Want to make a quick buck in Hillsborough County, Florida? If you live in Tampa or its environs, just visit the county shelter on a weekend when they are adopting out dogs for free and get a couple. There’s no adoption fee, no application, and best of all — you can sell a dog for $50 the very next day! Just say it’s a good “hog hunter.”
It helps if you take the dogs you “adopt” out to check on their hunting skills. If you lose the smaller, weaker one, no worries. After all, you didn’t pay anything for him. You probably didn’t even have to feed him because he was killed the very night you adopted him!
Smart move. And you still have the live dog to sell and make a quick profit.
If that scenario seems ludicrous, yes it is. If it seems impossible, no it’s not.
According to local volunteers, that’s just what happened to two dogs who were adopted during a free adoption event. The shelter turned over two dogs to a hog hunter; there was no background check, no application, and no fee. Here is what local volunteers posted on Facebook after the dogs were adopted and found to be missing.
Tom and Stanley were adopted at the “FREE” adoption event at PRC on Saturday July 29. There are ZERO applications to adopt from the shelter. A volunteer program that calls and follows up with adopters called to check in on these 2 dogs. Tom and Stanley’s follow up adoption call did not go so well. In fact it was quite disturbing.
The adopter’s responses during the call were bizarre and frightening to those who knew the dogs. He vacillated about whether he had other dogs, said they lived outside in a pen, and didn’t know who his vet was. He didn’t want to talk about the dogs.
The volunteers were concerned and did some investigating. They discovered that the adopter was a hog hunter, and one of his dogs had been killed by a hog two weeks earlier. He had posted videos of his dogs fighting with a hog, and volunteers say that on July 19, he posted that one of his dogs had been killed by a hog. He also posted that the local “pound” was full of “hunting dogs” up for adoption. He added, “lmao.”
Indeed, no one else is laughing that he adopted a dog who may have been killed that very night because the shelter director doesn’t seem to care if hog hunters adopt dogs to use for that sport. He doesn’t appear to care if they are killed before 24 hours have elapsed after the dogs leave the shelter.
Scott Trebatoski, the shelter director, and those who make shelter policy also don’t seem to care if heartworm positive dogs get the treatment they need to stay healthy — adopters are not required to get dogs treatment. They don’t seem to care if people adopt multiple dogs and turn around and sell them the next day — for any purpose. In fact, not only does the shelter director refuse to implement an application system, he also stymies the efforts of volunteers to make sure dogs go to homes where they will be safe, and their efforts to follow up on the fates of the dogs adopted out to anyone.
Tom was the sweet dog who was adopted with Stanley. According to local volunteers, the day after his adoption, Stanley was listed online for $50 as a hog hunter. After that post, Stanley disappeared. Tom was not seen again after leaving the shelter with the same adopter. And two months later, after having adopted two dogs, this person posted:
“I believe 100% Tom died the very night night he was adopted. When I tell you it keeps me up at night and has literally make me throw up I am not exaggerating. It eats at my soul. Tom was a really cute happy dog. He was so friendly and “dumb,” not a mean bone in his body — there is no way he would have hunted. He also was in isolation for URI (upper respiratory infection) for 2 weeks. He was really sick — in fact they put him on the euth list his URI was so bad. He recovered and went back onto the adoption floor and then was adopted by this creep. Stanley was also a great dog. He was a happy healthy friendly dog. I think he took them hunting that very night he adopted them. Tom was smaller and probably weaker due to his being sick for a few weeks. I believe either Tom could not keep up and was left in the woods, or he got to the hog and the hog killed him since he was smaller and weaker.”
When the animal control officer (whom volunteers highly praise) went to check on the dogs, there were no dogs at the address. Volunteers fear that Tom died that night and that he suffered. They don’t know what happened to Stanley. After the volunteers alerted animal control officers about the pending adoption of another dog by this adopter’s friend, that adoption was stopped.
The friend who had been allowed to adopt Honey had just been on the news after his pack of dogs attacked a calf and a child. The only reason he had not been able to leave the shelter with Honey, whom he adopted for free, was that the shelter needed to spay her. Thankfully, Honey was not allowed to leave with this individual.
One animal lover posted on Facebook:
Tom was adopted with another dog when 3 known hog hunters came in together for their free dog supply from the PRC. The next day the other dog was listed “for sale for $50” on Craigslist because he didn’t hunt so good…..can only assume that after leaving isolation for 12 days with an upper respiratory infection and adopted to a known hog hunter, Tom might not have met such a good end as being alive the next day. Hopefully when he was unable to keep up, obviously sick, and not a good killer, he was killed fast…..that would be the BEST case honestly. A few days later when animal control went out to check on the dogs, neither dog could be found. Nobody seemed to know where their brand new recently adopted dogs went to. The third “adopter” was prevented from adopting his dog even though he had gone through the paperwork (giving his name and a wrong address that didn’t match his driver’s license which also wasn’t current). The third adopter picked Honey and still needed to be spayed so she survived because a volunteer was able to request a wellness check on Tom and Stanley. Honey is alive today. This is what happens when dogs are adopted out for FREE with absolutely no application process.
There are many in Hillsborough County, Florida who are very aware of how terribly the Tampa county shelter, the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center (HCPRC) is run. Among those are animal rescuers and others concerned about the lack of oversight that the director provides and the fact that rather than being concerned about animals finding good homes where they will be well treated, it appears that those who run the shelter are only concerned with making the adoption numbers look good.
Local reporter Steve Andrews is familiar with the shelter. On July 28th of this year, he reported on many issues, including a dog euthanized by mistake, cats and dogs found dead in their kennels, and the length of time it took the HCPRC to release information about a rabid cat who had bitten three people.. Four others may have been exposed to the rabies virus.
According to Andrews, of News Channel Target 8, at the county board meeting where these issues were raised, “Committee member Dr. Christy Layton’s questions went unanswered.” She went on to comment that Director Scott Trebatoski was absent for the third monthly board meeting in a row, so they couldn’t get answers to their questions. According to volunteers, he is often absent at county board meetings.
The same committee member wondered why, with all the money spent on a fancy adoption center, nothing was done to make the kennels where the dogs live more comfortable. When this writer visited the kennels during the month of July, the conditions were horrible. There were few working fans, and they did little to move the searing hot and humid air through the kennel. The complete article can be found here.
Rescue Me Tampa is a group of volunteers that works tirelessly to find homes for the dogs of Hillsborough County. (See FOX13’s “Animals Saved by Social Media“) They visit the shelter, photograph the dogs, walk the dogs, and then network them on social media. They have found homes for thousands of dogs that might otherwise be killed at the high-kill shelter. That makes it surprising that the volunteers say the shelter director, Trebatoski, refuses to cooperate with them. In fact, according to volunteers, he makes it difficult for them to get information and hides information from them — information that they say he gives to others without any problem.
On September 1st, Steven Andrews reported about the failure of the “free adoption” weekend the shelter promoted. During free adoptions, people drive to adopt dogs, and often, volunteers and animal rescuers find those same dogs posted on Craigslist the very next day for sale for $50 as hog hunters. Far from being adopted to loving homes, the dogs are being given to those who want to make a quick profit and don’t care about the dogs at all.
In spite of problems like these, at this point Director Trebatoski refuses to do what most responsible shelters do — make adopters fill out an application. It seems like such a simple step — to have prospective adopters fill out an application which is reviewed before being allowed to adopt a dog. Make sure that it includes a statement that the dog is being adopted for the adopter, and not for resale or rehoming. But in spite of years of volunteers begging for such an application, the shelter continues to allow almost anyone to walk out with a dog or two or three. In fact, the shelter encourages people to adopt dogs and then “rehome” them.
While reputable shelters and rescues strive to ensure that if an adopted animal is not wanted, it’s returned so that another suitable home can be found, this shelter does the opposite. They seem to encourage anyone to adopt a dog for any reason, even if the dog’s life will be in danger. Those who make the policies, Trebatoski and those who allow him to remain in charge, don’t seem to care about anything except the live release numbers. And Tom, that dog who might have been killed the very night he was adopted? He is on the shelter’s books as a live release. And that’s what counts, folks.
In another egregious situation, Steve Andrews reported that, “In one case, the PRC adopted a dog named Etta to a man who owed Hillsborough $560 dollars in fines for violating county animal ordinances.” The dog’s adopter had failed repeatedly to license his dogs and have them vaccinated. The adopter’s pack of dogs had also attacked and killed a neighbor’s calf and then attacked her daughter. In the Target 8 report, the neighbor is seen describing how she had to shoot the dog to protect her daughter. It was only after Target 8 began to investigate this situation that a county animal control officer went to check on Etta’s well being. Etta and five other dogs were confiscated for cruelty.
When a shelter gives dogs away to anyone for free, and at other times for a mere $20, with no application process at all, no follow-through, and no counseling about giving a dog time to decompress and get used to new surroundings (for those adopters who actually want to keep the dog and not resell it the next day), the outcome is dismal. Many, many dogs that were adopted are found as strays and returned to the shelter. But the original adoption, even though it failed, still counts toward the shelter’s “save” numbers. One such dog was Eva (Sweet Eva Failed by Many Including Shelter that Doesn’t Screen Adopters or Give Basic Information about Introducing a New Dog into a Home).
Georgie is a dog who was failed twice by this shelter. HCPRC adopted this young, sweet dog to a felon who wanted Georgie and another dog adopted at the same time to be hog hunters. At least one of the dogs was heartworm positive. When volunteers begged animal control officers to check on the dog, they found that the adopter had given HCPRC a false address. The animal control officers did track down the adopter, who had both dogs and two others he was selling for hog hunting, but they did not remove the dogs from the home in spite of the falsification of information. And when Georgie ended up at the shelter months later, he was extremely underweight and covered in scars.
The volunteer coordinator, for reasons unknown, decided to put Georgie, a dog who had been through a lot and had just arrived back at the shelter, in a room with a three-year-old child who was playing with a ball. The child got nipped by Georgie because of this lack of basic dog safety. Georgie was killed. According to the volunteers, the employee lied about the incident on county records. Volunteers saw the video of the incident and realized that the child had run at the dog while chasing his ball. Also, according to volunteers, it doesn’t appear that the worker was disciplined for this incident in which a dog died because of the shelter employee’s negligence. Georgie died after suffering what must have been terribly injurious events during his time as a hog hunter. When his usefulness as a hunter was up, he was dumped on the streets to die, scarred and hungry. And then the shelter failed him again by putting him in a terrible situation, and then killed him. The dog he was adopted with was not seen again, also failed by those who run the shelter.
Until the county decides that the shelter needs a director who cares more about animals than about numbers, nothing will change. The shelter will continue to refuse to work with those who really care about the animals, the volunteers. Until the county holds Scott Trebatoski responsible for the outcome of the living, breathing animals who depend on the shelter to keep them safe, nothing will change. Dogs and cats will die and will be adopted to be used as hog hunters, as bait animals, or to be left as strays in the streets of Hillsborough and neighboring counties.
And while Trebatoski gets salary raises based, in part, on his wonderful “save” numbers, animals die and volunteers cry.
If you want the county shelter to implement policies that ensure the safety of the animals who get adopted, please contact these individuals, and make your voices heard. The shelter needs a director who cares about where the animals are going and that they will be safe. Please be polite.
Read the next article for a goldmine of information including Steve Andrew’s reporting that director Scott Trebatoski’s evaluation is directly linked to the live adoption rate at the shelter. Both Tom and Stanley counted as live adoptions even though one might have died that night.