Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Broward Animal Care
A Seven News investigation gets results before it even gets on the air: the stories and questions about how cats were being euthanized at Broward County's animal shelter. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Most of the dogs and cats that end up in shelters never come out again. There are not enough homes for them all, and, in astonishing numbers, they are euthanised, put to sleep. Broward County alone kills more than 800 animals every month.
First Worker: "First of all you bond with the animals, and once you forge a bond with them, you have to euthanize them."
These women, who want to remain anonymous, work at Broward County's animal care facility. Someone else is speaking their words.
These pictures show the problem. Cats euthanized in front of other cats, even kittens, and it happens every day. This despite the fact the training manual used for workers reads, "Keep all other animals both dead and alive out of the euthanasia room."
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think the other cats and kittens understand what is going on?"
First worker: "I know they do, and you can see the reactions from the cats, like, 'Am I next?"
Broward County has no euthanasia room for its felines.
Rick Richter: "The cats are euthanized in the cat room, where we have the cats living."
Rick Richter is the facility's director, he says the county believes it is OK to kill cats in front of other cats.
However, there is a separate Euthanasia room for dogs.
Rick Richter: "If we were to move all the cats out of the cat room to the euthanasia room, it would probably stress them more then just being in the cat room being euthanized."
But the workers disagree.
Second Worker: "I don't believe that, anybody who has owned an animal knows how smart they are."
And there may be a change.
Rick Richter: "We will review this practice and see if it's possible to make some changes in our cat room and maybe Euthanize behind a screen or something."
The women say both dogs and cats suffer because of a lack of some very basic items, like stethoscopes to make sure a heart has stopped beating. Director Richter appeared surprised.
Carmel Cafiero: "I'm told your staff doesn't even have stethoscopes in order to listen for a heartbeat."
Rick Richter: "Well, then we need to get some for them."
He also seemed surprised when I asked him about scales. The workers say they have to guess at just how much poison to inject because the facility has no working scales.
First Worker: "If you don't give them the correct dose you have to inject again, so sometimes the animal might end up getting stuck three to four times."
Carmel Cafiero: "I understand there is no scale for weighing these animals, so they are having to guess at how much euthanasia material to inject."
Rick Richter: "Very possible, and we will review that."
Both workers say they worry live animals may be have been put in garbage bags and sent to the landfill by mistake.
First worker: "Always, there's always that thought."
Second worker: "That's everybody's nightmare, with all the animals we've euthanized, you know the odds are maybe it's happened, and we don't know it."
And the women say workers have been guessing at doses for years.
Carmel Cafiero: "So where are these numbers coming from? Are they guesstimates?"
Rick Richter: "Probably."
Carmel Cafiero: "And is a guesstimate good enough for you"?
Rick Richter: "No."
Carmel Cafiero: "So this may change as well?"
Rick Richter: "Yes."
The pair say they risked going public because they think the animals' needs are being ignored.
Worker Two: "Animals are definitely treated like secondhand citizens. They're the lowest. They don't complain, and I believe that's why they're neglected by the commissioners and by the public."
Carmel Cafiero: "I'm told there's a great deal of speculation around the shelter about who told me what. That misses the bigger issue of why these conditions have been allowed to exist in the first place."
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:Dade: 305-627-CLUE