2004 HSUS Shelter Evaluation Report on Miami-Dade Animal Services

How did the shelter operations manager (and possibly other staff) at Miami-Dade Animal Services develop the attitude evident in the news report I posted about yesterday?  I don’t know but I can’t help wondering if the current shelter environment was influenced by this HSUS shelter evaluation done in 2004.  From page 40:

In general, animal shelter staff are often overworked and underappreciated by the very communities that are responsible for pet overpopulation and the euthanasia that results.

HSUS recommendation, page 46:

When reporting statistics to the community, emphasize that the burden of responsibility for pet overpopulation must be shared by all members of the community.

Since there is no such thing as pet overpopulation, I hope that’s one less burden for the public to bear.

I have a wonky spot for shelter evaluations.  Out of interest, I summarized a number of HSUS observations and recommendations from its 2004 review of Miami-Dade Animal Services.  It is important to note that some or all of these problems may have been corrected at the shelter since the time this report was issued:

HSUS Observations

Page 31:  A large floor fan in the main building was blowing air through the kennels housing sick dogs to the kennels housing healthy dogs.

Page 37:  Kennel floors in some parts of the shelter lacked drains and were sloped toward the walkway allowing urine to flow from the kennels into the walkway where staff, pets and adopters walked.

Page 39:  Cats being housed in rooms with dogs.

Page 40:  Owners of pets other than dogs and cats (for example rabbits, hamsters and ferrets) who inquired about surrendering their pets were being referred to local schools.

Page 46:  The number of animals dying at the shelter was very high.  Rampant disease within the shelter, lack of effort to identify and treat sick pets, failure to properly isolate sick pets and “overall inattention” to pets were contributing factors.

Pages 48-49:  Pets were not scanned for microchips at intake nor were they photographed, even though the shelter had software with the capability to do so.

Page 60:  No pets had any “comfort items” (such as soft bedding).  Pets due to give birth were not given boxes or anything at all for delivery.

Page 64:  Puppies were being picked up “by the arms” and staff members were “tossing them back into their cages” after cleaning.  One staff member was observed carrying a puppy by a single foreleg.  Feral cats had catch pole nooses placed around their necks, were dragged from the trap and then hoisted up to the cages by the neck.

Page 69:  3 newborn kittens were allowed to starve to death in a cage with their mother because the mother was not producing milk and nobody bothered to check.  A Doberman was left to suffer in severe distress without any care.

Pages 74-75:  During cleaning, kittens were put in a trash can full of cat litter which allowed some of them to jump on to the floor.  While the top row of cages was being cleaned, cleaning solution and water splashed into the cages below which had cats in them.  Dogs were tied to the chain link while their kennels were cleaned in the morning.  During spot cleaning later in the day, dogs were not removed but either screamed at or sprayed with the hose in order to get them out of the way.

Page 76:  Automatic feeders were rusted and cleaned only weekly.

Page 98:  Pets were left unvaccinated unless chosen for adoption.

Page 101:  Pets scheduled for neuter surgery at the shelter were sedated by a vet tech and laid on a rusty sink rack for surgical prep.  Items such as tables, drapes and gloves were not cleaned or changed between animals.

Page 110:  There was a scanner in the kill room but pets were not being scanned for microchips before being killed.

Pages 111-112:  Carcasses were driven to the landfill twice a day.  After the last trip of the day, any pets killed by the shelter would sit in plastic bags outside in the bed of a pickup overnight.  By morning, the death stench was noticeable as you walked in the front door of the shelter.  HSUS recommended buying a large, walk-in freezer to store pet carcasses overnight.

Page 116:  Sick pets, aggressive pets and Pitbulls (BSL in the county) were “weeded out for euthanasia” by the staff at intake – all other pets were put up for adoption.

Pages 121-122:  Adopters did not fill out an application and staff provided no screening or counseling in an effort to make a good match between owners and pets.  Pets were adopted out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pages 188-189:  Management told HSUS that Miami-Dade was a “no kill shelter”.  HSUS recommended they quit saying that.

HSUS Recommendations

Page 41:  Close one of the shelters at least one day each week so staff can have “catch-up” time.

Page 91:  Owner surrendered pets who have not bitten but are determined to be “aggressive or unpredictable” should be killed (assuming “there is no foster program or behavior modification program in place”).  Treating sick pets beyond the mandated hold period for strays is a “luxury” that Miami-Dade can’t afford, as is treating adoptable pets who become sick at the shelter.

Page 95:  Shelter should consider joining HSUS’s “Shelter Partners Science Diet Program” so all the shelter pets would eat that food.

Page 102:  The shelter should neuter every pet that goes out the door (unless medically unsuitable), regardless of age, so they aren’t contributing to “overpopulation”.

Page 113:  HSUS recommends the kill room could be made more cheery with some posters and a new coat of paint.  A diary could be kept in the room so staff could write down their feelings.  The kill room should be “warm, comfortable” and “peaceful”.  You don’t want the animal to feel “vulnerable”.

Page 150:  Shelter staff should try to talk local teachers into signing up to receive “KIND NEWS”, a publication of HSUS.

Page 174:  Every ACO should attend HSUS dogfighting training courses.  Miami-Dade should join HSUS’s “National Illegal Animal Fighting Task Force”.

These are just tidbits I found interesting in one way or another – there is much more to the report if you are inclined to get the complete picture.

11 thoughts on “2004 HSUS Shelter Evaluation Report on Miami-Dade Animal Services

  1. Tell me again how it is the public’s fault that these animals are suffering?

    Without leadership that has the goal of finding homes for the homeless, a “shelter” becomes anything but.

    And I like “shelter workers are overwhelmed”, so close one day a week – yeah, don’t get and train local voluteers in the community, reduce the time you’re open instead. That won’t affect people’s ability to adopt at all. Right.

    I wonder if they charged for that evaluation?

    1. I don’t know what the charge was to Miami-Dade but HSUS normally charges shelters somewhere in the $20,000 range for evals.

      Of the many appalling things in the report, the one that struck me most was about putting up motivational posters in the kill room. I’m picturing the “Hang in there baby!” kitten. How about just stop killing healthy/treatable pets in that room? Then you don’t have to worry so much about what color paint is on the walls.

  2. Miami-Dade told HSUS they were *no-kill*?

    Gee aren’t they the only Florida county with a anti-pitbull ordinance inacted in 1974 or so.

    I think that sorta negates the whole N0-Kill status!

  3. I scanned through the first 44 pages of the document and a few things struck me.

    First, as someone who used to prepare due diligence and regulatory compliance reports for commercial and industrial properties, I got a strong sense that it was prepared from a standard template. So even though the review appears to represent a great deal of work, much of what’s included is probably stock text that’s cut and pasted to apply to a specific site. If one spent the time and effort to review several of these documents you could easily check this. I did not. If it is, as I suspect, based on a stock report the $20K represents a very high profit factor.

    Second, I am absolutely gobsmacked that a shelter would spend money (that could otherwise be used to shelter, treat and train pets in need) for someone to advise them to do things like following basic cleanliness, hygiene, organizational and safety procedures. Nearly all the recommendations in the first 44 pages could be summarized in one sentence “Get off your lazy ass and clean this place up”.

    On page 12 HSUS notes that noise in the animal housing areas was measured at dangerous decibel levels and they recommend that hearing protection be provided for staff – but no recommendations are made (at least in this section) for how to protect the animals’ sensitive ears. Noise is not discussed in the section (4.23) on dog housing.

    I also found it disturbing that animal handling was only mentioned in the most fleeting way in the section on safety.

  4. Interesting. Looks like Kim Staton led the HSUS report group. Staton was the “expert” brought in to get breed specific MSN passed in Kansas City 5 years ago. She noted that they were trying to mirror San Francisco’s law. When asked if the law had worked in San Francisco she said the initial reports weren’t good, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work in Kansas City. Because yes, having success with laws that have failed elsewhere is usually what happens. Sigh.

    Unbelievably, some parts of that shelter didn’t have Air Conditioning in 2003. I cannot even imagine how hot it would get in a shelter in Miami without AC. Unbelievable.

    Also interesting that there appears to be no mention of the animals that are killed because of the city’s breed ban. Also, no I understand why there have been no statistics tracked in Miami Dade due to their breed ban….apparently they never tracked much of anything.

  5. This report is beyond belief, is this really happening to these poor innocent pets, all of these problems are man made by us. Somebody take some responsibility,the people who oversee these shelters need to step back and see what they are doing. Keep the pressure on these shelters. Keep them in the publics eye. I Pray to God there are more of us who love and care for them than those who abuse and torture them.

  6. A. There is no such thing as a “no kill” shelter.
    At the shelter wher I volinteer it’s not uncommon for people drop off very old or sick pets so they don’t have to do the dirty work themselves, and some animals are too agressive to give out to the average pet owner.
    B. Euthanizing an animal is a difficult process and
    the thought that cute posters and paint will make it easier is asinine. The best thing you can do for the animal at that point is to be as prepaired as possible
    and procede in calm professional manner. Maybe HSUS could set up a fund that would provide consoling for shelter workers.

  7. Tim–
    No Kill shelters do not kill healthy or treatable animals, hence the name. They do however euthanize irremediably sick or injured ones, and that is the only time the term ‘euthanize’ should be used. According to the proper definition of the term, it is done for reasons of mercy, not convenience or population control.

  8. I don’t want HSUS to provide counsel to me or the shelter workers in my area! If THIS is the $20K boiler plate “review” they offer, and their advice is to shut down one day a week from the public so they have a day to catch up on cleaning and killing…well, I think the industry has had enough of THAT counsel, thank you very much!

  9. Hey there, not sure if anyone is still monitoring this, but every time I try to click on the link to the report, it re-directs me to the mayor’s page… do you have a hard copy of the PDF 2004 report? Thanks!

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