YUKON, Pa. (KDKA) – A disagreement between a property owner and a Westmoreland County animal shelter ended with criminal charges being filed. And this isn’t the first time the disputes led to state police getting involved.
Sarah Jo Smith is the director of Pet Adoption League in Yukon, where more than 500 animals a year were rescued and put up for adoption at the organization’s shelter. This will come to an end Wednesday.
“It’s been 9 years that this fight has continued and the harassment got worse and worse,” says Smith.
The shelter and Barbara Flanigan — the owner of the property and former director of Pet Adoption League until she was ousted by the board — has been in disagreements over the years over a number of issues from rent to right of way. Some incidents even led to criminal charges filed against Flanigan, resulting in time behind bars.
A few days ago, Flanigan found herself in state police handcuffs again.
“Yeah, it’s gotten really crazy,” says Smith.
According to Smith, Flanigan verbally harassed volunteers moving items out of the shelter.
“The day we were carrying things out, it was continuing harassment all day,” says Smith.
According to Smith and state police investigators, despite a no trespassing ruling, Flanigan entered the building, confronting Smith and others, and things got physical.
“She reached her arm and grabbed my arm. The girls started spraying water in her face. She still wouldn’t let go,” says Smith.
Flanigan didn’t want to discuss her latest legal matters in detail with KDKA’s Ross Guidotti, other than to categorically deny them.
However, she did make clear her feelings on Pet Adoption League leaving.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that they are finally leaving my property,” says Flanigan.
Smith, however, doesn’t feel as good about leaving a place and the thousand of animals she’s dedicated decades of her life to.
“It’s sad,” says Smith. “It’s sad that this is how it ends.”