A press release this week detailed a former employee’s account of a mass killing of cats at Miami-Dade Animal Services via the heartstick method. The killings were reportedly performed without sedation and all by one technician on October 22, 2010. A staff member reported the incident and the technician was demoted to a position where he no longer kills pets at the shelter. The person reporting the incident was terminated in January 2011. None of this information seems to be disputed by MDAS.
The statement from the witness can be read here but be warned, some details may be too graphic for sensitive readers.
MDAS released an official response yesterday and you can read that here. In addition, I received this from the shelter director, Dr. Sara Pizano, in response to my request for a comment:
[W]hen I began as Director in 2005, I was the one who stopped heartsticks for euthanasia with animals who were not sedated. This technician was doing heartsticks and so was terminated.
We’ve made tremendous progress since becoming an independent Department in 2005 and the number of animals saved has increased from 6,000 to 14,000. If you are familiar with shelter statistics you can appreciate the significance of that.
Indeed that is a wonderful improvement. But it’s important to note that the 14,000 figure from 2009 still represents a 62% kill rate.
I’ve come down hard on MDAS in the past when I’ve felt it was warranted. But in this situation, I’m inclined to give them a conditional pass while still condemning the shelter’s killing of healthy/treatable pets. It would be different if the whistleblower was alleging she was fired without cause or if there were allegations that heartsticking was an ongoing practice at the shelter. Neither of those allegations are being made. The incident was reported, swift action was apparently taken and the technician was demoted to a position where he would be unable to kill cats so cruelly in future.
I appreciate how horrifying it is to those of us opposed to killing adoptable pets to hear details of cats suffering as they are being needlessly killed. But by the same measure, this is what we want to happen in situations like these. We want people to speak up, we want the shelter administration to take the allegations seriously and we want those responsible for the cruelty removed.
Perhaps the case could be made for complete termination from MDAS and criminal charges of animal cruelty against the individual, I don’t know. I mean, I know how I feel about it, but I don’t know if either scenario is realistic. Someone with knowledge of union regulations and FL animal law would have to be consulted. I hope those avenues were explored.
But in a general sense, as disgusted as I am at the actions of the heartsticking technician, I fail to see how MDAS can be condemned for their handling of the incident. There’s no evidence to suggest MDAS knew this was happening before the whistleblower came forward. Once they learned of it, they took action to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
What do you think?