Thursday, August 18, 2005

Our Tax Dollars at Work

As a dog person myself, this really upsets me. These freaking clowns are so damned quick to kill an animal that they unneccesarily euthanized a family pet THAT WAS MICROCHIPPED. What's worse is that the family was on its way to pick up the lost dog. I'm not one for lawsuits but I hope this family takes the Animal Services Unit to the cleaners.

From The Miami Herald 8/17/05

Wrongful euthanasia infuriates dog lovers

The mistaken euthanasia of Cowboy, a golden retriever, has again cast a negative light on Miami-Dade County's animal services unit.


When the kids jumped in the pool, he watched over them like a nervous uncle. On Halloween, he accompanied the family dressed as a witch. On Christmas, he wore antlers.

Cowboy the golden retriever was family.

So the loss dug deep when Cowboy was picked up by Miami-Dade County dog catchers -- then was mistakingly put to sleep even though his family was on their way to reclaim him.

''Bottom line: They killed my dog,'' fumed owner Anays Rodriguez-Porras, who arrived to pick up Cowboy hours after he was euthanized.

The episode comes within a year of a scathing report that chronicled dangerous conditions at the county shelter and led to restructuring of the animal services department.

The dog's owner has created enough of a stir that a shelter employee has been suspended with pay, a review of Animal Services policy is under way and the county government's most influential dog lover is fighting mad.

''As a dog owner myself, I am quite frankly disgusted,'' County Manager George Burgess -- his miniature schnauzer is named Tag -- wrote in a memo Monday.


The flap unfolded like this: On Friday, Aug. 5, Rodriguez-Porras left her West Miami-Dade home, leaving Cowboy, 10, in the backyard. The gate somehow ajar, and apparently spooked by a thunderstorm, Cowboy slipped out and disappeared.

That weekend, the family searched their neighborhood to no avail. On Monday, Rodriguez-Porras called Miami-Dade's Animal Services Department to report Cowboy lost.

Rodriguez-Porras got the call Wednesday evening: Cowboy was safe at the shelter -- he had been picked up a block from her house. He had been identified through a microchip embedded between his shoulder blades when he was a puppy.

After one more day of bureaucratic haggling, Rodriguez-Porras' husband -- who needed a notarized letter authorizing him to pick up Cowboy -- arrived Friday but the dog could not be found.

The next day, Rodriguez-Porras came to the shelter, 7401 NW 74th St., and got the awful news: Cowboy had been euthanized.

Shelter policy is to euthanize dogs if they are sick or the owner cannot be found. Many are put up for adoption or put in foster care. Also, under shelter policy, dogs with microchips are not usually removed from the facility or euthanized for at least 10 days.

A furious Rodriguez-Porras filed an incident report with Miami-Dade police, then contacted television news stations and even the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

''He was not an aggressive dog. All the kids would come up to him and touch him, put hats on him. He was like one of the kids,'' said Rodriguez-Porras, who has a 1-year-old son and eight nephews and nieces.

She added: ``He looked like Air Bud.''

Animal Services Director Dr. Sara Pizano, who has been on the job for only five weeks, said she was not aware of any similar cases during her brief tenure.

''My heart goes out to the family,'' Pizano said. ``I'm devastated for them.''

Pizano said her investigation found that supervisor Barry Adkins could not explain why he authorized the euthanasia even though computer records indicated Cowboy's family was supposed to pick him up.


The county's animal services unit has undergone much turmoil in recent years.

Last year, the county commissioned a study from the Humane Society of the United States, which found conditions at the shelter that could traumatize animals, spread disease, frustrate the public and threaten worker safety.

The report cited overall management disorganization and characterized animal handling as ''mediocre'' to ''appalling.'' At the time, the unit was under the umbrella of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Last fall, the County Commission voted to create a stand-alone department -- with a $7 million budget and 67 full-time employees.

Pizano, a former veterinary-services director for the Humane Society of Broward County, was brought in to revamp the department.

In Monday's memo to Mayor Carlos Alvarez and the County Commission, Burgess wrote, ``Delivering compassionate animal care and control services is a top priority.''

Pizano said she expects to wrap up her investigation by the end of the week.

Adkins, a county employee since 1989, has been placed on administrative leave. Reached by telephone at his home, he said: ``At this point, I'd better not comment.''


Robert said...

Absolutely terrible. And it's not the first time this has happened, from what I've heard.

Alberto Quiroga said...

Typical of the incompetent, corrupt, Miami-Dade "government," which can't clean up the eyesore, rat and vermin infested house next to my parents' well-maintained, attractive, and clean house despite numerous complaints filed, but is quick to seize and kill an innocent animal. The idiots who bungled this are the ones who should be euthanized.