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Dear Facebook friends and visitors,
If you’re here out of concern for our support dog, Meelo, please take a few moments to read our update.

We wish to take this opportunity to thank the entire community for the outpouring of support and kindness in recent days. Over the past week, the inflammatory accusations made against the children, staff, and our beloved dog Meelo, at our Jefferson House group home in Dodge County, have deeply saddened and concerned us.

Because of the dangerous, malicious, and threatening nature of comments we received and viewed on social media and in direct communications to our staff, Heartland Family Service has removed our dog Meelo from the Jefferson House and placed him in a safe and secure, family-centered home environment.

There are no facts whatsoever to substantiate the accusations of abuse. We say this not as a defense, but as the conclusion of professional investigations of Meelo himself, who does not show signs of distress, fear, physical, or emotional abuse.

We are aware that many variations of the story – some based on fact, others on speculation – have appeared in social media. We appreciate your interest, and we’re grateful to be part of a community where people have deep concern for both vulnerable children and animals. We are the same in this way – for more than 140 years, we’ve existed solely to protect and care for those who are most vulnerable. While our mission is not specifically to serve animals, many of us are also animal lovers and count pets among our family members. That’s why we want to make sure our community has clarity and facts.

First and foremost, we want you to know that Meelo is healthy, happy, and safe. At the very first mention of even the potential of harm to him, we insisted he be fully evaluated by a licensed veterinarian and his professional canine trainer/animal behaviorist.

Meelo has had the same trainer for two years, since he was a pup. The trainer has visited Meelo at the Jefferson House and provided instruction to staff and kids. The trainer has extensive experience with assessing if animals are abused. The trainer said Meelo does not exhibit any symptoms of an abused or neglected dog.

In addition, Meelo was examined by the Dodge County Humane Society. All of these professionals have issued statements that they found no evidence of him being abused, nor that he had been abused. Physically, he showed no trace at all of mistreatment. Behaviorally, he did not show signs of anxiety, behavioral problems or fear, which is common when dogs have been mistreated. Meelo is as kind, calm, confident, and loving as he has always been, and is in excellent health. These professionals felt relieved that the frightening things said about Meelo were unfounded.

The Jefferson House staff are trained and instructed to immediately report abuse to a child or a pet, and no critical incident reports were made from any staff about Meelo. On any given day, numerous professionals, visitors, and volunteers visit the Jefferson House and have made no allegations of abuse or neglect to Meelo.

Next, we want you to know that we did a thorough investigation. In addition to making sure Meelo was okay, we interviewed current staff at the Jefferson House. Many of our dedicated employees have worked there, providing supervision and care for the children for many years. Many have beloved dogs at home. One staff supervisor is a volunteer at a local pet rescue organization. During the investigation process, we asked about any issues they had seen with Meelo, the children’s interaction with him, or anything else they wanted to share. No one had witnessed any abuse, as the accusations claimed.

During the investigation, we were puzzled by the source and the timing of those accusations. An employee of the Jefferson House who loved and cared for Meelo began taking him home for visits, with approval. Over time, program leadership noted that Meelo was having difficulty following his training plan after returning to the Jefferson House from home visits. Because of this all home visits with Meelo were stopped, and this was explained to the employees. Shortly thereafter, the employee asked to purchase the dog from us. We declined, as removing Meelo from his home, the adults and children he had grown up with would not have been in Meelo’s, or the children’s best interests.

It was only after our decision to end overnight and weekend visits and refusal to sell Meelo that the former employee made the allegations of abuse, although the employee claimed to have known about it for more than a year. We know that our former employee cared deeply for Meelo, and that such a separation from a canine friend is always painful. While we felt great empathy for their situation, we didn’t understand why anyone would wait that long if they suspected that a dog was being abused. We searched our records and consulted with the Dodge County Humane Society and the Fremont Police Department. The employee made no reports to the Jefferson House, the organizational management, the Dodge County Humane Society or any other known authority. One single, anonymous allegation to the Dodge County Humane Society was made and at that time, we welcomed the Dodge County Humane Society to visit Meelo at the Jefferson House, as we wanted affirmation that Meelo was safe, healthy, and happy. After investigating, they concluded he was, and nothing more came of it. Meelo continued to serve in his very important role as a support dog and affection giver, and a trusted friend to vulnerable children.

While Meelo lived with a large number of children, he went through very specialized training. Since he arrived, he has been instrumental in calming the fears of children coming from extremely difficult circumstances, who are sometimes removed from family, scared, and traumatized. He has helped children open up about their feelings, made them feel loved and has in return, received love, attention, and adoration from children and adults every day.

We are heartbroken that so many would ignore facts and evidence and assume that a human services organization would act callously and without compassion, or would overlook abuse. Whether children or animals, this is not the nature of our organization, nor does it correspond to anything we are known for in our community. Most painful is the number of people who have jumped at the chance to accuse, malign, and say hurtful things against the children we serve. Many of these children are old enough to have access to social media and have read things others have written online about them. This has been devastating to these children, who not only have their own difficult life situations to navigate, but have now been falsely painted as violent, untrustworthy, and objects of scorn in the public eye.

The children have also lost their beloved dog. For many, this is the saddest part of all, as most have already faced losses in their young lives. Social media posts have included threats of kidnapping Meelo, violence against children and staff, and more. In order to protect Meelo and the children and staff, we’ve moved him to a different location. He is safe and happy, but confused by these sudden changes, and is being well cared for, as he has always been.

To those who are reading this, we hope you are caring people who truly want to make sure a sweet dog was safe. We hope most of you, after understanding the facts here, will see the situation for what it is – and our organization for what it has been for more than 140 years. If you are reading this, and are one of those who has written cutting remarks about the children in our program or made threats against our staff on social media and other communications, we ask you to think about the implications of your words. In assuming the worst, listening to unsubstantiated stories, and ignoring facts, you have deeply hurt already vulnerable children.

There are no facts whatsoever to substantiate the accusations of abuse. We say this not as a defense, but as the conclusion of professional investigations of Meelo himself, who does not show signs of distress, fear, physical, or emotional abuse.

Thank you to everyone who has shown support to our organization over the course of many, many decades. As always, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to providing the supports that families and children in our community so desperately need.

As always your dedicated support enables us to provide education, counseling, and supportive services that vulnerable families and children in our community so desperately need.