FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - As of late last year, Broward County pet parents can no longer renew their pets' licenses at their veterinarians' offices.
And so, since it was that time of the year to renew Queenie's tag, I opted not to renew online and instead went to the Broward County Animal Shelter, excited to finally get a personal look at the place whose animals I've helped promote via Local10.com and through my own personal contacts for years.
I drove the 11 miles from the station to the outer edges of Fort Lauderdale Airport. There, literally across the street from a runway filled with planes ready to take off, sat the building that houses the lost and abandoned pets of Broward County.
Ten minutes later, I had Queenie's new tag in hand. Then I asked a question that would be the inspiration for this column.
"Any chance I could get a tour?" I asked the young lady who had processed the paperwork.
"I'm sorry," she said. "We're closed."
I reached into my wallet and pulled out my Local 10 ID. It's something I never do. I hate playing the TV card. But I was really looking forward to seeing some of the animals that I had only seen on our website's new Adopt-A-Pet section.
"Oh, let me get the head honcho," she replied, picking up the phone.
After a minute or so of a hushed conversation, she hung up and said a tour would be impossible.
"But I've worked with you guys for so long and I've never had the chance to come down until now. Can't I just get a quick look at the animals?" I asked.
"There's too much bleach in the back. We don't want you to fall," she replied.
Bleach? Seriously? That's the reason you give to one of your biggest advocates when they ask to see firsthand the animals for which she's been advocating?
Sure, it's a liability. How about asking me to wait a few minutes until you can get the bleach mopped up and invite me in?
And what about the head honcho? A walk out into the reception area to tell me personally about the bleach situation would have gone a long way toward easing my disappointment. And this would have been a much different column.
I get it that animal rescue and sheltering is a thankless job. I get it that the director may have been very busy. But there I was, a member of the media, ready to spread whatever positive message I could to help the animals, and too much bleach on the floor was enough to deny me the chance to help.
I bet the animals in the back wouldn't have minded an unexpected visit.
I'm not angry. I'm sad. Not for myself, but for the animals. I wonder how many people who drive miles to adopt are turned away because it's not the right time.
Shelters always complain they don't have the resources to do their jobs.
So I'm confused as to why someone who has been advocating for them for years isn't given the time of day. I know I showed up unexpectedly, but if the tables were turned, I would have made the time.
In all fairness, the reception area was immaculate. In fact, the place looked like a high-end veterinary office. It looks like someone is doing something right -- at least in the front. I can't, however, tell you about what's in the back, where the animals are kept.
Perhaps one day I'll be allowed inside.
In the meantime, despite what happened, I will continue to advocate for the animals at Broward County Animal Care, as well as all the other shelters and rescue groups in South Florida. They are the innocent victims of shelters that must be run like a business by humans who don't always stop to consider the consequences of their actions.
But let this be a lesson to those shelters and rescue groups that are looking for help and publicity.
A little time and a little courtesy can go a long way toward getting what you want.
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