged event was the first to trigger criminal charges.
"I think this really shows that the system is working," Sheriff's spokesman Brian Hascall said.