Fort Lauderdale, Florida - A formal investigation is underway after Local 10 News exposed the likelihood that animal control has been falsifying documents at the County animal shelter in order to hide killing. Documented in the report are multiple instances where Animal Control Director, Thomas Adair, changed animal records in the computer, changing the outcomes to "Owner Requested Euthanasia" when, in fact, owners had not requested euthanasia of their pets. Watch the report below and then continue reading after the video.
What many people who see this report do not understand is that the practice of eliminating "Owner Requested Euthanasia" (ORE) data from the total Live Release Rate (LRR) calculation is a strategy that is misleading, but that is supported by most major animal welfare organizations, including Maddie's Fund, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Best Friends Animal Society. In ideal situations, this practice artificially inflates the reported Live Release Rate. In less than ideal situations - like animal shelter directors who are less than ethical - it provides an opportunity to inflate ORE in order to skew the reported LRR in the shelter's favor even more.
As we first described in a document titled "How Major Animal Organizations Conspired to Erase Animals From Outcome Statistics" this practice is based on an agreement signed by major animal organizations, is misleading, and provides incentive to shelters to 'cook their books', while making what should be a very simple calculation (the percentage of animals that leave the shelter alive) unnecessarily complicated.
And, while we need to be clear that these organizations have not officially endorsed the cooking of animal shelter books, they certainly have endorsed providing the incentive for the shelters to do so, while also promoting an accounting approach that hides killing.
No Kill Learning recently described various ways shelters use the Asilomar Accords to inflate their outcome statistics. They wrote:
"Furthermore, when shelters discontinue [using the Asilomar Accords], it is common for the numbers of reported ORE to drop dramatically. The practices described so far can have a profound impact on the LRR, inflating it by as much as 10% or even more. Unfortunately, they are only some of the common practices in animal shelters that make them look like they are doing better than they really are."
The only rational reason reported ORE would drop when shelters discontinue using the Accords is that they were intentionally listing other categories of "euthanasia" as "ORE" in order to make their outcomes look better. In the case of Broward County, as the Local 10 News report clearly documents, reported ORE jumped by more than 900% under this accounting method, with the help of some apparent record-changing after the fact.
The changing of public records in the Broward case is likely what will get animal control into trouble. Other shelters are bit more savvy than that and simply enter the outcomes incorrectly from the start, which makes auditing the records more challenging. A formal investigation has been requested following the Local 10 News report. Hopefully, that investigation will be conducted by someone who knows how shelters manipulate their reporting.
Help keep your shelter honest. Use our Live Release Rate Calculator to compute your shelter's actual Live Release Rate.
Screen captures from the Broward County Animal Control computer system show records were changed.