[UPDATED with response from county]
Broward Inspector General John Scott issued a blistering report today regarding the county's animal shelter operations, saying staff did not properly protect controlled substances from misuse, including a euthanasia drug known on the streets as "Special K,''used for date rape.
The drugs were routinely mishandled, he alleged. Rather than locking them up indoors, animal care specialists kept them in their county or personal vehicles.
One photograph shot by an animal care employee shows syringes and a controlled drug out in the open in another employee's vehicle.
Scott was particularly dismayed, he said, that the county knew of some of the allegations but did not take disciplinary action.
"[Animal Care and Adoption Division's] recurring and knowing violation of the law reflect an unacceptable arrogance by its management,'' he said Wednesday.
Scott said employees also for two years have been waiving fees for some pet owners, without authority from the County Commission and without documenting it or setting criteria.
Knowing they were under investigation, county animal care brought forward an agenda item for the County Commission that would make legal what they'd been doing for two years, Scott said. It is set for a vote on Tuesday.
His office also found that the animal shelter routinely released dogs to owners without vaccinating them against rabies like the law requires. This was done even in cases where the dog was known to have bitten someone, Scott's report alleges.
From the report:
This investigation is predicated on information alleging that ACAD mishandled controlled substances
entrusted to its care. The OIG investigation substantiated the information, and also identified additional
instances of misconduct and gross mismanagement, including the failure to adequately monitor and account
for the use of the controlled substances; the unpermitted operation of the clinic’s pharmacy at the county
animal shelter; the failure to provide required rabies vaccinations; the administering of rabies vaccinations
by unauthorized personnel; the failure to impose and collect required fees and charges; and the failure to
issue and enforce citations for unvaccinated, unlicensed and “at-large” dogs.
This story is developing, so check back.
I asked Cynthia Chambers, the top county employee who oversees this department, for comment. She is director of the environmental protection and growth management department. Directly running the animal care division is Susan Pierce.
Chambers said there were some findings she had not been aware of, including the handling of the euthanasia drugs, but overall she disagreed with Scott's scathing characterization.
"l do not believe his findings support the characterization of misconduct and gross mismanagement,'' she said. "But I acknowledge we're making changes consistent with his recommendations. Some were cured before his investigation began, and some are being cured currently.''
Chambers said she also wasn't aware staff were waiving fees when returning some pets to owners, but she said the animal care employees' hearts were in the right place.
"While I agree we were waiving fees and creating payments plans where we were not authorized by the board, when you're standing there looking in the face of an owner so overjoyed they've found their pet, now you're going to tell them they can't take them home for want of money? I wouldn't do that.''
She is seeking authorization for waivers on Tuesday from the County Commission.
Dogs are no longer being released without rabies vaccinations, she said.
Read the entire report here, under "recent activity.''