“They killed her,” read the note attached to the Facebook photo on which I had been tagged.
Less than 18 hours earlier, I had read a message that Sue, Miami-Dade Animal Services ID#A1453340, had a hold on her and was safe.
In animal rescue lingo, that means someone had made the commitment to pick her up and transport her to a new family, a foster home or a 'no-kill' facility.
But Miami-Dade Animal Services killed Sue before someone could pick her up.
This is not an isolated case. In the past 8 weeks alone, I have received information about five such cases. In all of them, MDAS blames either human error or a computer mishap for killing the animals.
At 10:12 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 9, Nancy Tucker sent a DNE (Do Not Euthanize) e-mail to MDAS confirming that an adoption plan for Sue had been put in place.
"To be picked up 8/10/12 by Julie Kemman. Thank you very much!!!!!" she wrote.
At 7:00 a.m. on Friday, the staff at Miami-Dade Animal Services began the daily ritual of putting down the animals scheduled to die that day. At 7:45 a.m., Sue was euthanized.
At 10 a.m., the staff finally got around to reading Nancy’s e-mail from the night before.
Debi Day, an animal advocate who has been working to help MDAS with its no-kill initiative, says they made sure there are computers in the "kill room," where technicians can check on late-night e-mails that come in from rescues.
Why, if systems are in place to double check to see if there’s a hold on an animal, did this happen?
“Obviously someone was too lazy to check,” Nancy says.
Dogs aren't the only ones falling victim to these errors and oversights. Cats that come in to the shelter are put down at an alarming rate, mostly due to lack of space.
On Aug. 6, I received a Facebook message from Nicole Silverstein regarding three cats with rescue holds that had been killed at MDAS within the previous two weeks.
On Aug. 3, A&B All Cats4ever Rescue received an e-mail from Joel Vera at the shelter confirming they had received a note saying that a rescue commitment had been placed for Annie and Champ for pickup on Aug. 6 between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
However, on Aug. 5, MDAS killed both cats.
"Sorry, Yes, but they were Euth," was the response from Andrew Banchs, another employee.
In this case, MDAS blamed a combination of a clerical error and a mysterious illness for killing the cats.
"The hold had not been placed in the records," said Kathy Labrada, the shelter'sChief of Operations & Enforcement. "The only information recorded was a DNE which expired at noon on Aug. 5. The cats had been here since 7/17, both of them became sick and were euthanized to protect the health of the general population."
"We definitely see that there are problems at the shelter that employees are not following the proper procedures," wrote Britt Camacho from A&B All Cats4ever Rescue. "How very sad that cats are being killed because of this. We have the proof in the e-mail from Mr. Vera that we had the hold until Aug. 6. What is most upsetting is that you say that they became sick. They don’t become sick in one night. Someone could have at least called us to let us know so we could have picked them up immediately. No excuse and definitely not acceptable."
An e-mail I sent to Alex Munoz regarding this situation went unanswered for two days. I received a response from Kathy Labrada, blaming a clerical error for what happened.
A week earlier, Kali, another cat with a rescue commitment, had also been put down.
“I cannot and will not offer an excuse for this matter. I am as disappointed as you are that she had a home she never made it into as a result. The technician responsible will be held accountable and all other technicians will be counseled immediately on the importance of checking all notes prior to euthanasia," Labrada wrote in response to an e-mail.
On Aug. 14, A&B All Cats4ever Rescue sent MDAS a do not euthanize e-mail at 5:25 a.m. saying that they were working with a person who wanted to adopt Gracie, yet another cat.