Animal Advocate: Animals killed 'by mistake'

Rescue groups say MDAS putting down animals promised to rescues

MIAMI – In the first part of our 2-part investigation, Local 10 showed you the sad state of Miami-Dade Animal Services, where more than 30,000 animals are dumped every single year.

Thousands of dogs and cats never get the chance at a full life and are put down for reasons as simple as overcrowding -- not to mention sickness, abuse and neglect.

In Part II of this special report, we explore more reasons why these animals are being killed at MDAS. Can more be done to save them? Is the shelter working to keep them alive, or has killing become the norm?

"We don't have a shelter, we have a killing facility," said Ailyn Deno of Coastal Boxer Rescue. "It's sad that we have to deal with Miami Dade,"

Deno has been adopting dogs from Miami-Dade Animal services for the past four years.

"We literally have to fight with the shelter," she said. "We have to beg them, 'Please let me take this dog today because it needs help.'"

Each animal that comes into the shelter is assigned a due out date. By that date, the animal must be adopted or it will be put down. So animal rescue organizations routinely place a hold, promising they will take the animal before the due out date.

Deno says she has documented at least five animals her rescue promised to take that were killed before they were supposed to be, and before her group could get them out of the shelter.

"They know they are wrong. They know they're doing something wrong and they don't want it to get out there," she said.

Kathleen Labrada of Miami-Dade Animal Services admits there are what she calls rare mistakes.

"Dogs with holds from rescue organizations, there have been one or two that have slipped through the cracks and did end up being euthanized," she said.

But the problem is big enough that even people on the inside are outraged. One shelter volunteer who spoke with Local 10 during our investigation, fears that speaking out will keep her from saving dogs on death row.

When asked why an animal that has a hold from a rescue would ever be killed, she replied: "Well, you know, that's something I wish I knew."

But reports of it happening are rampant on social media -- the breeding ground for grassroots animal rescue.

"If an animal were to be euthanized with a hold in place -- which would be a direct violation of standard operating procedure -- that employee would be disciplined and the end result can be anything ranging from suspension to termination from county service," Labrada said.

When asked about the recent firing of veterinarian Dr. Luis Keeshon, Labrada laughed and replied: "I don't think that's the right -- it's not related to this."

But others in the department told Local 10 the firing is related. In fact, Miami-Dade Animal Services Dir. Alex Munoz told Local 10 by phone the firing was the result of a cat that was accidentally put down.

"The Chief Veterinarian was let go, but not because of a euthanasia issue or anything like that," Labrada said.  "The chief that we had hired in December just turned out not to be the right fit, so we're actively in the process of hiring a new chief."

Rescue groups continue to pressure Animal Services to make changes, but it's not always an easy relationship.

But these vocal animal activists can have an impact.

Animals used to be put down starting at 7 a.m. -- too early for some last-minute hold requests to be processed. As of late January, cats and dogs are now put down starting at 11 a.m.

"That was in direct response to the complaints from rescue that the holds weren't being processed," Labrada said.

But those small changes won't address the big issues.

This shelter is overcrowded -- 30,000 animals a year come through its doors and sadly, nearly half are going out in red bags.

As for the future of Miami-Dade Animal Services, the County Commission meets on Wednesday to discuss approving a no-kill referendum which could completely change the way things operate. 


About the Authors:

Jacey Birch anchors Local 10 News Mornings each weekday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. She is also proud to be the animal advocate for Local 10's investigative team.