The Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services Department is again in hot water. They have received word that a whistle
blower has contacted the City of Jacksonville Ethics Department that an “anonymous” source has made a claim that the pet shelter, located on Forrest Street, is faking the numbers it shows as rescues, in order to maintain their “no-kill” status. For the 2nd time in as many years, Jacksonville Animal Care has been questioned in Jacksonville.
Whistle-blower accuses Jacksonville’s Animal Care of faking numbers to keep no-kill status
By Joe Daraskevich, Florida Times Union, Thu, Aug 13, 2015 @ 7:14 pmThe director of the Jacksonville Office of Ethics received an anonymous whistle-blower letter Thursday with allegations against two leaders of the city’s Animal Care and Protective Services. The letter asked Carla Miller to “please open an ethics investigation, interview the shelter employees, interview former employees and do a detailed audit of all the animals euthanized over the past year.”
Nikki Harris and Jen Walter, division chief and shelter manager for Animal Care, were the subjects of the email. They are accused of falsifying numbers to maintain no-kill status at the shelter.
A shelter receives no-kill status by killing 10 percent or less of animals they take in.
Harris and Walter declined to comment on the letter.
James Croft, a city spokesman, referred all questions to Thomas Cline Jr., the city’s inspector general.
“I can’t confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” Cline said.
The author signed the letter as an anonymous whistle-blower and said “you’ll be shocked at what you find.”
“We look into every complaint,” Cline said.
He said you have to be connected to the city in some way to be classified as a whistle-blower so that heightens the level of this complaint.
“We get a lot of complaints and phone calls that come in anonymously,” Cline said.
Among the three main allegations in the letter is that Harris and Walter have been misclassifying animals in order to euthanize them.
The letter said the shelter has been euthanizing animals that would have recovered from medical problems because treating the issues “takes more resources, so it’s easier for them to just euthanize them and lie about it.”
They also are said to have turned away animals claiming the shelter is full because “by refusing to accept strays that are brought in, those animals aren’t counted against the shelter’s numbers.”
Jennifer Deane is the president of Pit Sisters — a Jacksonville-based company that specializes in treating dogs and nursing them back to health — and she said she’s worked with Harris and Walter on numerous occasions and it’s hard for her to believe the claims in the letter.
“Why would they do that when they call us to take care of the dogs all the time,” Deane said.
She said it would be much easier to euthanize the undernourished dogs rather than go through the trouble of contacting Pit Sisters.
Dogs are often housed at Pit Sisters when the shelter is full until a mega adoption event takes place and the shelter fills up pretty regularly, Deane said.
She said she’s been to the shelter and seen it full to capacity many times.
A whistle-blower also contacted the city in July 2014 about issues with policy and that two senior staff members regularly engaged in “inappropriate” touching among other things.
An investigation into those allegations concluded in August 2014 and were “determined to be unfounded,” according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office.
Training is always an issue, but so are funds
We know that ACPS holds a mega adoption in conjunction with the folks of First Coast No More Homeless Pets and we know one of the major issues of each “Mega Event” is the lack of training available to the new families. Rescue dogs can be a great dog, but the reality of each Rescue is that no one knows the “triggers” or history of each dog, other than the time spent in a shelter, where stress, disease and illness run rampant. The 20 minutes a family spends looking at their forever dog is never enough time to see how the dog will fit in the family dynamic. There is never enough training of the dogs to make them good viable members of the family. This is where cost comes into play.
Having spoken with Jennifer Deane of Pit Sisters, we both agree that there needs to be more training with regard to the dog and the owners. The Pit Sisters have a new program to train dogs in their new home environment. They have been in existence for a very long time and they do a lot of good in the Jacksonville Community. If you rescue a “Pit/Terrier mix”, we recommend you reach out to Pit Sisters and see if you qualify for the mobile training option,
Second letter in as many years
We’re not here to judge what the Division Chief and Shelter Manager do or how they use their resources. There are many cities and municipalities that run their Animal Care differently, but this is a Jacksonville Animal Care issue and must be resolved locally. If ACPS would like to work with Happy Hound Dog Resorts on a rescue or training program, we have stated that we would be willing to do so. We are all in this together, we all help the welfare of animals and we look forward to putting this behind all of us and looking at new ways to help the pet owners of Jacksonville.