Pet lovers to protest at Animal Control
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - A group of animal lovers plan to protest at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of the Highlands County Animal Control shelter on Haywood Taylor Boulevard.
Published: October 24, 2012
Published: October 24, 2012
"I don't know how many people are coming," said Michele Bonilla, a Lake Placid owner of nine special-needs dogs and six cats and foster mother of 11 kittens. "Some say they're coming from Fort Myers and different places."
"Sick cats, kittens, dogs and puppies coming out of there all the time," Bonilla wrote in an email notifying Highlands Today of the picketing. "This has got to stop!!"
"After many meetings with Animal Control and Commissioners, we feel not much has changed. We have work(ed) to do things the right way and still very little change," Bonilla wrote. "So now we Protest and we will not stop till things change for the better."
Bonilla is in contact with rescue groups "who pull from Animal Control. Some rescue cats, some rescue dogs."
Judy Spiegel, president of Highlands County Humane Society, was appointed in May by county commissioners to the Animal Control Advisory Committee. The five committee members elected Spiegel to chair the meetings, and they were asked to prioritize eight issues: county license tags; hold times for impounded domestic dogs, cats and feral cats; volunteers; computer improvements; adoptions; workload distribution; euthanasia policy; and coordination and partnership with other agencies.
In its last two meetings, with Scott and Barry Edgley of TAPS animal rescue present, the committee worked on a feral cat ordinance, formulated recommendations on adoptions, revisited the county tag ordinance and talked about the sale of animals, euthanasia and partnerships between animal control, the humane society and rescue organizations.
Spiegel said Tuesday the Humane Society won't be part of the protest, but she verified that she has seen animals at the county shelter with medical issues.
"But sometimes (Animal Control) gets them in horrible condition," Spiegel said. The Humane Society also pulls animals from the shelter.
Sometimes, Director Darryl Scott said, Animal Control gets one cat with an upper respiratory infection or a puppy with parvovirus. If the illness isn't spotted quickly enough, the animal gets placed with the general population, and soon a large percentage is sick.
That's also happened at TAPS, said Edgley, who has rescued about 150 cats in a free-range cage at Zolfo. Sixty percent of his kittens died after one outbreak.
"Our goals are to see some improvement (at Animal Control)," Bonilla said. "Some come in healthy and come out very sick."
She and Edgley — who also plans to protest — want an open-door policy at the shelter. "We would like to go in and help if they're short-handed," Edgley said. "They won't let us."
"We're just asking to make it a better place," Bonilla said.
For insurance and safety reasons, unlimited access for anyone who wants in can't happen, Scott said. He has been working on a volunteer policy with Interim County Administrator June Fisher and human resources.
"We just processed our first application," Scott said. Depending on the volunteer's skills, he or she will clean cages, treat sick dogs and cats, shoot photos of available dogs and cats and post photos on the Internet.
Edgley cited Zuri's case. His wife, Jill, emailed a picture of a white male cat about 8 months old that they claimed was healthy on March 8 when the first photo was taken. By March 20, when TAPS rescued Zuri, much of his hair had yellowed, he'd lost a large percentage of his body weight and he died two days later.
The reason, according to a medical report that accompanied Zuri's photo, was that Zuri stood on the wire cages and two paws were infected with maggots.
Edgley and Scott tell different stories: Scott said the Edgleys were told that Zuri had a hurt paw, and they insisted on adopting him anyway. Scott's assistant, Aubre McAnally, said she treated the cat twice before it was released.
"These animals deserve to be treated much better than they are," Bonilla said.
Edgley has offered expensive aluminum flooring for the cat cages, but said he never heard back from Scott; Scott said he told Edgley that he could not accept the donation because the cat cages would have to be disassembled to install the flooring.
Besides, Scott said, a group of women has pieced cat quilts to line the cage bottoms.
"He gets upset at criticism," Edgley said, who is also opposed to placing feral cats with domesticated cats because ferals terrorize the domestics.
"I've seen them," Spiegel said. There are cat quilts, but they're not adequate, so the cats' paws do get cut.
Spiegel didn't want to fight with Scott. "We just want (dogs and cats) to get adequate food and water and medical attention, and when they get released from medical attention, we want the public to be able to view them."
Actually, that's another bone of contention, Scott said. Some groups are cross-posting Animal Control's website photos. These groups are wrongly telling Internet readers that dogs and cats whose 10-day hold period hasn't expired that the animals will be euthanized by 3 p.m. that day.
"That's not true," Scott said. Then readers call, argue with the Animal Control clerk, insinuate that she's lying and accuse Animal Control workers of intentionally wanting to kill animals.
"They think we're the devil because we euthanize," Scott said. "And they're always going to think that. We're doing our best to make these people happy."
Spiegel said her committee will recommend changes to the commissioners soon.
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