I’ve written quite a lot about the high kill rate at the Upper Keys shelter. Information comes out in dribs and drabs. This is where you can find the whole story.
It all started in March 2015, when the Free Press first reported that the Upper Keys animal shelter had a kill rate about three times higher than the other two shelters. They had all their facts straight. But there was one relevant fact missing.
Yes, the Upper Keys shelter had the highest kill rate. It also received far less funding than the other two shelters. The newspaper didn’t mention this. Neither did Marsha Garrettson, who runs the Upper Keys shelter. In fact Garrettson insisted finances weren’t a factor at all. Interesting.
Given the intimidation tactics used against Stand Up for Animals (SUFA), perhaps it wouldn’t have been smart for Garrettson to admit the obvious – that more money could reduce the high kill rate. I don’t know what the climate is like for shelter operators dealing with the county, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the SUFA incident weighs on their minds.
Unanswered Questions About Keys Animal Shelters; posted May 5, 2015.
Upper Keys Animal Shelter on BOCC Agenda; posted May 13, 2015.
Upper Keys Animal Shelter Update Buried in Waste Management Article; posted May 22, 2015.
Bizarre Coverage of Upper Keys Animal Shelter Continues; May 28, 2015.
Garrettson’s organization, the Humane Animal Care Coaltion (HACC), had their contract renewed, with a slight cost-of-living bump. District 5 County Commissioner, Sylvia Murphy, stated that she was “perfectly happy” with the shelter’s performance. It was a bizarre comment, given the circumstances.
Fast forward a year later to March 2016. I check Monroe County’s website periodically mostly to keep an eye on the agendas. I happened to notice that the 2015 State of the County report was available. I wrote a post about the 2014 State of the County because there was so much spin and inaccuracy. Fortunately, much of that was not repeated in the 2015 version. But I did notice that the animal control numbers looked extremely odd. The number of animals handled by the Upper Keys shelter was nearly the same as last year. But there were huge unexplained increases at the Lower Keys shelter and the Middle Keys shelter. Hmmmm….
State of Monroe County – Animal Control; March 1, 2016.
Each of the shelters is required to submit monthly reports, so I asked the county for those reports. When I got them, it was plain to see something very strange was going on. The numbers added up perfectly for the Upper Keys shelter, but weren’t even close for the other two. They didn’t tie to the monthly reports at all.
The day after I published that post, the Free Press once again published a story in which the high kill rate at the Upper Keys shelter was featured. This time the difference in funding was mentioned. Progress! Also, the numbers in the Free Press article tied exactly to the monthly reports. It was becoming increasingly clear that the numbers in the 2015 State of the County were inflated. I submitted another public records request or two. I was looking for clarity – never easy when dealing with Monroe County. They love a muddled story. They can get away with so much more when people are confused.
Animal Control – Fact Checking the Numbers; March 3, 2016.
Animal Control – Still No Answers; March 10, 2016.
Animal Control – County Responds; March 11, 2016.
Animal Control – County Response Part 2; March 14, 2016.
Short of a confession, it’s going to be pretty difficult to determine what on earth the county is up to. My best guess is that they are monkeying with the numbers to justify the unjustifiable funding differences. It looks very bad that the shelter with the lowest funding level also has the highest kill rate. The county administrator (aka. the iPhone Bandit) is always very mindful of image though certainly not of real world results. Unfortunately.
I think sometimes those of us who’ve spent a lot of time in the Keys get used to the spin and the rhetoric; the questionable behavior of county officials and the resulting apathy in the community. We get so used to hearing the excuses that they actually start to seem reasonable. We (in District 5 especially) are so used to being told everything is just fine, when clearly it is not, that reality becomes distorted. The lack of concern over this issue and the county’s handling of it show how low the standard has become.
I found this outside perspective to be a needed shot of reality. This is how the issue appears to onlookers. Not good. The iPhone Bandit better get busy “minding the message”. Better yet, maybe he could show some leadership and actually take steps to address the problem honestly. That might improve the county’s image all on its own without all the spin.
Fortunately, folks in the Keys are concerned about this issue as well. I wrote about the most recent letter to the editor I could find, but there have been others. I’ll keep a better eye out in the future and collect links here.
Animal Control – Public Pressure is the Key, March 16, 2016.
Kill All The Cats, the Blue Paper, February 19, 2016.
More Open Debate on Free Roaming Cats in Refuge Areas, the Blue Paper, May 2014. This is an informative back-and-forth on the issue.
There’s an item at www.bigpinekey.com about marsh rabbits and feral/outdoor cats. Coconut Telegraph, March 22, 2016.
Here’s a post about my letter to the editor about the high kill rate, plus I discovered another organization that helps feral cats. The contrast between the compassion and effectiveness of the local community and the dishonesty and laziness of county officials never ceases to amaze. Perhaps one day the citizens of the Keys will have a county government that is worthy of them.
My letter was published on KeysNet.com which stimulated a bit of discussion. There was another letter posted as well. The title indicates that its about cat hoarding, but it’s really about laying the blame for the Upper Keys kill rate on Miami-Dade (maybe?), and trashing trap-neuter-release (TNR) as a potential solution. It inspired me to do a bit more research into the downsides of TNR. Interesting stuff. Post here.
The state of New Hampshire has had great success in dealing with the problem of homeless pets. More here. If there were caring individuals on staff at the county who were willing to take an honest look at the problem, maybe a solution would be on the horizon. Sadly, there are no such people.
I took a look at the 2013 tax returns for each of the three county animal shelter operators. SHARK was still around then and, as you might expect, there were some interesting findings. Here’s a link.
The shenanigans continued in November 2017 when the BOCC awarded the FKSPCA a huge 70% increase to run the Marathon animal shelter. This giveaway will cost taxpayers a whopping $175,000 per year. The RFP process was extremely suspicious, but don’t count on the state attorneys office to even bother looking into it. Their “concern” over price gouging does not extend to county government. See here and here.