The Politics of Animal Shelters

Lake County, Florida, has an animal shelter problem.

The shelter had traditionally been a high-kill shelter, and had, in the past, taken little action to rectify the situation, to the consternation of the community.  The shelter had been through two directors recently.

But on October 1st, Sheriff Gary Borders’s office took control of the shelter, and brought in a new director, Jacqueline Johnson. to change the way they do business.

Jacqueline Johnson (photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Ten days later, that director was fired.

In the 10 days Johnson was director of the shelter, 147 animals were euthanized, including 20 animals in one day.

According to an agency spokesperson, some of the animals were euthanized due to illness or injury. Others were euthanized due to “limited space.”

Sheriff Borders is committed to reducing the number of animals killed in shelter, and he wasn’t pleased with Ms. Johnson’s decision, so he let her go.

This brings up lots of questions in my mind. 

For instance, why would a woman who claimed to have worked in rescue do such a thing?

Were the animals stressed from being confined?

Were there adequate volunteers to provide care for the animals? Were they walked? Played with? Petted?

Does the agency have the money needed to provide responsible care?

Was the director asked to do the impossible?

And who was responsible for releasing this story to the media?

Photo: Tom Benitez, Orlando Sentinel
Photo from the Tavares, FL Shelter. Photo: Tom Benitez, Orlando Sentinel

Do I believe Ms. Johnson made the right decision? I don’t know. i wasn’t there.

But I absolutely DO believe someone is playing dirty politics. The story hitting the media like this makes me very suspicious of those who claim to be working for the welfare of the animals in that community.

Good luck finding a new director, Sheriff. You’re gonna need it. 


16 thoughts on “The Politics of Animal Shelters

  1. What concerns me is that they accepted more animals than they could sustainably care for in the first place. Obviously we don’t have all the facts and we don’t know exactly what happened but clearly something is going wrong there.

    I also can’t help but wonder what sort of condition the animals they put down were in :/


      1. Maybe they need to partner with other shelters for when they have more than they can handle. That’s what they do here in the UK and it seems to work well


  2. I originally wrote this about Gaston, North Carolina – the first Doggie Dachau, but it feels apropos for this post. It is titled, If I Ever Get Out of Gaston. Forgive the length, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

    The men in the white coats are coming. Coming with their clipboards. They’ll stand in front of our little cells. We’ll sit on the cold concrete floor, shivering in our own piss. Waiting. Wondering. Will it be me this time? Will I be the one who gets roped by the neck, and dragged down the hall to that little room – screaming and clawing at the floor?
    One of us is taken. It’s not me. This time. It’s a big old man, all white in the face. I can see the fog covering his watery eyes, the sagging flesh under his mouth. I know him. We were talking together, just last night. He’s shaking like a newborn, and trying, through his tears, to say goodbye.

    The first thing I can remember is, knowing that there were five of us. I couldn’t see my brothers and sisters, yet, but I remember their smells. And there was my mother. I still remember how she smelled too – all warm and musky.
    We’d climb all over each other and bump into each other. And all the time, there was my mother, never more than a few wobbling steps away. I can remember sleeping, in the warmth of the summer sun.

    A few days passed like this, and one at a time, we began to see – foggy and clouded, at first – then clearly. We began working things out. Who was strongest, who was fastest and who needed to be helped along. My mother seemed to know these things, and she would tell them to us in a blunt and matter of fact tone.
    I don’t know quite how or when it happened, but one morning, two of us – the strongest of the five, and the weakest – were gone. I just remember waking up one morning and they were gone.

    It was shortly after that, that my mother, myself, and my remaining brother and sister, were put into a big wooden box. We were taken for a ride, and left by the side of a road. My mother managed to tip the box over so we could get out. She told us that some huge mistake had been made – that the people, who loved us, wanted us back. She said they would be worried about us, that they needed us to keep them safe and look after them and that we needed to try with all our might, to get back to them right away.

    The three of us would trot along behind our mother, her nose, constantly moving over the ground, her wisdom in such matters, undisputed. When we’d get tired – and it was as if she knew – she’d stop and let us feed. There was no food for her though, and soon she came to look thin and weak. She started walking less during the day, and letting us feed less and less. Still, nothing was of greater importance to her, than our making it back home. Nothing mattered more than getting us safely back to where we belonged.

    Then one day, we had found another road, and as we were walking, I heard a terrible noise. We had seen the giant screaming monsters. They’d fly past us, blowing wind and dust into our dry and tired eyes. My mother had told us of the dangers of the monsters. “If you go on the gray part of the road, the monsters can attack. No one is strong enough to fight one off.”

    My mother lay by the side of the road. She was shaking and twitching, and her eyes no longer shone. I put my nose next to hers, but I couldn’t feel her breath. She smelled strange to me. Soon, she stopped twitching. She moved no more. And – no more milk was to be had from her. The three of us just sat there, for the longest time, waiting for her to get up. She never did.

    I think of her often, now, as I try my best to curl up on this cold concrete slab, as I try to get warm enough to sleep. My muscles hurt all the time, and I’m so hungry. My brother and sister are both gone now. They went into that little room, and when they came out, they looked and smelled just like my mother had, on that morning. The shine was gone from their eyes, and they had that strange smell on their bodies.

  3. So sad…. Killing in the name of reluctance to action more. If every mid to upper class family is willing to adopt just one pet, I believe this world has no problem with animal abuse.

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