BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Broward Animal Care executive director Thomas Adair has resigned his position following a Local 10 News report, showing he and other county employees changed dog and cat death records in a way that made it appear pet owners who requested their animals be adopted had instead asked that they be euthanized.
When questioned by investigative reporter Bob Norman, Adair denied wrongdoing, claiming the altered records were simply part of a "quality control" process.
But the station's findings immediately prompted the county to begin an investigation and put Adair on paid administrative leave. Adair, who was making in excess of $140,000 a year, resigned just a week after the report aired, still denying he did anything wrong.
"I did not, have not and would not attempt to improperly alter official records," Adair wrote in the Sept. 5 email to county official Henry Sniezek. "The decision to leave my position is based in part on my desire to avoid further disruption to the shelter staff and the mission to improve the welfare of animals."
Local 10 obtained evidence that Adair was going into the county computer system and changing the actual reason for the county shelter to kill dogs and cats -- be it for health reasons, aggressiveness, or another factor -- to "owner requested."
Animals put down at the owner's request aren't included in official euthanasia totals, meaning they don't count against the county's much-publicized goal of becoming a "no-kill" shelter.
A well-placed source inside the shelter said there has been a concerted effort starting at the top to bring up the number of the "owner requested" kills.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county's investigation, which is looking at animal death records over a period of five years, has already confirmed that death records were changed at the shelter, though she said the motive for doing so has not yet been ascertained.
"We want to know how long has it been going on, what is the extent of it, why was it being done," Sharief said. "The county prides itself on transparency and I'm glad [Local 10 did its report]. It sheds some light on some shortcomings we need to fix."
Perhaps most damning was that records showed that after a public records request was received by the shelter checking up on Animal Care record-keeping procedures, Adair went back into the county computer system and changed the records for a second time -- this time back from owner requested to the original reason given.
Animal activist and Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who made the request, said she suspects it was a bid to cover the shelter's tracks.
Local 10 has also obtained an email from one of Adair's now-former underlings, animal care supervisor Irene Feser, telling Adair she was "uncomfortable" changing records at the shelter, writing that it's "not a good idea ... especially if a records request is involved ... to change information on a record."
Adair replied that Feser was "reading more into this" than she should be, claiming it was just a "quality control check," and asking him to come see him in his office.
"This was somebody who had worked long enough at the county to know that she should not do that," Lazarow said.
Sharief said the county's investigation's findings will be made public when it is completed.