If a dog’s life hadn’t been at stake, the incompetency of the Hillsborough County Pet Services would be laughable. The volunteers who rescue the dogs on death row aren’t laughing. They are calling for change.
Their Facebook post shares this story: “Abby first came into the shelter in July of 2015. Upon intake, it was noted she had a hog vest/gear on and her medical notes stated “right front limb lameness, right eye needs further assessment. Fractured tooth, skin infection”. She received a rabies shot and was chipped, then was reclaimed by an owner four days after she had come in.”
A month later, Abby was brought back to the shelter when a person was arrested and she was there. The shelter noted that she was very underweight. The shelter contacted the owner from the microchip, but that person said that Abby wasn’t her dog, and that she had redeemed the dog from the person who had been arrested (whom she named).
The shelter then sent a postcard to this person’s address giving him seven days to reclaim his dog. The shelter never bothered to check and see that this person had been legally barred from owning a dog in Hillsborough County. If he had any animals, he would have been in contempt of court (which he was since Abby was in his possession when he was arrested). So instead of charging him with contempt of court, the shelter gave him a week to get back his dog. He was in jail, and unable to do that.
But in October, Abby was adopted. When the volunteers checked on her adoption, they realized that her owner (the one who was not legally allowed to own dogs) had been released from jail the day she was adopted. After a bit of investigation, they found that the person who adopted Abby had been in jail, also. It didn’t pass the smell test, so the volunteers asked the shelter to do a welfare check on Abby. That never happened.
When the volunteers finally realized that Abby’s first owner, the criminal, had been banned from owning dogs since 2014, they also were able to verify that Abby was back with that person who was using her for hog hunting. (In the accompanying photo, you can see Abby tied with other dogs to the top of the truck they took for hog hunting. In Florida, apparently it is legal to transport dogs this way!) They sent this information to the shelter and asked that they find Abby and take her to safety. The shelter responded that they were not able to find Abby.
Two weeks later, the volunteers saw Abby on the news. Her picture was also posted on this Examiner’s article, “No food or water for caged dogs; Animal control won’t respond.” Abby is the black dog in the first photograph on the slide show. The volunteers recognized her, and were positive that Animal Services would scan the dogs and recognize Abby as the dog they had been looking for. They did not figure out that Abby was the dog they had been looking for.
Again, the volunteers did the work and gathered enough information to be sure that it was, indeed, Abby who was locked in a cage outside. They called the investigator who went back the next day and was able to — finally — identify Abby. Abby was brought back to the shelter. Abby is now safe with rescue, however there are several disturbing aspects to this saga.
First, the shelter allowed someone to reclaim a dog with no proof that it was that person’s dog. In fact, she was reclaiming a dog for someone else. When that dog was brought back to the shelter, they didn’t bother to check the status of the owner, and invited a person who had been legally barred from owning dogs to pick up his dog. And they gave him a week to do so.
Another example of shoddy work is that when Animal Services went to the property to investigate the complaint about the dogs, they did not bother to scan the dogs to check their identity. They had been looking for Abby and yet failed to see her when she was right in front of their noses.
Perhaps most disturbing is that citizens with no training were able to figure out what was happening when the shelter, the government arm paid to protect the animals in Hillsborough County, was seemingly incompetent in this matter.
The volunteers wrote:
What kind of policies drive such colossal failure? This is not an employee problem, folks – make no mistake about it, this is a leadership problem. If this were an isolated incident, we would ask this to be looked into so it would never happen again. But unfortunately, this whole situation appears to be a pattern of errors, bad policy, and bad decisions we have seen over and over with the current administration.
They continued with a question about how many “Abbys” are out there. Dogs who are abused, neglected and ignored by Animal Services. The current policy of administration is to do anything to bring up the “save” numbers. This is a flawed goal. There needs to be an adoption application. There needs to be more of a process to adopt an animal, not just turning over a twenty dollar bill.
The volunteers of Hillsborough County ask that everyone sign the petition calling for change at the county shelter. They ask that people email those on the Board of County Commissioners and ask them to change the policies at Hillsborough County Pet Services to make the shelter more accountable in terms of the issues listed in the petition (read the linked petition, it states all the problems that need addressing).
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