Broward Animal Care executive director resigns after Local 10 report

Broward Animal Care executive director Thomas Adair has resigned his position following a Local 10 News report, showing he and other county employees changed dog and cat death records in a way that made it appear pet owners who requested their animals be adopted had instead asked that they be euthanized.

When questioned by investigative reporter Bob Norman, Adair denied wrongdoing, claiming the altered records were simply part of a “quality control” process.

But the station’s findings immediately prompted the county to begin an investigation and put Adair on paid administrative leave. Adair, who was making in excess of $140,000 a year, resigned just a week after the report aired, still denying he did anything wrong. 

“I did not, have not and would not attempt to improperly alter official records,” Adair wrote in the Sept. 5 email to county official Henry Sniezek. “The decision to leave my position is based in part on my desire to avoid further disruption to the shelter staff and the mission to improve the welfare of animals.”

Local 10 obtained evidence that Adair was going into the county computer system and changing the actual reason for the county shelter to kill dogs and cats — be it for health reasons, aggressiveness, or another factor — to “owner requested.” 

Animals put down at the owner’s request aren’t included in official euthanasia totals, meaning they don’t count against the county’s much-publicized goal of becoming a “no-kill” shelter. 

A well-placed source inside the shelter said there has been a concerted effort starting at the top to bring up the number of the “owner requested” kills. 

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county’s investigation, which is looking at animal death records over a period of five years, has already confirmed that death records were changed at the shelter, though she said the motive for doing so has not yet been ascertained. 

“We want to know how long has it been going on, what is the extent of it, why was it being done,” Sharief said. “The county prides itself on transparency and I’m glad [Local 10 did its report]. It sheds some light on some shortcomings we need to fix.”

Perhaps most damning was that records showed that after a public records request was received by the shelter checking up on Animal Care record-keeping procedures, Adair went back into the county computer system and changed the records for a second time — this time back from owner requested to the original reason given.

Animal activist and Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who made the request, said she suspects it was a bid to cover the shelter’s tracks.

Local 10 has also obtained an email from one of Adair’s now-former underlings, animal care supervisor Irene Feser, telling Adair she was “uncomfortable” changing records at the shelter, writing that it’s “not a good idea … especially if a records request is involved … to change information on a record.” 

Adair replied that Feser was “reading more into this” than she should be, claiming it was just a “quality control check,” and asking him to come see him in his office. 

“This was somebody who had worked long enough at the county to know that she should not do that,” Lazarow said. 

Sharief said the county’s investigation’s findings will be made public when it is completed. 
 

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Police looking for couple who stole dog from owner’s arms

Fort Lauderdale police are looking for a man and a woman who allegedly stole a dog from the arm’s of its owner.

The incident occurred late Thursday in the 400 block of Northwest 1st Avenue.

While walking her dog, the victim was approached by two suspects who asked if they could have the pet.

When the victim said “no,” the suspects grabbed the dog from the woman’s arms and fled the scene.

Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call Detective Sean Reddish at 954-828-5676 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS

 

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Deputies help rescue 10 horses, dog from rising water in Florida town

Deputies in a Florida town helped to rescue 10 horses and a dog that were trapped in a barn surrounded by high water.

Highlands County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the county’s Animal Control Department teamed up Wednesday afternoon to rescue the animals from Lakeside Stables in Sebring.

Deputies said Arbuckle Creek has risen to historic levels and trapped the horses in the barn on a small hill above the water.

The horses were led out by hand through the chest-deep water and loaded onto a trailer to be taken to a temporary home until the water recedes.

Hurricane Irma impacted much of Florida over the weekend, bringing extreme flooding, rising waters and massive power outages that have crippled the state.

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Miami-Dade Animal Services over capacity as dogs abandoned, rescued during hurricane

Miami-Dade Animal Services is trying to avoid euthanizing animals after Hurricane Irma, which resulted in numerous lost and unclaimed pets.

None of the animals have been adopted since the shelter was forced to close for nearly a week.

Animal Services officials said their kennels are full as some pets were surrendered and others were rescued.

“The biggest impact has been seen in shelter population going up because as the storm was approaching, people aren’t adopting animals, rescue groups aren’t taking animals, but animals are coming in throughout those days,” said Alex Munoz, director of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

From last Wednesday to Saturday there were reports of 50 dogs left behind and tethered.

“People were tying their pets up and evacuating without them?” Local 10 News reporter Erica Rakow asked.

“In some cases, yeah. We had quite a few calls,” Munoz said.

To help make room for animals impacted by the storm, 100 dogs were moved out of the shelter Sept. 6.

One-by-one, the ASPCA loaded them up and sent them to their  emergency shelter in South Carolina.

The animals joined others that were rescued after Hurricane Harvey and were taken to the 40,000-square-foot facility.

A tactical team was also sent to the west coast of Florida to help storm-impacted animals in that region, including a large group of animals that were stranded in flood waters in Lee County.

“We have Fish and Wildlife boats, we have ASPCA boats. We’ll take our animal control officers in there to help secure the animals. We’ll give them a vet triage just to make sure they’re healthy. We will transport them off that area to a staging area,” said Dick Green, of ASPCA disaster operations.

Meanwhile, the animal control officers at home will continue the work rescuing and investigating cruelty and abandonment cases.

“The follow-up will be we responded immediately to those animals in the field as the storm was approaching, and then we are following up with the violation side after the storm,” Munoz said.

The shelter’s director said they will prosecute criminally where possible.

Miami-Dade Animal Services reopened Wednesday with limited services.

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Horses find shelter from Hurricane Irma

There is a huge equestrian community in South Florida, including one right in Southwest Ranches.

At Circle S Farms there are dozens of horses on property that they are taking care of during Hurricane Irma.

The facility is taking in horses from people who may need a safe spot for their animal during the storm.  

“We are doing what we can to accommodate any phone calls that we possibly get,” Celica Scarlet said. “We have picked up two weeks supply of feed to be prepared and anybody who is coming with their horses is also asked to bring that.”

She added that they do have plenty of water for the animals.

There are some horse owners who believe it’s safe to put their horse out during a storm, Scarlet said that’s a mistake.

“There are way too many unpredictable moments if they are out,” Scarlet said.

In case a horse does get away, Scarlet suggests writing your number on the animal, or braiding a surgical marker on the horse’s tail.  Which is what Scarlet said is done at Circle S Farms.

She also suggests that people not leave halters on horses and that horse owners should take care of horses, then themselves. 

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Is Broward County Animal Care hiding true number of pets euthanized?

For five years, Broward County has made it a goal to become a “no-kill” county when it comes to euthanizing unwanted pets, and the numbers of animals put down appear to be dropping fast with the effort.

But now, there are serious questions about whether Broward County Animal Care Director Thomas Adair has been falsifying county records to help bring about that decrease and then changing them back after a public records request was submitted in a bid to discover the extent of the problem.

A well-placed source inside Broward County Animal Care told Local 10 News that Adair routinely alters computer records regarding the number of animals euthanized at the order of the county by changing the real reason for killing the animal, such as health reasons, aggression or “owner requested.”

That’s significant because pets put down at the owner’s request are not included in the county’s official euthanasia numbers, and the number of those owner requests has been skyrocketing.

For instance, in the last six months of 2014, owners requested that a total of 34 dogs and cats be euthanized, according to county statistics.

During that same time period in 2016, that number ballooned to 307 animals killed, an increase of 900 percent.

It appears that at least part of that dramatic increase is due to Adair and his underlings changing the records.

As a sample, Local 10 obtained 13 computer screen shots showing that Adair went into the county computer system days after the fact and changed the reason for euthanizing a pet to owner request, along with two others that were changed by Animal Care employees under Adair’s supervision.

One example involves John Arthur, who looks after stray cats in his Hollywood neighborhood. He brought three kittens to Animal Care on Feb. 4 with the hope of finding them a new home.

Two days later, records show, all three were euthanized by the county for alleged upper respiratory infections, which was entered into the county computer.

County computer records show that three weeks later, on Feb. 27, Adair entered the computer system and changed the reason for all three deaths to “own req,” or owner request.

“There is somebody who is fooling around the truth, which is wrong,” Arthur said.

When questioned by Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman, Adair denied changing the records for nefarious reasons. When Norman showed him an example of an altered record, he said, “I can’t tell you why that on that particular record.”

When Norman told him that it looks like he’s altering public records, Adair replied, “I’m not.”

“The obvious reason for you to change the records … would be to make your animal control look better,” Norman said. 

“OK,” Adair said.

“Can you answer that? Is that why you did it?” Norman asked.

“No, I did not,” Adair said.

“Why did you do it?” Norman asked.

“I was QC’ing the records, and that is not an uncommon practice,” Adair said. 

“QC” apparently stands for quality control, or simply correcting false information, but the records indicate the changes themselves were false.

“He was going in and changing forms,” animal rights activist Michele Lazarow, who is also a Hallandale Beach commissioner, told Local 10.

Lazarow learned of the records changes in May, and on May 25, she had an associate put in a public records request for all forms signed by pet owners asking that their animals be euthanized during the first three months of the year.

“I wanted the numbers for the owner requested euthanasia to match up to what the shelter was claiming that they were actually killing,” she said.

Animal Care produced a total of 90 owner-request forms for January, February and March of this year, yet the county’s own statistics show 125 owner-requested deaths during that same period, indicating that at least 35 forms were missing or didn’t exist.

It gets worse. Computer screen shots obtained by Local 10 showed that Adair went into the county computer system after the public records request was received and changed the records he’d previously altered back from owner-requested to the original reason given.

“The cover-up is worse than the crime is really what happened here,” Lazarow said.

When confronted with that evidence, Adair seemed flustered.

“There’s also records in here that are the opposite,” he said. “So they went from where they were originally classified as owner-request and now they have not been.”

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county has begun an investigation.

“We’ve downloaded the files so we can analyze where the changes were occurring,” she said. “Broward County does not condone falsifying records. We take this very seriously.”

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