Poor Governance, not Animal Abuse Allegations, Finally Rids CLASS of Controversial Couple

painted horse
This painted horse was a featured guest at Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society's fundraiser and low-cost spay/neuter clinic Saturday. Image courtesy of CLASS.
This painted horse was a featured guest at Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society's fundraiser and low-cost spay/neuter clinic Saturday. Image courtesy of CLASS.

On Wednesday, a cute puppy with a raised paw and the words, “I’m sorry” popped up on the personal Facebook page of Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS)’s newly elected president Debbie England.

She apologized for allowing former CLASS President Darrell Mayfield and his wife, former Vice President Kelly Mayfield, to continue to work at the shelter after they officially stepped down at a board meeting on March 21, ending 1 ½ years of well-documented animal cruelty, abuse and neglect at the shelter.

But the animals weren’t the issue.

“I told my son the other day, ‘I’ve made so many decisions regarding this CLASS takeover, I hope I haven’t made any mistakes,’” England posted. “Well, I did make one, so far. I made the decision to keep Mrs. Mayfield running the CLASS Facebook page and the upcoming spay/neuter clinics. I should have convened a board meeting and let it be voted on. I failed to do this. In trying to rectify my mistake, Mr. and Mrs. Mayfield are no longer connected to CLASS in any way, shape, or form. I sincerely apologize for any confusion or hurt my actions may have inadvertently caused.”

The announcement seemed to confirm a decision by CASA of Central Texas CEO Norma Blackwell, herself a former CLASS board member, and Brauntex Theatre Executive Director Cheryl Fisher to walk out of that same March 21 meeting because they were uncomfortable with the way it was run.

Out the door with them went a combined $12 million worth of capitol-campaign fundraising expertise and years of experience running nonprofit boards the right way so that mistakes like England’s – no matter how well-meaning or innocent – don’t happen.

Blackwell declined to comment about that meeting, saying only that the Mayfields did not provide enough documentation for the interim board to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with a takeover of the shelter.

Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area (HSNBA) Director Sarah Hammond was at the March 21 meeting too. Like Blackwell and Fisher, she answers to sophisticated boards overseeing millions of dollars in expenditures and is well-versed in the proper governance of board meetings.

“Yes, that meeting did not go as planned, and I cannot really comment as to why, lots of personalities we are juggling here and some very passionate people have opinions on how this should be handled,” she told MyCanyonLake in an email following the meeting. “We did the best we could given the circumstances.”

(To see how meetings are officially supposed to be run, visit mycomalcounty.com and watch a recorded Commissioners Court meeting.)

England took to her preferred platform, Facebook, on March 22 to let her thousands of followers know she’d been blindsided by a chain of events no one was willing to share publicly.

“I was actually prepared for something completely different,” she posted on her very first day as CLASS president. “I honestly can’t even explain why.”

MyCanyonLake.com submitted a public records request to CLASS, the Mayfields (before the new board took over), and England to find out what is actually going on at CLASS. England had promised complete and total transparency under new management.

None of them complied, as they are legally required to under Texas law. England, Hammond, and new Shelter Director Ginger Duryea will not respond to requests for interviews or provide any information about the new board’s plans to turn CLASS around.

However, someone anonymously slipped a video recording of the March 21 meeting to MyCanyonLake.com.

The meeting was a free-for-all.

People walked in and out of CLASS’s lobby. Darrell Mayfield was seated in a recliner, and the person taping the meeting pointed the camera upward and over his legs and abdomen towards his face, which was obscured by backlighting. England had to nod her head or point fingers to get the camera operator to turn towards the person who was speaking at any given time.

There was no call to order, just people talking about their credentials, opinions about running animal shelters, parvo and distemper outbreaks, and how HSNBA operates. Darrell Mayfield grumbled about a disgruntled employee who supposedly made up the infamous Kelly Mayfield text advising her to euthanize a dying puppy by sticking it in a freezer. People spoke over one another, making it difficult to ferret out who was saying what about anything.

With no agendas in sight save a folded paper he held in his hands, Mayfield proceeded to nominate England to the board, mumbling that he had his resignation letter lying somewhere around the shelter. His wife seconded him.

Blackwell tried to ascertain whether a proper quorum was present. Kelly Mayfield had stepped down from the board in February and nobody was certain of her current status. Darrell Mayfield told them she wasn’t an employee but a board member – “nobody else wants it.”

According to a post that was made around Feb. 20 on CLASS’s Facebook page but has been since deleted, the board at that time was comprised of Darrell Mayfield, president, Andrea Mangold, vice president, Amber Clausen, treasurer/secretary, and Ashley Riccardi, board member. Kelly Mayfield was listed as foster/adoption coordinator.

Nobody is sure how or when these board members resigned, but they didn’t last long. Without two board members present, it would be illegal for Mayfield to reappoint his own wife to the board – which would completely invalidate the legitimacy of CLASS’s current board since Kelly Mayfield was not a legitimate board member when she seconded her husband’s motion to nominate England.

At one point during the March 21 meeting, Fisher asked whether anyone was taking official minutes. Darrell Mayfield shrugged and said he was recording the meeting and didn’t have to ask anyone first because “it’s Texas.” He told Fisher, who attended the meeting via Zoom, that everyone was taking notes when nobody in fact could be seen holding a pen or a piece of paper.

It was in this chaotic environment that CLASS was “resurrected” once again, to borrow a term from Leanne Nelson, founder of the Facebook page Comal County Lost and Found Dogs.

Nelson was approached in 2013 by a CLASS board member who asked her to take over the shelter after dogs were found living in deplorable conditions, tadpoles were swimming in green water dishes, and a strong odor of theft hung in the air.

As in 2023, the Comal County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) was forced to open an investigation into the shelter’s former director and her husband regarding the misappropriation of funds and animal abuse and cruelty.

So CLASS is a nonprofit with a serious track record of not getting anything right and a long trail of people who “just want to do what’s right for the animals.”

But today, even CLASS’s strongest critics – the animal rights activists who worked diligently over the last 18 months to document the death, filth and disease at CLASS – feel the new board may finally be headed in the right direction.

Although little official information is available about Duryea’s background, one individual who has spent years advocating for stray animals in Comal County describes her as a well-respected volunteer who worked under Hammond’s direction at HSNBA.

Duryea will make a great shelter director they said.

CLASS also added two advisory board members last week, former Community Resource and Recreation Center of Canyon Lake (CRRC) Operations Director Mike Slough, who will write grant proposals, and veterinarian Lauren Dosal.

Slough’s wife Tracey Snider Slough was named secretary and Katherine Griffin is the shelter’s new treasurer. Volunteer Rebecca Christian was elected to the board on March 21.

CLASS supposedly raised $600 at a Saturday fundraiser, which England described as a “huge success.” Forty-seven animals were fixed at a low-cost spay/neuter clinic there. More clinics are planned in the near future.

“I’ve spent the last two weeks getting to know Mr. and Mrs. Mayfield, employees, long-term volunteers, (Comal County) Animal Control, and anyone with any inside information,” England posted Tuesday. “I have asked countless questions and received detailed answers. I can’t be expected to go in and make changes for the better without due diligence. And I am doing just that. I will assign people based on their strengths, knowledge, and dedication to the current and future animals of CLASS and the organization itself. Towards the end of next month look for ‘The Return of the No Kill in the Hills’ motorcycle run and fundraiser.”

England also said a streamlined process is being developed to manage volunteer scheduling.

“We’ve got you because you got us,” she said in the post on her personal Facebook page. Most posts about CLASS are not shared to the shelter’s page.

Future projects include the addition of large-and-small scales for weighing medication, repair/replacement of broken kennels, and a complete reorganization of shelter resources. All outdoor runs will be shaded and storage space for seasonal items added. All areas will be cleaned. A community pet-food-and-supplies pantry will be added to help low-income Canyon Lake residents provide for their pets.

The new CLASS board now controls all CLASS bank accounts, England said.

CLASS’s website will be updated in the near future to include images of all dogs still at the shelter. Renovations cannot proceed until all of these dogs find homes.

“We are closed to intakes,” England said. “We can’t help any more until we can help those who have been here the longest. Please help us help them. These are some wonderful dogs. They just need a chance.”

Donations can be sent to Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society, P.O. Box 1933, Canyon Lake, 78133-0007.

Wednesday’s post was an abrupt about-face for England. After March 21 she seemed determined to whitewash the Mayfields despite repeated warnings from area animal rescuers and a series of detailed articles in MyCanyonLake.com documenting the Mayfield’s 1 ½-year reign of terror at CLASS which resulted in the deaths of dozens of dogs and a pungent whiff of financial impropriety.

England knew that under the Mayfields, hundreds of dogs had been imported from “the border” and underfunded county shelters; were not properly vetted; were not routinely spayed, neutered or chipped; were not properly quarantined to avoid outbreaks of parvovirus and distemper; were kenneled in small cages for over 18 hours without potty breaks; and were handed over to fosters and adopters without any records.

She knew – unless she didn’t follow Facebook threads on her other Facebook page, Everything Canyon Lake TX,,  read articles about CLASS in MyCanyonLake.com, or believe Spring Branch realtor Melissa Dobbins when she resigned from the CLASS board in disgust in November 2022 – that the Mayfields did not routinely keep shelter records and certainly could not account for donations.

England also wasn’t dissuaded by confirmation by CCSO earlier this year that the Mayfields are the subject of an ongoing investigation by sheriff’s deputies or that they were talking to a leasing agent about selling the Startzville property over a month ago. CLASS is currently appraised at $581,850 by the county’s appraisal district.

Nelson said she warned England in April 2022 that the Mayfields were engaging in irregular and cruel practices. When England asked well-known area dog rescuer Sunni Stalbird for her opinion, she assured England all was well,

Despite all of this, the Mayfields seemed to have England’s vote of confidence and the enthusiastic support of Stalbird, CLASS’s new vice president. Before her election at the March 21 meeting, Stalbird praised the Mayfields for allowing her to kennel dogs she removes from people’s private property without their consent because she doesn’t approve of the way they are treated by deadbeat owners.

“I choose to trespass and do what’s morally right and I’m sorry,” she said. Stealing dogs is Class C misdemeanor theft in Texas, and the Mayfields knew it, according to a former board member.

In the end, it was England’s ignorance of proper governance that brought the Mayfields down, not their penchant for animal cruelty and neglect.

In her apology Wednesday, England lauded the Mayfields for all of their “help in making this transition smooth as possible and for the wealth of information they have given myself and the new staff at the shelter. I truly do thank you both.

“In conclusion, I’m learning and hope you all will forgive me.”

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  1. The Mayfield’s should be given a NO Trespass order and kept away from all things CLASS.

    I wish the New Shelter Manager, and Boatd of Directors the best of luck. I would suggest that that a written recovery plan be developed with timelines and assigned responsibilities be presented for approval at the next Board Meeting.

  2. “Low cost spay?” What a joke! Messages never answered! Spent $700 to spay a dog adopted in January. Chipped? Absolutely not! The vet they used should be arrested for fraud! The icing on the cake….adopted a dog to us without knowledge of it being heart worm positive. I live on social security. Can’t afford the treatment. Again, messages never answered regarding treatment. Donations??? What a joke! Will NEVER support CLASS. We are heavily involved in an organization that supports CLASS! THAT will soon change.

  3. As is posted Sunni Stahlbird is a downright thief. Hopping people’s fences, sneaking around private properties. I don’t hear or see any bravery in her illegal actions. I among many other people are prepared to keep her off our private properties. She is not the judge and jury, though she want to talk as if she is. She knows what she is doing is illegal. She just needs to be caught. It was also stated that CLASS has 47 dogs and are not taking in any more dogs until the shelter is up and running properly. How are dogs showing up out of nowhere. Hmm word is she is sneaking them into the shelter. I also know that the shelter itself is a visual nightmare. The electrical is in dire need of not just repair but upgraded. Light fixtures have wir3d hanging down. One fixture has water dripping from it down the exposed wire and onto the floor. The person whom stated that she is a volunteer there said she did the maintenance there. Then said her boyfriend really does it when he is not working. This person should never be allowed back onto the property. Fact she can’t talk to people she comes in yelling, pointing at people and things, acting like she owned the place and the whole time the Mayfields were sitting in their chairs allowing this person to bully other employees and volunteers, yell at the barking dogs, would not let a volunteer move cat food closer to the cat habitat saying he’ll no the cat food stays right where it’s at otherwise we will have rats in the cat closer. She also said that there are rats in the area where the food was being kept. Ok now I had to laugh, if there are rats in the cat food area they are everywhere. Trying to make the volunteers job easier and have the donated foods closer to the cats was the goal. I’m sure the vats would take care of a rat issue. She has been allowed to have the behavior of bully to all who work at the shelter, and no one seemed to stand up to her except for one person. How could she threaten to fire a paid employee and she is just a finger pointing, yelling, disgraceful volunteer. The employee was brought to tears over the use of a cart. I am eying appalled. Also Sunni stepping in and letting every volunteer go in one day all at once was what I call a hateful act. All the people were there to help the shelter and clean it up. Sunni chose to keep a person thats threatening, bullying and has no people skills to stay. Good luck with that one. She let go all that was good for 1 that is bad. Her management skills are very shady. She is also a liar. Yes I just said that. You dont just let anyone go without reason. There was a lot of cleaning going on and out of no where she tells everyone to go home. The volunteers didn’t know what was happening or if they were going to be called the next day for help. I’m pretty sure that I am not the only person who does not trust Sunni. Jumping fences can get you shot. Being careful will never be enough. She also was pretty chummy with the Mayfields. Maybe Mrs England will look into each and every allegation.

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