Lisa Merkin and her son were at Miami-Dade Animal Services last week looking for a dog to adopt. She says they saw a worker outside with a dog on a chokepole. When the dog refused to move, she says a second worker began ramming him repeatedly with a cart, bloodying the dog’s face. She screamed at the workers to stop and whipped out her cell phone to film what was going on. That seemed to shut things down. Ms. Merkin says she pleaded for the dog’s life, offering to adopt him on the spot but workers killed the dog for “aggression”.
Ms. Merkin contacted the local news and a reporter went to the shelter manager who offered a rather different version of events:
“The dog was never struck with the cart,” said Kathleen Labrada, the Miami-Dade Animal Service manager. “The cart was used inappropriately to encourage the dog to move forward.”
As evidence, the reporter was shown surveillance video showing the worker making one pass at the dog with the cart. No contact is made during that one pass. But that video snippet does not show what happened before or after that one pass and does not mesh with Ms. Merkin’s account:
“I took my camera out for a reason, and the reason was they were ramming (the) cart into the dog,” Merkin said.
In addition to Ms. Merkin and her son, there was another witness who says he saw the same thing:
“We were looking at the dogs — the big dogs — and we turn around and we see the people hitting and ramming the dog with the cart,” said Tyler Visnich, a witness to the alleged abuse.
The Merkin family and Visnich are adamant that the dog was hit with the cart six times and suffered a bloody face.
The puzzling part:
“They didn’t strike the dog, but the manner in which they encouraged the dog to move is absolutely unacceptable,” Labrada said.
Labrada said the employees broke protocol simply by the way they were treating the dog. For that reason Jose Rodriguez, the man holding the pole, was terminated.
Yosmiel Rivero, the man with the cart, has been placed on administrative leave.
While I want to be clear that I am not in any way endorsing ramming a dog with a cart and that I would prefer to see a dog who refuses to move handled in a different manner from what’s shown in that surveillance video snippet, I would add that I don’t consider the one pass shown on that video to be a firing offense. I consider it to be more along the lines of an opportunity for improvement. If the manager’s version of events is true – that the worker made one pass at the dog with the cart without making contact in an effort to encourage the dog to move – it seems to me that both workers should be offered guidance on how to better handle similar situations in future. Taking them off the job seems extreme, which is why it’s hard for me to believe that the manager’s version of events is accurate.
If there is surveillance video that shows the complete period of time the dog was on that chokepole, that should obviously have been made public in order to address the abuse allegations. The brief snippet of video and the manager’s statement do not seem to jive with the disciplinary action taken. If the rest of the video shows what the eyewitnesses say they saw – the dog being rammed with the cart until he bled – then criminal charges would seem to be in order.
Anyone at the Miami-Dade shelter interested in getting to the truth and seeking justice? If not, it will once again be up to taxpayers to demand transparency and accountability from their public servants.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)