Manatee Co. euthanasia images draw criticism

Posted at 10:46 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 23:23:30-05
Disturbing pictures captured by a surveillance camera in the Manatee County Animal Services has the county promising changes.
The images were taken in late October, but are getting attention now after they were posted on Facebook.
The pictures show a dead dog lying on its side while another dog cautiously approaches and sniffs.
"In these animals last hours on this earth you could at least be compassionate, and we didn't see any compassion in those photos,” said Lori Gurley, a local animal advocate.
Gurley said she was heartbroken when she saw the photos. 
Another image from that day in October shows a bin over flowing with the bodies of dead dogs. The same photo shows another dog tied to a door handle waiting its turn to be killed.
"The veterinarian association for shelter management clearly states that you should never bring a live animal in a room where there are dead animals," Gurley said.
Guidelines also say animals of one species should not be exposed to another species during the process. But the photo shows a cat laying on a table next to a pile of dogs.
"Even if you don't like animals, I don't think you think this is OK to make an animal suffer and be in fear in the last moments of its life,” Gurley said.
Attorney Emily Smith says while county officials claim they've  done additional training on their protocols "they have made excuses for it and in fact no one wants to stand up and be accountable and say, ‘Gosh we did something very awful.’"
In a statement, officials say the employees performing the procedure followed state guidelines but failed to follow the shelter's best practices. 
Officials also say they have since completed group training with all shelter employees. 
We've also learned the camera that recorded these photos was removed after the public outcry.
Officials say it was needed in a kennel for cats.

Full statement from Manatee County

Since 2011, Manatee County has worked with numerous volunteers, pet advocates and animal shelters throughout the region to pursue our goal of becoming a No Kill community. From the time we began the No Kill movement, our save rates have improved 30%. During Fiscal Year 2014-15, Manatee County successfully saved 92% of all animals that came to our shelter.
But challenges remain and overcrowding at our shelter can expose healthy, adoptable animals to illness, stress and other unhealthy conditions.

A senior leadership team at Manatee County Animal Services (MCAS) meets weekly to evaluate our animal populations and to make sure every effort is made to find homes for our animals. However, sometimes the leadership group must make the difficult decision to euthanize some animals.

When euthanasia must be carried out, it is done so by a limited number of MCAS staff who are state-certified to perform animal euthanasia. These employees have a sincere compassion for animals and are committed to ensuring that animals are treated humanely while they are in our care. All euthanasia performed in Florida must be done in accordance with Florida Statutes and within the parameters of the Florida Animal Control Association Euthanasia Guidelines.

Above and beyond state protocols, MCAS has a set of standard operating procedures which must also be followed when animals are euthanized. The MCAS procedures are based on the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters and help ensure an even more humane approach is taken.

On Nov. 2, acting MCAS Chief Joel Richmond reviewed video footage from the room where animals are euthanized. The footage shows two MCAS employees performing euthanasia within state guidelines. However, the footage also shows that the employees did not follow some of our best practices (listed below). Joel took immediate action on Nov. 3 to reemphasize the importance of the MCAS guidelines by sending a memo, and later speaking to all shelter employees during a group training session on euthanasia practices. In addition to these communications we have taken an important step to ensuring our best practices are followed. Since mid-November, a shift supervisor has routinely conducted inspections whenever animals must be euthanized.
(Taken from Euthanasia and Selection section of the Manatee County Animal Services Standard Operating Procedure)

1. Animals should be handled in a safe and humane manner in an effort to minimize stress on the animal and risk to personnel.
2. Always use appropriate pre-euthanasia sedatives, tranquilizers, or anesthetic drugs on aggressive, fearful, or fractious animals.
3. Do not expose animals of differing species to each other before or during euthanasia.
4. Do not expose live animals to those animals that have been euthanized. Deceased animals should be removed from the area prior to performing any additional euthanasia.
5. Only authorized personnel are allowed in the euthanasia area.
6. Animals should be weighed and documented prior to performing euthanasia.
7. Each animal’s behavior should be assessed. Whether the animal is friendly, aggressive, or fearful should be determined to help ensure safe and appropriate handling.
8. Female dogs and cats should be euthanized prior to euthanizing any of their puppies and kittens.
9. No animal should be left unattended between the time euthanasia is first begun and the time death occurs, nor may the body be disposed of until death is confirmed.
10. Only certified technicians will be authorized to perform euthanasia and verify death.
11. The animal’s temperament, the species of the animal, and the health of the animal will determine which route of administration is best. (based on FACA and AVMA guidelines)
12. Euthanasia of dogs and cats should be performed by 2 technicians.
13. Verify all information is correct prior to euthanasia. Check cage card and pre euthanasia lists, scan animals, and cross check to ensure the correct animal is being euthanized.
14. Log all drugs used in the appropriate areas on the appropriate forms.
15. Outsource all animals euthanized in the Chameleon system.