A policy review is under way at Pasco Animal Services after a dog, slated to go to an animal rescue group, was mistakenly euthanized Friday.
"We're reviewing the policy because an adoption partner group did send a request and the system we have set up, several people look at the list and one [dog] was missed," Pasco Animal Services manager John Malley said Tuesday.
The dog, a female pit bull mix, had been at the shelter since Jan. 4 and was featured on the shelter's Facebook page, Malley said.
The request was sent by email and the dog was one of many that was to be adopted, according to Malley. He said this dog was listed last on the subject line of the email. The stray dog was never taken off the euthanasia list and was put to sleep Friday morning. That afternoon, members of the rescue group, which Malley did not name, showed up to take the dog.
Currently, there is a checklist the staff reviews before an animal is euthanized. The evening before and the morning of a scheduled euthanasia, the staff checks to see if a request has come in to rescue an animal. The adoption coordinator checks the list against any requests for adoption and it is then verified by another shelter staff member.
If a request is received, that animal is removed from the list of those that are scheduled to be euthanized.
"We spoke directly with them and acknowledged there are times when there is a human error that really cannot be corrected by a system," Malley said. "We're making every effort possible to review the policy and procedure – look at our standing operating procedure when it comes to that particular portion of our operation – and we're making every effort to correct it."
The shelter is transitioning to a 90 percent live-release rate, a movement started in Berkley, Calif. in 2001. The concept has gained ground across the nation and was first implemented locally by Manatee County in 2011.
Shortly after the policy was accepted by the Pasco County commission in early November, the group placed a moratorium on euthanizing animals brought into the shelter.
During a late November commission meeting, Malley told commissioners that after three days, the population went to 178. The following week, that number climbed to 215. And days later, the shelter, which was meant to house between 150 and 180 animals but turns away none when surrendered, had 320 animals.
The shelter's overcrowding is due to feral cats, Malley said. The moratorium was lifted in an attempt to lower the population.
Animal Services was heavily criticized last summer due to low live-release rates. In June, the live-release rate went from 19 percent to 55 percent in a year's time. It now stands at close to 60 percent.
"It's a matter we take very seriously," Malley said. "It's part of an effort that we're making to save as many as we can. When there's an error made, we stop, analyze the problem, identify it and then set up a process to take all the steps that we can take to ensure it doesn't happen again."