What happens when a shelter allows a dog to suffer in agony for days before the staff veterinarian bothers to check on the dog, then finding that his intestines had perforated, and he had to be euthanized? What happens when after surgery, another dog is allowed to bleed to death, found two days later dead in her kennel? If the shelter is in Tampa, Florida, namely the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center (PRC), and the director is Scott Trebatoski, nothing happens. And according to the latest Target 8 report by Steve Andrews, “Shelter woes blamed on county commissioners’ refusal to listen,” the county board doesn’t care, either.
Volunteers have complained about the direction at PRC and the shelter director, Trebatoski, for years. Mismanagement has resulted in the shelter being investigated by Target 8 reporter Steve Andrews — who is definitely on the animals’ side! If there is ever change at the PRC, it will be due to the diligence of Steve Andrews and the many dedicated volunteers at Rescue Me Tampa – Shelter Dogs who have been speaking up about the neglect and abuse of animals at the shelter for years.
In fact, Steve Andrews of “On Your Side” with WFLA News 8 in Tampa, has covered many instances when PRC decisions have resulted in death or abuse of dogs. He investigated Clyde’s untimely death. Clyde arrived at the shelter on April 2 of this year. His weight is listed as 43 pounds, and he seemed sweet and friendly. But perhaps because of his age, he was quickly put on the euthanasia list by the shelter. The Facebook group, Rescue Me, Tampa – Shelter Dogs got to work and shared his story on social media. The post explains that his last home was not a good one; he was skinny and every bone could be felt. (Remember his weight: 43 pounds).
On April 8, Andrews says shelter records show “kennel staff reported dog ate a blanket and now has severe diarrhea with pieces of blanket in his stool.” Yet his report says that “PRC records show Clyde wasn’t seen by a vet for another six days.”
In the meantime, Rescue Me Tampa – Shelter Dogs’ posts had worked. Mike saw the post and went to the shelter to visit Clyde. He noticed that Clyde seemed lethargic, but he adopted him. The shelter didn’t allow Mike to take Clyde home because Clyde needed to see the vet first. Andrews points out that between the time Clyde ate the blanket and the time Mike adopted Clyde, no PRC veterinarian had seen Clyde, even though there are veterinarians who work full time for the shelter.
When the PRC veterinarians finally deigned to see Clyde, it was too late. The blanket had perforated Clyde’s intestines and he was euthanized by the shelter staff. The only “care” that Clyde received there was to be killed. For six days, Clyde suffered and was ignored by the shelter medical staff, even when his weight was dropping drastically. He was skinny to start with, and by the time he was finally seen by the shelter vet, his weight was 34.5 pounds. Shelter staff claimed they were monitoring Clyde, but he lost more than a pound a day from the time he ate the blanket — and no one noticed? He was emaciated and no one noticed? His was not a peaceful death, according to at least one veterinarian.
Andrews talked with a local veterinarian who says this is not the only case of an animal with medical issues being neglected at PRC. She has seen other examples of neglect while animals are at the shelter. Steve Andrews reports:
“A dog showing symptoms needs to be examined right away because it can be fatal,” veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence explained. PRC records show Clyde wasn’t seen by a vet for another six days.
“For this dog to have just lingered without the benefit of professional staff looking at it, in my opinion is unacceptable,” Dr. Alence added.
Dr. Alence contends this is one incident of many.
And there is also Lola, a 10-year-old dog who had a rescue that wanted to save her. The shelter insisted that she be spayed, even at the age of 10, before she could leave. But after her “complicated” spay, the shelter then put her in a kennel, not under observation in the veterinary area, and Lola bled to death. It took two days. She had also been separated from her best friend, a dog she lived with for ten years and loved, by the uncaring folks at the shelter who decided they knew that the dogs weren’t really bonded. Lola’s howls of sadness speak otherwise. See Steve Andrews’ heartbreaking report “On Your Side.”
Dog after dog dies. Adoptable cats are vaccinated and then dumped back on the streets to fend for themselves. Dogs are “adopted” for free and then sold as hunting dogs or used in dog fighting. Dogs who are suffering from heartworm are adopted out, and there is no requirement that adopters treat the sick animals (unlike the Memphis shelter where that is mandatory). So the sick dogs are adopted out, often to be used for hunting or other dangerous purposes, destined to die a painful death. Convicted felons are allowed to adopt dogs even though they have legally been barred from owning animals. The shelter doesn’t care.
But the county commissioners do nothing. Make no mistake: Their inaction is causing animals to die, and those deaths are not painless deaths at the end of a needle but deaths which occur only after suffering and cruelty.
Clyde, the dog who needlessly died this week, had been adopted. Yes, he had an owner who was excited about rescuing this senior dog. Yet the shelter would not allow Mr. Miller to take Clyde home, ironically, until he had seen a veterinarian. Clyde might still be alive if Miller had been allowed to take Clyde to his vet. He noted that Clyde was lethargic when he saw him. Yet it took three more days for the shelter vet to see Clyde — a full six days after he had eaten the blanket.
Local veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence took on the county when she requested that the PRC pick up some animals that had been abandoned at her veterinary clinic. The clinic helps as many abandoned animals as they can, but one individual left many animals in their parking lot. PRC declined to pick up the animals and responded to her request by telling her she is a veterinarian and has a duty to take them in. See Steve Andrews’ excellent coverage of this incident. (See “Hillsborough County to vet caring for abandoned pets: ‘Let them go'”)
Alence also reported several years ago that the list the shelter keeps of those legally enjoined (barred) from adopting an animal at the shelter was out of compliance and incorrect. Because of that, felons might have been allowed to adopt animals with perhaps deadly results (for the dogs who were adopted, that is). Target 8 reports “Dog abusers missing from Hillsborough list of people not allowed to adopt.”
This is also the shelter that has been unconcerned when unscrupulous people adopt dogs and then sell them days later as “hunting dogs.” When this cruel practice was pointed out to the shelter, they did nothing. (See “Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa, FL in the News for Putting Animals in Danger and Refusing to Work with Rescue Groups“) When dogs are given away for free, with no application process and no checking of the home, those dogs are going to end up in bad situations. Andrews points out the dangers in “Target 8: Free pet adoptions put Hillsborough dogs in peril.”
This is also the shelter that spent thousands and thousands of dollars of county money refurbishing the lobby and putting in air conditioning and flat screen televisions while the dogs in kennels at the back still swelter in the Tampa summer heat with fans that are either inoperable or ineffective. (See “Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center spends money on the lobby, but dogs still sweltering in the back“)
Almost three years ago, Andrews reported on the PRC allowing felons to adopt dogs, and then when the dog was returned to the shelter after being abused, putting that dog in dangerous, unsafe situations that resulted in — surprise — the dog being killed by the shelter. Andrews reported that 30,000 people signed an online petition to fire shelter director Scott Trebatoski. (“‘Fire Hillsborough Pet Resource Center director,’ petition says“) During the ten months prior to this report by Andrews, he and Target 8 had reported on problems including many instances of neglected dogs being returned to their owners, including a poodle who suffered such a severe skin problem the shelter wasn’t certain what the breed of the dog was; a Dangerous Dog Registry that hadn’t been updated for two years; the shelter’s Enjoined list of those barred from owning animals hadn’t been updated for two years; Trebatoski, threatened to fire a veterinarian; animals were kept at a secret shelter and exposed to toxic chemicals until Target 8 reported on it.
It’s pretty evident to those familiar with the facts that the shelter is not taking care of its inhabitants — dogs, cats, and other animals who have no voice. They are not in the care of someone who has their best interest at heart, but by someone who makes decisions on a whim or based on faulty reasoning that ends up with the animals suffering and dying.
Clyde’s devastated adopter made a final comment to Andrews about Clyde’s mistreatment: “They take dogs away from people for being treated like that and then they do it themselves right here.”
When will the residents of Hillsborough County take a stand? The volunteers can’t do it alone. It seems obvious that the county commissioners who should stand up and care about the animals in Hillsborough County simply will not do so. They have been told over and over about the failure of the shelter management. They refuse to act. In the meantime, animals are suffering and dying. Watch “Shelter woes blamed on county commissioners’ refusal to listen.” Please contact the County Commissioners with your thoughts on these issues. Be polite.
Video of Clyde before his untimely death: