Disturbing photos from Florida animal euthanasia room prompt change

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — WFLA has obtained disturbing photos showing the treatment of animals inside a Manatee County euthanasia room. The pictures have animal advocates outraged.

The pictures come from a surveillance camera inside Manatee County Animal Services on Oct. 22. They show county employees euthanizing dogs and cats. (The photos have been blurred and are at the bottom of this article.)

One picture shows a dog lying dead and forgotten on the floor as another dog sniffs it. Another picture shows a bin filled to the brim with carcasses.

“It was absolutely unbelievable, it’s the only word I can use,” said animal activist Lori Gurley.

“It made me ill, it really did, the callousness,” said fellow activist Laureen Smith.

Animal advocates feel these employees were careless and inhumane. “Euthanizing is done compassionately, and what they’re doing is not compassionate,” said Gurly.

“I know that there are animals that need to be euthanized, but we can deal with this with respect, we don’t have to do it this way,” said Smith.

These images have sparked outraged all over social media. WFLA reached out to the county and was issued a statement. It says the acting chief of animal services learned of the pictures in November and immediately took action.

Even though no protocols were broken here, all shelter employees went through additional training to make sure they’re treating these animals humanely. The official emphasized this won’t happen again. The statement says in part, “Since mid-November, a shift supervisor has routinely conducted inspections whenever animals must be euthanized.”

Advocates were also mad that the surveillance camera used inside the euthanasia room was removed. The county says that camera was only there temporarily and has since been moved to an area of the shelter that really needed it.

The following is Manatee County’s statement:

Since 2011, Manatee County has worked with numerous volunteers, pet advocates and animal shelters throughout the region to pursue our goal of becoming a No Kill community. From the time we began the No Kill movement, our save rates have improved 30%. During Fiscal Year 2014-15, Manatee County successfully saved 92% of all animals that came to our shelter.

But challenges remain and overcrowding at our shelter can expose healthy, adoptable animals to illness, stress and other unhealthy conditions.

A senior leadership team at Manatee County Animal Services meets weekly to evaluate our animal populations and to make sure every effort is made to find homes for our animals. However, sometimes the leadership group must make the difficult decision to euthanize some animals.

When euthanasia must be carried out, it is done so by a limited number of MCAS staff who are state-certified to perform animal euthanasia. These employees have a sincere compassion for animals and are committed to ensuring that animals are treated humanely while they are in our care. All euthanasia performed in Florida must be done in accordance with Florida Statutes and within the parameters of the Florida Animal Control Association Euthanasia Guidelines.

Above and beyond state protocols, MCAS has a set of standard operating procedures which must also be followed when animals are euthanized. The MCAS procedures are based on the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters and help ensure an even more humane approach is taken.

On Nov. 2, acting MCAS Chief Joel Richmond reviewed video footage from the room where animals are euthanized. The footage shows two MCAS employees performing euthanasia within state guidelines. However, the footage also shows that the employees did not follow some of our best practices (listed below). Joel took immediate action on Nov. 3 to reemphasize the importance of the MCAS guidelines by sending a memo, and later speaking to all shelter employees during a group training session on euthanasia practices. In addition to these communications we have taken an important step to ensuring our best practices are followed. Since mid-November, a shift supervisor has routinely conducted inspections whenever animals must be euthanized.

(Taken from Euthanasia and Selection section of the Manatee County Animal Services Standard Operating Procedure)

1. Animals should be handled in a safe and humane manner in an effort to minimize stress on the animal and risk to personnel.

2. Always use appropriate pre-euthanasia sedatives, tranquilizers, or anesthetic drugs on aggressive, fearful, or fractious animals.

3. Do not expose animals of differing species to each other before or during euthanasia.

4. Do not expose live animals to those animals that have been euthanized. Deceased animals should be removed from the area prior to performing any additional euthanasia.

5. Only authorized personnel are allowed in the euthanasia area.

6. Animals should be weighed and documented prior to performing euthanasia.

7. Each animal’s behavior should be assessed. Whether the animal is friendly, aggressive, or fearful should be determined to help ensure safe and appropriate handling.

8. Female dogs and cats should be euthanized prior to euthanizing any of their puppies and kittens.

9. No animal should be left unattended between the time euthanasia is first begun and the time death occurs, nor may the body be disposed of until death is confirmed.

10. Only certified technicians will be authorized to perform euthanasia and verify death.

11. The animal’s temperament, the species of the animal, and the health of the animal will determine which route of administration is best. (based on FACA and AVMA guidelines)

12. Euthanasia of dogs and cats should be performed by 2 technicians.

13. Verify all information is correct prior to euthanasia. Check cage card and pre euthanasia lists, scan animals, and cross check to ensure the correct animal is being euthanized.

14. Log all drugs used in the appropriate areas on the appropriate forms.

15. Outsource all animals euthanized in the Chameleon system.

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