Former LMAS director Jessica Jo Montgomery
Former LMAS director Jessica Jo Montgomery

Louisville Metro Animal Services Director Jessica Montgomery resigned from her position this week, following a letter of reprimand she received last month from a state veterinary board due to an illegal euthanasia she performed on a city employee’s dog.

A press release sent from Mayor Greg Fischer’s office on Thursday noted that former LMPD officer Ozzy Gibson was appointed to be the new LMAS director and that Montgomery resigned this week “to pursue another opportunity in Florida,” which was not identified.

Fischer’s press release lauded the improvement of the live release and adoption rate of LMAS over the last three years but made no mention of the investigation that was launched last September by the LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit; that investigation was in response to a complaint alleging that Montgomery violated the law while euthanizing the pet dog of a Fischer administration employee in his own home.

According to a memo written by LMPD Public Integrity Unit supervisor Sgt. Robert Banta in February — which the Fischer administration only released after the resignation was announced Thursday — Montgomery “performed the euthanasia without proper certification as an animal euthanasia specialist as outlined in KAR 16.090.”

Despite this violation, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office recommended in January that the LMPD not file a criminal complaint against Montgomery, stating that she had fully cooperated with the investigation and it was not in the public’s interest to prosecute such a case. Susan Ely, director of the office’s criminal division, noted that while Montgomery did not yet have the proper certification to perform the euthanasia, the dog was gravely ill and her “intentions were good.” Ely added that while Montgomery was not properly licensed, she had performed over 1,000 euthanasia procedures while serving as a military veterinarian in Iraq, and the specialist that accompanied her last year stated that the procedure was performed correctly with no complications.

Despite the original complaint stating that Montgomery did not have the proper certification to transport the drug used in the euthanasia procedure last year, Ely also noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency had declined to take any action on the matter.

This case was also investigated in early 2016 by the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners, the state agency which oversees the licensure and certification of veterinarians. According to a letter sent by Montgomery to the agency in March — obtained by IL through an open records request — she admitted that she did not have the proper certification to perform the procedure but did not know that at the time. Montgomery apologized to the board, stating “this whole experience has certainly been a huge lesson, one time incident, and will not be repeated.”

According to a settlement in that case reached by the board and Montgomery in June, she was required to submit “an administrative payment” of $100 to the state treasury, while the board would “place an official letter of reprimand in the Respondents’ Board file reminding her to maintain awareness of all state and federal euthanasia law.” The settlement agreement went on to state that these measures would close the case and resolve all matters in the controversy, and the board would make no referral of the matter to any other regulating agency.

The LMPD investigation of the case was still ongoing this week — including a review of potential administrative and LMAS policy violations that were not the focus of the criminal investigation — but Fischer’s spokesman Chris Poynter stated today that “Due to the resignation of the employee, an internal review has ceased.”

The LMPD investigation of Montgomery and the euthanasia were first reported last December by Jonathan Meador for Louisville.com.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]