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Federal agency gives few answers on months-long probe of alleged animal cruelty

  • wyoming2.jpg

    This undated photo was allegedly posted to the personal Facebook page of Wildlife Services employee Jamie Olson. (Wildlife Services/Jamie Olson)

  • wyoming1.jpg

    This undated photo was allegedly posted to the personal Facebook page of Wildlife Services employee Jamie Olson. (Wildlife Services/Jamie Olson)

  • dogsattackingcoyote.jpg

    This photo, provided by Gary Strader, shows three dogs attacking a trapped coyote allegedly as part of his work for the USDA's Wildlife Services.

Eight months after an employee of the federal Wildlife Services agency allegedly posted photos online depicting animal cruelty, the little-known government agency said the worker is still on the job but did not say whether he or any others have been disciplined.

The photos were allegedly posted by Jamie Olson, an employee of Wyoming Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The photo album was discovered in October on Olson's personal Facebook account, which has since been deactivated. The graphic photos include images of dogs ripping into live coyotes trapped in steel foot-holds, as well as pictures of coyote carcasses.

At the time, Wildlife Services spokeswoman Carol Bannerman told FoxNews.com that an internal investigation was being launched and that if it concluded animal abuse took place, that "would not be accepted."

As of this week, that investigation is sill "ongoing," said Bannerman, who added that Olson is still employed by the agency.

"With regard to allegations that a WS employee engaged in animal cruelty and misconduct, the investigation of the situation is currently ongoing," Bannerman said in an email sent to FoxNews.com. "The length of the investigations underscores the seriousness that WS places on the importance of ethical and appropriate treatment of wildlife it is asked to control."

Bannerman noted that the agency has since reaffirmed to its employees "their obligations to uphold professional standards as well as their responsibilities to the public." She also said that Wildlife Services updated its protocol in March regarding the use of trained dogs in carrying out the agency's duties.

"Among other things, the updated guidance re-emphasizes the need to maintain control over trained dogs and prevent attacks on restrained animals," she said.

Click here to view the updated guidelines

The Wildlife Services program is responsible for humanely killing wildlife seen as a threat to the environment and livestock, as well as protecting the public from wildlife hazards to commercial planes at airports.

But U.S. Reps. Peter Defazio, D-Ore., and Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., claim the program has allowed workers to abuse animals for no reason.

The photos that appeared on Olson's Facebook account showed a culture of animal cruelty that has long persisted within the agency, according to the lawmakers. They have both appealed to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack for a complete audit of the "culture" within Wildlife Services – in particular its lethal Predator Control program – by the USDA Office of Inspector General.

In the case of Olsen, Campbell said, "It is imperative that this investigation be completed and the findings presented to Congress and the American public with no further delay."

"Eight months is more than enough time for a federal agency to investigate the actions of just one employee," Campbell told FoxNews.com. "Any further obfuscation or attempt to delay this report will justifiably raise even more serious concerns about this agency's integrity." 

Gary Strader, a former trapper with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told FoxNews.com last March that it is "regular practice" for dogs to attack live coyotes caught in traps.

Strader, who left the agency in 2009, recalled a particular day during which he caught nine coyotes in government-set leg hold snares at a remote site in northeast Nevada. Strader said his supervisor, who had accompanied him that day, watched and laughed as the agency's dogs circled the coyotes and ripped into them. 

"It is outrageous that eight months after these horrific pictures appeared on Facebook that Wildlife Services appears to be doing nothing but dragging their feet," Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, told FoxNews.com. "It appears to be business as usual at Wildlife Services."

"The agency has operated this way, without consequences, since its inception in 1931," Fahy said. "It is literally out of control and needs to be investigated."

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