Animal lovers are holding their breaths to see if Darrell and Kelly Mayfield, credibly accused of animal cruelty, neglect and financial mismanagement during their 18-month tenure at the nonprofit Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS), will voluntarily turn over the beleaguered facility to a self-appointed new board on Friday.
Subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Comal County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), the Mayfields were shopping the $581,850 property in Startzville in mid-February when a loose coalition of Canyon Lake residents decided to finally believe the animal advocates who’d painstakingly documented the ongoing horrors at CLASS since June 2021.
As that group picketed the shelter and spoke to a television reporter on Feb. 23, Debbie England, administrator of the popular, 27,000-member Everything Canyon Lake, TX Facebook page, separately issued a press release announcing that she, realtors Jeremy Switt and Leslee Rapp, CASA CEO Normal Blackwell, and Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area Director Sarah Hammond were stepping in to form an interim board to oust the Mayfields.
In her statement, England promised “total and complete” transparency at CLASS, which has a lengthy, well-documented history of animal neglect and financial mismanagement since 2013.
“This has been a peaceful negotiation with the current board, and we were in discussion before any protests were formed,” she said. “The goal is to stay focused on the animals. The current priority is improving conditions for them while starting the process of an amicable transition of responsibilities away from the current management. We all realize that the current situation is unacceptable, and we ask for patience as the process will include many moving pieces. We appreciate the community and their passion for these animals, we hope to show we all have the same goals.”
In an interview last week, Blackwell said the Mayfields promised to hand over the keys on Friday.
“I would like to say that I would like this shelter to thrive because the community needs it,” she said. “There’s a lot of potential in this area, especially with the growth. There are people moving in, there’s potential to do a new capital campaign…I have connections that are interested in donating, but they want to get to a good spot.”
So far, everything looks good on Facebook, where the Mayfields show every sign of honoring their pledge to walk away by week’s end.
“We are not out, we are thinking ahead!” Kelly Mayfield said Monday, asking for funds. “We want next week to go over smoothly for the new crew. We want to make sure all essential supplies are stocked and available.”
Over the last week, Mayfield also posted images of dogs and cats still available for adoption, offered up slots at an upcoming spay/neuter clinic, added photos of recent adopters, wrote about the farm animals who’d left and the pigs that remained, and cryptically uploaded an image of two people dancing in CLASS’s lobby.
“The next week is going to be bittersweet for so many,” Mayfield said. “Sometimes you just have to take a minute and dance.”
The Mayfields have declined almost all requests for an interview with MyCanyonLake.com, which has closely followed developments at the shelter since first reporting about deplorable conditions at CLASS in June 2022.
England said the new interim board has plans to hit the ground running.
Its main priority is restoring public trust that funds will not be mismanaged as they have in the past, she said.
“With this new board of directors, with total and complete transparency at its very core, we feel the Canyon Lake community can come together like never before to make this shelter a successful, robust piece of the puzzle to end pet homelessness in Comal County,” she said.
Plans include bringing in a third-party accounting professional, an experienced grant writer, reconnecting with other shelters, modifying policy only to accept cats and dogs from Canyon Lake, keeping records, vetting all animals, deep-cleaning the shelter, asking veterinarians to visit and inspect the property, building a volunteer base, reducing intake numbers and “create a humane and sustainable” operating plan.