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County won't investigate allegations of poor conditions at SPCA of Tampa Bay

Pinellas Administrator Bob LaSala says the county will not investigate allegations of inhumane treatment and poor management at SPCA Tampa Bay, a nonprofit that devotes itself to preventing cruelty to animals.

LaSala said the decision not to investigate came after he studied claims against the SPCA made Tuesday during a County Commission meeting. The charges included the unnecessary killing of animals, filthy conditions, neglect and poor management. LaSala said the details did not indicate cruelty, which county officials would be authorized to investigate.

"We have no basis for any further action on our part," LaSala said Friday. "We don't have either the desire or the jurisdiction to go investigate poop in kennels."

As for the allegations of mismanagement, Lasala said, "that's for their board to deal with."

The charges against the SPCA, 9099 130th Ave. N, Largo, were made by several former volunteers who said problems have been ongoing for two years. They came to the commission, they said, because the SPCA board has ignored them.

"I have come here today to inform you of the horrendous conditions that animals are subjected to and the unnecessary killing of animals that is occurring at the SPCA," former volunteer Patti Nagel said.

Nagel said "numerous volunteers and staff" had witnessed the "inhumane environment in which animals are forced to exist." Many of the issues, she said, are violations of county ordinances and state laws.

Among the specifics Nagel cited:

• Many dogs do not get out of their cages "for days at a time." This is partly a result of a decrease in volunteers from about 400 to about 200.

• Examples of filth include "food bowls placed on top of puppy feces during afternoon feeding, and cockroaches littering the floors, among other atrocities."

• Some "dogs in need of too much medical attention (have been) killed because they won't turn a profit."

• Neither the SPCA nor county Animal Services reports data as required by state law.

• Some dogs are euthanized without being given a fair chance at being adopted, even though empty cages are available.

Nagel blamed the situation on the leadership of SPCA CEO Martha Boden.

Boden denied the allegations Thursday. She said changes in policies have been directed at trying to increase adoptions and decrease the numbers of animals that are euthanized.

Those policies, she said, are working. In 2012, 10,009 animals were brought into the SPCA. Of those, 59 percent were adopted, returned to owner, transferred to other shelters, or lived. In 2013, 9,038 animals were brought in and 66 percent survived.

She conceded that the SPCA has not fully complied with the reporting requirements of state law, but said that's in part because the group works with Pinellas County Animal Services and other local animal groups to report overall statistics.

She denied the allegations of filth, but said she was "sure there are times" when dog feces would be found in cages or runs.

A better indicator of cleanliness, she said, is the health of the animals. There are no indicators, she said, that animals are sick.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

County won't investigate allegations of poor conditions at SPCA of Tampa Bay 01/31/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 10:59pm]
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