Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough Animal Services mistakenly euthanizes adopted dog

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Animal Services mistakenly killed a dog this week after a family had decided to adopt it.

JoJo, a 1-year-old male German shepherd, was set to go home with his new family Tuesday when Animal Services staff euthanized him, according to a statement released Thursday by Ian Hallett, the county's animal services director.

"Despite newly developed animal care policies and procedures and comprehensive staff training, a combination of human errors may have been the cause of JoJo's euthanization," Hallett wrote. "This loss is regrettable and demands action."

The staff responsible for JoJo's death has been relieved of duties related to euthanization of animals, Hallett said, and the incident will be investigated by Hillsborough County Human Resources for potential discipline.

The erroneous death evokes a similar incident in April 2012 at the Hernando County shelter.

Someone had decided to adopt Zeus, a black-and-white mixed breed. But the dog was already dead — mistakenly euthanized only about an hour after arriving at the shelter. The error led to outrage and a flurry of angry emails to Hernando County's officials.

In Hillsborough, Animal Services has been the focus of months of criticism from cat and dog welfare advocates who have protested the departure of several longtime employees and outbreaks of illness.

They have gathered stories of people who adopted animals only to amass hefty veterinary bills treating their pets for respiratory disease or parvovirus — or worse, watch them die.

Two of the shelter's veterinarians, including one hired by Hallett, resigned as animal sickness there spread, publicly airing concerns about management.

County Administrator Mike Merrill has attributed part of the strife to a change in leadership.

Hallett was hired last year to implement efforts to sharply reduce the number of animals at the shelter killed each year, a goal of county commissioners.

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