Board member speaks out about pending investigation into Humane Society of the Desert president

Video: Board member speaks out about pending investigation into Humane Society of the Desert pres...

COACHELLA VALLEY - A Humane Society of the Desert board member is speaking out about harassment allegations filed against the board’s president, Malinda Bustos.  

We first heard from concerned employees alleging harassment, a hostile work environment and the mistreat of animals, among other accusations against Bustos and now Tracey Essex is explaining more about a pending investigation into Bustos.

“As a board we decided we have a legal obligation to investigate their concerns,” Essex said.

Essex is the vice president of the Humane Society of the Desert board. Alleged labor law violations and accusations of mistreating animals are just some of the complaints Essex and other board members received from employees against Bustos. 

In one case, Essex says employees stated they were ordered to euthanize dogs without cause.

“This is according to them [employees filing complaints]...Malinda had brought the dogs, insisted they were euthanized, put enough pressure on employees who are vulnerable and don’t have a way to defend themselves, and from hat stand point they carried out the euthenization. The dogs were turned over to the shelter team and both of the gentleman at the shelter say it was mandated that they bury them [the dogs] in the desert and don’t disclose their locations,” said Essex.

Essex also says the board is concerned over transparency issues, stemming back two years ago, when the organization, Save a Pet (which is now part of a dually governed organization of the Humane Society) had made a legal agreement with Kittyland founder, Ann Woods, to split half a trust. But the promise was never fulfilled according to shared documents. 

“The email seems to indicate there was no money coming after 2017. I have a check that was from April 2018 which Ann Woods says she never received any money from,” Essex said.

We reached out to Bustos via phone and email. When asked about the mistreatment of animals 
she replied in an email, in part, “there has never been any mistreatment of any animals to my knowledge.” And when asked about the hospital closing, her response via email read, “there are no plans to close the animal hospital.” But weeks prior, according to a source, an email was sent out, signed by Bustos, explaining the Desert Hot Springs Animal Hospital would be closed starting Tuesday the 29th. 

The hospital did not shut down and remains operational.

According to board members, Bustos was unanimously voted to be suspended pending an investigation. That was decided during a quorum last month.  

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