Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Animal Shelter
It's been six months since the Miami Dade animal shelter got a veterinarian as its new director. But did it get a new direction??? Tonight, there's criticism of the way the facility is operating. And investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN--You've got to harden your heart to walk through any animal shelter.
There are so many sweet pets in desperate need of homes.
Twenty thousand of them are destroyed every year at the Miami Dade shelter because no one wants them.
And now employees here are so unhappy they've twice written to county officials to complain about the new director - Dr. Sara Pizano.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "My policies here are in an effort to save as many animals as possible."
The mood has gotten so ugly, there have been three bomb threats since Pizano took over. And after a recent employee meeting, someone cut the screens in several places.
Carmel Cafiero: "Slashed it why?"
Dr. Sara Pizano: "They were angry."
Carmel Cafiero: "Oh, employees?"
Dr. Sara Pizaon: "Yea."
But employees aren't the only ones upset.
Woman 1: "It's worse than I have seen it in all the years."
This woman, a second woman, and a man who currently works at the shelter all agreed to talk with seven news if we would protect their identities.
All three have worked to help animals in South Florida for many years.
Woman 2: "When she came in there the idea was there was going to be less euthanasia and more working with rescue groups and its not happening."
They are so concerned about being recognized, someone else is speaking their words so their voices will not be recognized.
Man: "Basically there's a lot more animals being put to sleep."
Pizano has been at the shelter since july and the records do show an increase in euthanasia. The county says more animals came in.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "My goal here is to euthanize as few animals as possible and adopt out as many as possible."
To that end, Pizano says she now allows pets to be adopted before being spayed or neutered - with a promise the owners return them for the surgery.
She also says - she now allows pets with minor illnesses to be adopted.
But that's also drawing criticism.
Woman 1: "People get them home and they can't spend 3 or 4 hundred dollars to take them to a vet. They either die or they are beyond help and have to be euthanized."
And when an injured animal - like this dog that was hit by a car - comes to the shelter Pizano will not allow rescue groups to take it out for medical treatment until its been there for five days.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "And I want to give the family's, the owners - an opportunity to find their pets."
Pizano says she gives pain medication and fluids but refuses to allow them to be taken out for surgery.
Animal activists say the animals suffer and if the families want to find their pet, a picture would work just as well.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "And definitely something that will change in the future but for now that's the way the policy will be set.
Carmel Cafiero: "Dr. Pizano has made positive changes here and does have support among some animal activists."
For instance - the facility is cleaner than in the past and there is less illness.
She says dogs no longer die in their cages from respiratory disease.
The staff is now trained on how to bandage injuries and the number of adoptions is up.
Carmel Cafiero: "However - it's clear she has her work cut out - from dealing with her own staff to dealing with community support. Both are critical if this shelter is going to turn around. Carmel Cafiero 7 News."
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE