In Hillsborough County, Florida, not all dogs are equal. Some homeless dogs are flown in on planes to be adopted while other homeless dogs are killed in the county shelter.
Over 10,000 dogs and cats were euthanized at the county shelter between 2013 and 2015. Yet during that same time period, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB) imported almost 6,000 dogs from outside Florida according to Sherry Silk, the CEO of the humane society.
The shelter volunteers and local animal rescuers are furious that puppies and cats are being imported into the county when so many local animals are dying because the shelter can’t hold them all. “It’s easy to adopt out puppies,” a volunteer from Rescue Me Tampa said. “It’s easy to be no-kill when you send the unwanted dogs to the county shelter to be killed.”
A Tampa resident informed me that in July of last year, she found a 10-month old pit bull/lab puppy that had been dumped in her community. The county shelter’s intake hours were limited then, so she took the puppy to the humane society. They told her that if she made a donation, they would keep the puppy and put him up for adoption. She made a $200 donation and was happy to do it because they save dogs. She was shocked when, less than a week later, she saw that the puppy had been transferred to the county shelter. She wrote, “I (could) only imagine it was because the dog was heartworm positive.” That puppy’s story has a happy ending. No thanks to the humane society, though. He was adopted from the shelter. “It left a seriously bad taste in my mouth,” she said. “They didn’t even tell me they were transferring the dog to (the shelter) or I would have come and got him.” The humane society took her money after promising to keep the puppy safe. They lied.
In May of this year, a one-year-old dog named Pluto was surrendered to the county shelter for being “too active.” On the shelter notes it stated “Adopted from HSTB 2 mos ago. They won’t take it back.”
The facts are that the dog had been adopted two months previously from the humane society. It ended up at the county shelter. After Rescue Me Tampa publicized this fact on their Facebook page, the humane society took Pluto back.
While the volunteers at Rescue Me Tampa say that the imported puppies that the humane society adopts out grow into adults that end up at the county shelter, Silk vigorously disagrees. Regarding the statement on Pluto’s shelter notes stating that “They (the humane society) won’t take it back,” she says, “That’s a lie.”
A Rescue Me Tampa volunteer noted that on the same August day that the humane society flew in 43 dogs from out of state, the county shelter killed seven dogs because they ran out of space. The conclusion appears obvious — if fewer dogs are brought into Hillsborough County from other places, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay would have more room to help the animals who actually live (and die) in Hillsborough County.
“That’s not true,” insisted Silk. “If a family wants to adopt a puppy and the shelter doesn’t have one, they will go down the road and buy one from a pet store. We are saving lives by bringing in puppies. We would love to take in more large dogs, but we only have 44 dog runs,” Silk stated during a phone conversation. “We have 150 cages for smaller dogs.” But the humane society don’t appear to want those runs filled with pit bulls
During a county meeting, the Director of Shelter Operations for the humane society stated that in 2015, 1795 stray animals were brought into the humane society. Of those, 223 were sent to the county shelter. She went on to state that 90% of the 223 dogs sent to the county shelter from the humane society were pit bulls. She then immediately said, “I don’t know about anyone in this room, but I personally cannot manufacture an interest in a pit bull. Can you?” The implication in that statement is that pit bulls are harder to place, so the humane society doesn’t want to keep them.
And while the humane society claims that the reason they send dogs to the county shelter is that they have limited space for big dogs, their own Facebook thread shows that one of the dogs they imported from out-of-state last month is a large dog. Yet in that same Facebook post there are several heartbreaking pictures posted by commenters of dogs sent to the county shelter by HSTB because they were large dogs — some of whom were killed at the county shelter.
A practice that the humane society seems to encourage (as does the county shelter) is the rehoming of dogs. If adopters do not want their adopted pets any longer, they are welcome to try to find it another home or give it away by any means. “Of course we let people find homes for their animals.” She went on to clarify, “If you cannot find an animal a home, we will take it back.”
Local rescuers have found that the practice of allowing adopters to rehome their unwanted dogs results in shelter dogs returning to the shelter later as strays. Upon investigation (usually by the volunteers at Rescue Me Tampa, who often recognize the dogs), the adopter says that they gave the dog away and don’t know what happened to it. Dogs given away “free to good home” on websites like Craigslist often end up in terrible situations, being used in dog fighting either as a fighter or as bait.
So the end result is that the Humane Society of Tampa Bay is bringing in carloads and planeloads of puppies and cats from surrounding states and adopting them out. Then, if the adopter doesn’t want the animal anymore, there is no responsibility to return that animal back to the humane society. The adopters can basically do whatever they want with the cat or dog.
So while the humane society piously proclaims that they pull many dogs from the county shelter and take in strays directly from the public, what they don’t state, but what is clear, is that they pull the cute little dogs and dump the older, larger, harder-to-adopt dogs. Is that what a truly humane humane society should be about?
Readers, please feel free to weigh in. Do you agree that there is a problem bringing in cute puppies for adoption when the local county shelter is overflowing with dogs and euthanizing for space? Should the county shelter be doing the dirty work for the humane society by killing the dogs the humane society won’t or can’t adopt out so that the humane society can claim they are no-kill? With a budget of seven million dollars, couldn’t the humane society build a few more runs for larger dogs — the dogs that they are sending to their deaths at the county shelter?