Audit confirms record-fixing of pet deaths at Broward Animal Care shelter

Bob Norman investigation led to county head's resignation

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A county special review found that the former top executive of the Broward County Animal Care and Control shelter altered 218 dog and cat death records over a two-year period to "owner requested," which made it appear that the county had a better live-release rate of animals than it actually had and that the shelter was willfully killing fewer animals.

The review also found evidence that animals were euthanized without proper documentation and that as many as a third of all pet euthanasia deaths listed as "owner requested" may have been inappropriately placed in that category, according to the report issued by County Auditor Robert Melton. 

The county probe was sparked by a Local 10 investigation that found that then-Broward Animal Care director Thomas Adair was secretly going into the county computer system and altering pet death records from the actual reason to "owner requested," which doesn't count against the shelter's live-release rates and helped bring the county closer to its goal of becoming a "no-kill" county.

Local 10's Bob Norman interviewed numerous pet owners, who said they were shocked to learn not only that the pets they left to be adopted had been euthanized, but also that they were officially listed as ordering their deaths.

Animal rights activist Michele Lazarow, who is also a Hallandale Beach commissioner, was integral in exposing the wrongdoing and put in a public records request for the shelter's owner request forms last May.

An Animal Control insider later supplied computer printouts to both Lazarow and Local 10 that appeared to show that Adair had gone back into the computer system after the public records request was made and changed some of the records he'd altered to "owner request" back to the original reason given in an apparent bid to cover his tracks. 

After Local 10's investigation aired, the county began its own investigation and suspended Adair, who then abruptly resigned his position.

While Lazarow says she believes laws were broken, Melton chose not to recommend taking further action.

Melton did, however, make numerous recommendations to add internal controls to keep such abuse from ever happening again, including barring all future directors from having access to the county's data entry system. 

Lazarow applauded the county's action. 

"They did take action, which is what they should have done," Lazarow said. "I hope this is the last time that we have to see an agency like this investigate Animal Care and Control." 

The county commission is expected to discuss the audit findings at its commission meeting on April 10.