Rescue Me Tampa (RMT) is a group that for years has been aggressively promoting and publicizing the dogs at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa, Florida, in hopes of getting them adopted or pulled by rescue before their time is up. And they’ve been very successful.
The shelter management worked with the group, giving them a volunteer login to the computer system. This allowed the volunteers in the group to access medical information, notes from playgroups, owner surrender comments, and other information vital to networking a dog. In fact, the shelter would provide RMT with a list of the dogs who were likely to be euthanized the next day unless they were pulled or adopted before their kennel was needed. RMT would then go into action, posting pictures of those dogs, including their medical information, their personality, their playgroup information and any other information that the shelter had — information that potential adopters or rescues needed before committing to a dog. Often, because of that posting, the shelter would receive that all-important email stating that the at-risk dog now had someone committing to adopting or pulling that dog. A life saved.
In fact, these volunteers go to the shelter every day and photograph the dogs, spending precious time with each dog so that the dogs get some loving attention. In the summer, they sweat in the hot, humid kennels that lack not only air-conditioning but efficient fans. They are dedicated and passionate, but they are struggling to effectively network the urgent dogs because of the current lack of information from the shelter.
In December of last year (2015), when software changes were discussed, the shelter promised RMT that they would be given volunteer access to the new program. RMT volunteers state that at several different times and during at least one meeting they were told that they would have volunteer access to the new system. But when the shelter changed their computer program in April, the director, Scott Trebatoski, changed his mind. When June went by with no access to the computer program, the volunteers met again with not only Trebatoski, but county leaders. During that meeting they agreed on information that would be included in nightly reports that would be sent from the shelter. That has not happened. There are nightly reports, but they are often inaccurate, missing dogs, or lacking vital information.
The shelter claims that they provide the information through the public access documents they share. But looking at a “Pre-Euth Report” one can see that there is minimal information about the animals on the list to be euthanized. The pictures are terrible and there is no indication as to a dog’s weight. Without a weight, and with the poor quality pictures on the report, there is no way to tell the size of a dog. Hardly the information that is needed to effectively network dogs. Information about playgroup, medical notes, temperament notes — all that information is sorely lacking in this report. The volunteers also claim that they get pleas from the shelter about dogs to be euthanized if an email is not sent to the shelter by 9:00 am the next morning. The problem is that some of these dogs are not off their stray hold, and other dogs don’t appear anywhere in the shelter’s reports.
What is especially concerning about the dogs missing from the kennel reports is that when those dogs end up the subject of an urgent rescue plea from the shelter because they are on the euthanasia list for the next day, RMT doesn’t have the information they need to really network those dogs. And if they email the shelter asking for more time for those dogs — because they didn’t have the information they needed to network the dog, the shelter refuses.
The fact is that RMT can’t successfully network dogs without information about the dogs, including whether they are urgent — meaning that they are on the list of dogs who will be euthanized when their kennel is needed. When the shelter fails to update their public page, RMT doesn’t even know which dogs are still alive and which ones were killed.
In a recent Facebook post, RMT wrote:
Village! We are beyond frustrated and above all else we are sad and sick for the animals. They deserve better. We have been battling with lack of information for the last 3 months and it is not any better. Everyday we spend hours emailing for information. Information we were provided with for years. We do not know what dogs are dead, alive or need help. We need help. Tonight we did not receive any reports or information. If you want to email on behalf of the animals and ask for the reports and access to be restored here are the email addresses. We apologize for not updating the dogs this evening.