The Facade of a South Florida Animal Shelter

On June 12, 2007, Carmel Cafiero of WSVN-TV Fox News Miami/Ft Lauderdale, reported that Broward Animal care had no scale to weigh animals for correct dosage of phenobarbitol to put animals in the shelter to sleep humanely. It gets worse. They didn’t have a stethoscope either, so there was no proof that these dogs and cats hearts had stopped and were indeed deceased at the time they put them into their plastic death bags (garbage bags) and hauled them off to the refuse site where they were dumped. They said their crematory was broken, but they were planning on getting it fixed. (What would be worse, suffocating or burning to death, if you had not be put fully at death’s door with a lethal injection?) This was supposedly going on for years.

Carmen interviewed Broward county’s then new animal services facility director Rick Richter and the two informants who, thank God had the courage to turn this over to the news. Carmen documented this on WSVN’s website:

http://www1.wsvn.com/features/articles/carmelcase/MI51306/

I had heard about this over the weekend, four months plus after the disclosure. On Saturday, I went to the shelter. I needed to see what the workers there looked like as this information sinked in. Had I missed something in all the years I’d gone through this place?

I walked around the shelter as if I were walking on egg shells. I never linger in a shelter for longer than I need to. But I did have to look a little longer at each person I’d known before this knowledge. Everyone looked the same. Everyone had the knowledge and was living with the knowledge. Moreso, they were living with the deed, and that is a much harder thing to live with.

I walked around to the last section of the shelter, and in front of a room with a closed door was a veterinarian-type scale. I looked at the room across from it. The door was closed. Hanging off the wall on a pole was the dog catcher’s noose. This was were the ritual took place for all dogs who were not adopted. I slowed, but could not stop until I got to the bathroom to wash my hands before leaving the building. This was my ritual. My lucky lucky ritual. I got to walk out of the place.

There is a follow-up interview here where Carmen talks to the county’s veterinarian, Dr. Tim Johnston:

http://www1.wsvn.com/features/articles/carmelcase/MI56836/

He addresses the issue of the scale, stethoscopes, and pets being euthanized in front of each other, which, according to protocol, is unacceptable.

I understand since this story broke, there have been shuffles in staff positions, 3-day unpaid leaves which could be made up with overtime, and there is a nationwide search for a new shelter director. Small concessions.

From a personal perspective, this story, which has been going on for years behind closed doors, has really befuddled me. My perceptions of the shelter personnel in Broward county has always been of the highest esteem. They work with rescue to save the pets they can. There has been a pride in cleanliness and keeping disease down. I waited to pull a dog from the shelter that had been in there for months due to his owner’s incarceration. During that time, the shelter workers always gave me a place to take the Dobie out to run, or go for a walk outside his cage on my weekly stops to visit the dog. Honestly, I cannot say I have had one bad experience with any of the shelter workers there. The job is hard. I couldn’t do it.

I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. No one does, but those who are behind those doors. It takes the strong ones, the people with enough conscience and will power to bring the inhumane practices we don’t see to the forefront. Personally, I want to thank them. Whoever they are, I want them to know I thank them for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. They have courage, respect for the victims of pet overpopulation and respect for self, and I applaud them.

As for the rest, I am left bewildered thinking about them. I am wrestling with this duality of personalities, and cannot find an explanation to merge what I have seen, experienced, and known from these people with what I now know. Finding peace with this will be a hard hard thing, if not impossible.

About Helen

I'm a Southern California living in South Florida. I've been here for 10 years as of October 1, 2007. No matter where I live, I'm a dog lover, and my breed is the Dobermann Pinscher of the Working Group. I am also fond of the Australian Shepherd of the Herding Group. My life revolves around my dogs, which is something those family members of mine don't understand. So I'm an island in that respect, but have built friendships with those who are doggie lovers and respect the canine as much as I do. Some do rescue, some train in, compete in, and judge AKC trials. The common thread is our dogs are family.
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2 Responses to The Facade of a South Florida Animal Shelter

  1. Linda says:

    It’s really sad to find out what’s going on behind closed doors. I was born and raised in Broward County. Lived there for 22 years. That’s just heartbreaking to hear that these people can even cover up things like this. If they needed a scale or other supplies, all they had to do was ask the public for donations.

  2. Helen says:

    Linda, you have that right. People would step up to donate for something as important as a scale and stethoscope. There is a rolling trash-type basket, a big one, next to the Spay Mobile. I will post pictures on Nov. 1. They collect aluminum cans for funds, and I collected them at work and at home. I have bags everywhere. I did that “just because.” If there was a special, urgent need for something, I know pet-loving people would ban together to provide. The whole thing is sad and disgraceful.

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