Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Heart Stick
The Miami-Dade Animal Shelter, which has been the target of criticism for decades is once again under fire. This time, it involves a painful process to euthanize animals. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case with a report that we should warn you shows cats and kittens being put down.
WSVN -- This silent video is from inside a-ward, the euthanasia room at Miami Dade Animal Services. In the cages cats and kittens about to die. This happens every day here and in shelters across the country.
But in this case, the technician is using a controversial and painful process called a heart stick. It is just that a needle is stuck in the animal's heart and a barbituate injected.
Grace Avila: "But its very painful, the animals should be heavily sedated or anesthetized."
Carmel Cafiero: "Were these animals sedated?"
Grace Avila: "No, it would have taken twice as long if they were."
It was last October and Grace Avila was supposed to be assisting in a ward, but she says she had to leave the room when she saw what was going on.
Grace Avila: "I heard screaming because of the needle size, you have to use a larger needle to try to hit the right spot of the heart chamber."
Grace says a vet tech euthanized 30 cats in 15 minutes. She reported it to animal services administrators.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "And this is the one I just showed you."
Animal services director Dr. Sara Pizano says on the video, she can only be sure two cats were killed by heart sticks.
Carmel Cafiero: "That one it just died."
Dr. Sara Pizano: "That was the other one I felt I could see."
The worker was demoted because the method is prohibited by pizano.
Carmel Cafiero: "Because you would consider it to be cruel?"
Dr. Sara Pizano: "Yes."
And that might have been the end of this issue, but a few months after blowing the whistle on her co-worker, Grace Avila has now been fired. According to the director, the two are not connected.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "We have had chronic problems with her, many issues with staff that are documented."
Grace Avila: "I feel they were trying to find reasons after this came about to fire me."
Attorney Jeffrey Weiner represents grace who he says will challenge her termination.
Jeffrey Weiner: "And now all of a sudden they begin to build a record to justify her firing? So this is typical. It's to be expected, Grace didn't expect it."
As for the use of the heart stick weiner says he thinks it was a violation of state cruelty laws and will ask for an investigation.
Jeffrey Weiner: "And I think the video and the testimony of my client makes it clear that what went on was cruel and totally against the law."
If there's an issue in the future about activity in the euthanasia room, there will be no video as proof.
The camera is no longer recording.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "I'm not willing to give the public or the media any ammunition to really create any more negative impressions about this shelter."
Despite increased adoptions 22,000 animals came into the shelter last year and never came out because nobody wanted them.
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