Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Heartstick Follow Up
A Seven News investigation has lead to calls for action against the director of Miami-Dade Animal Services. The report revealed cats had been killed at the facility using a controversial method of euthanasia. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with the latest, but a warning first, this report may not be suitable for young children.
WSVN -- The pictures, even those that have been edited for television are hard to watch. A vet tech at Miami-Dade Animal Services is caught on camera using a method of euthanasia that is quick, but banned by the facility's director Dr. Sara Pizano who is a veterinarian.
Dr. Sarah Pizano: "Yes, that would not be the way we would want to euthanize the animals."
Carmel Cafiero: "Because you would consider it to be cruel?"
Dr. Sarah Pizano: "Yes."
It's called a heart stick, a needle is inserted directly into the heart and a barbiturate injected.
Grace Avila who was in the room reported to animal services administrators how the cats and kittens had been put down.
Grace Avila, Former Employee: "But it's 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."
She was later fired, but Dr. Pizano says it is unrelated to this incident. The man doing the injections was demoted and lost $50 a week in pay. But then Dr. Pizano stopped recording activity in the euthanasia room. She said it was because 7 News obtained the video and she was concerned about negative reaction by the public after it was broadcast.
Carmel Cafiero: "I don't see why that would be more important than making sure that this incredibly delicate and sad bit of business isn't monitored to make sure that the heart sticks aren't going on as we sit here right now."
Dr. Sara Pizano: "And I'm concerned about 36,000 animals that are abandoned at this shelter, and the more negative press there is about this shelter, the less chance they have to be saved. That's a much greater concern to me."
She was right about the negative reaction. After our report aired last month, our web site blew up with more than 1800 Facebook shares and 100 comments, many of them calling for Dr. Pizano to be fired, among them activist Amy Restucci.
Amy Restucci, Animal Activist: "This is not a shelter, this is a concentration camp. There is no compassion."
Complaints also went to county hall and the mayor's office. Carlos Alvarez who is fighting to save his job in a recall stands behind Dr. Pizano. He turned down our request for an interview, but in a statement the mayor called the decision to put the camera in the euthanasia room "well meaning" but "misguided."
In part his statement reads: "If procedures are not being followed, there are other ways to hold employees accountable."
Our request for a second interview with Dr. Pizano was denied. We would have asked for her thoughts on the public reaction to our report. Earlier she told me she put the camera up to protect the animals.
Dr. Sara Pizano: "And that's really a shame, because I put that camera in there for a reason and now it's being used as a weapon against us."
Carmel Cafiero: "This doesn't look like it's the end of the issue. A complaint about the heart stick incident has been sent to the Miami-Dade Inspector General's Office for investigation. And animal activists say they are planning a demonstration next week that will call for big changes at Miami-Dade Animal Services."
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