Broward’s new director of animal treatment off to rocky start out with activists

Dee Yonker
animal care
A backroom at Broward County’s animal shelter

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org

Six months into her tenure as director of Broward County Animal Treatment and Adoption, Emily Wood is in a vicious dog combat with animal activists and municipal elected officials who accuse her of doing a horrendous work of reforming the embattled company.

Since taking the helm in January, canine and feline advocates accuse Wooden of getting rid of priceless volunteers whom she disagrees with artificially lowering the county shelter’s pet dog and cat populace by refusing to settle for stray and deserted animals and downplaying the will need to resolve 135 complications recognized in a yr-lengthy county audit.

“There is a main disconnect amongst the new director and the local community,” Hillsboro Beach front Mayor Deb Torrant explained to Florida Bulldog. “Her Utopian best of keeping animals that are not sick or hurt out of the shelter is a good sound bite, but it doesn’t change the reality of needing a nicely-run shelter that accepts all animals and focuses on inserting them.”

Torrant, whose city is between quite a few Broward municipalities that have handed resolutions urging the county to quick observe alternatives to the deficiencies cited in the audit, explained Wooden instructed customers of the county’s animal advisory board at a the latest conference that the audit’s results are not as important to her as shifting community perceptions and tradition in obtaining homes for unwanted and missing canines and cats.

The mayor mentioned that adoptions for cats and canine were noticeably down through Wood’s initially four months compared to the exact same period of time in 2018, 2019 and 2020. For occasion, Broward Animal Treatment experienced 318 adoptions in February 2018, 418 adoptions in February 2019 and 354 adoptions in February 2020. This February, the animal division had 151 adoptions.

Wooden normally takes charge of animal treatment

Wooden, who was provided a $125,000-a-calendar year wage, explained to Florida Bulldog that the minimize in adoptions displays nationwide averages because of to additional persons trying to keep pets for companionship all through COVID-19 lockdowns. The criticisms against her began prior to she commenced her new occupation, she added. 

“It’s disappointing, but it has no bearing on who I am and how very well we do,” Wood stated. “There is a breakdown in trust no subject what the quantities present. I identify their frustrations have much more to do with systematic issues than with me. I am performing a good deal of issues that the community questioned for.”

animal care
Emily Wood

Just after accepting the Broward job in December, Wood formally took the reins a thirty day period afterwards adhering to the launch of County Auditor Bob Melton’s ultimate conclusions on the $16.5-million No-Get rid of animal shelter at 2400 SW 24th St. in Fort Lauderdale. The facility has been plagued with overcrowding, negligible employees and volunteers, canine escapes and bites and bad setting up structure considering that opening 4 years back.

Wood beforehand labored as animal products and services director for Yolo County in California and is the former placement and client treatment director for the Pasadena Humane Modern society and SPCA. She is also an environmental scientist who labored for much more than a ten years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Her Broward predecessor, Lauralei Combs, resigned in March of very last yr following just about three a long time on the job amid grievances from activists, volunteers and county commissioners that she was not improving upon the deplorable circumstances of the shelter and its animals that had been documented by outdoors non-earnings animal advocacy corporations. Combs’s failures prompted the audit investigation by Melton and his workforce.

Animal treatment audit conclusions

Factors bought so urgent that Melton issued an interim report in April 2020 outlining speedy fixes that animal solutions essential to put into practice in buy to improve the excellent of lifetime of the canines and cats housed in the shelter.

For instance, animals ended up left unattended for 16 to 18 hours with out any human interaction employees and volunteers had been not sufficiently experienced to deal with dogs with behavioral complications, which resulted in nearly $50,000 worth of liability statements for animal bites, and that the shelter’s design and style did not sufficiently deal with the county’s goal of owning a shelter that does not kill any of its animals for deficiency of room.

In the course of a new tour of the animal shelter, which is nonetheless largely shut to the public besides for folks dropping off animals or earning appointments to see animals for achievable adoption, Wooden confirmed Florida Bulldog some of the ways she’s taken to address the audit’s conclusions. Each individual canine pen is now only housing one pet as opposed to numerous pooches and staff members are performing 10-hour shifts on 4-working day schedules to increase the time canine interact with human beings.

Wood reported she has also been ready to minimize overcrowding at the shelter by reducing the number of animals being surrendered by their entrepreneurs and limiting the number of stray animals staying introduced into the shelter. A person way to do this is to influence pet entrepreneurs contemplating about abandoning their animals not to go via with it.

“One of the ideal tactics is to not operate at about ability,” Wooden spelled out. “Our aim is to only property animals that actually need it. So if I can provide a particular person with free puppy foodstuff due to the fact they experience they have to give up their pet simply because they cannot afford to pay for it, we are coming up with a much better alternative.”

Animal activists alarmed

As section of the system, Broward Animal Care posted on its Facebook webpage on Might 19 that the company would take only sick and hurt puppies and cats while “pet surrenders are suspended.” Police departments were also notified that animal management officers would not be selecting up stray canine. These decisions alarmed animal advocates who accuse Wood of shirking her responsibility to take all canines and cats that want new households.

“I am so disgusted with what is likely on,” Joanne Oyen, an animal activist who just lately resigned from the county’s advisory board in protest, advised Florida Bulldog. “It is just prison what is going on about there.”

Oyen mentioned Wood also recently fired Meredith Bruder, director of the nonprofit Pets’ Broward, as a volunteer for the shelter. Bruder, whose firm has pledged $120,000 to fix drainage for the shelter’s canine perform space, declined comment.

Wooden did not like Bruder’s constructive criticisms, Oyen alleged. “They assert Meredith didn’t adhere to shelter protocols,” Oyen stated. “Meredith obtained tons of puppies adopted by way of a lunch buddies system and was functioning on the yard renovation. Nevertheless, [Emily] reduce her off.”

Wood stated Broward Animal Care is not turning away pet dogs and cats. She claimed the Fb submit was incorrect and that it was immediately edited. In fact, the put up no lengthier has the sentence that “pet surrenders” are suspended.

“The phrasing wasn’t great,” Wood reported. “And it was only that thirty day period due to the fact we had a fair enhance in the quantity of dogs. We are attempting to enable our police department companions know that we are not mandated to take [strays], but we have picked them up, traditionally.”

Reform attempts never conclusion troubles

Wooden declined remark about Bruder, but explained animal products and services can component ways with men and women who violate terms of the volunteer settlement. “We are extremely cognizant of the will need for volunteers,” she reported. “But we don’t have to take just any individual as a volunteer. We have completed a full overhaul of the volunteer plan, emphasizing a lifestyle of solutions and collaboration.”

Even though Wood’s romance with nearby animal advocates is deteriorating more than identity clashes, even typical people had modern negative encounters with Broward Animal Care. On a Saturday in early April, Pompano Seashore resident Mattie Smith and a good friend went to the shelter to fall off a pet that had just been abandoned by its operator at a puppy park in Hollywood.

When she tried using to pull into the shelter’s parking ton, she was stopped by an armed guard at the entrance, Smith stated in a cellphone job interview. “He advised me I had to park outside the house on the grass and that someone would come to the auto,” Smith recalled. “We waited for like 45 minutes and no a single came to get us.”

The guard allowed her to go to the entrance door and she spoke to an staff who knowledgeable her that “they have been super-backed up and that I experienced to be affected individual,” Smith stated. The exact employee arrived out a few minutes afterwards and explained to her that everyone was going on a lunch split. “I would have to hold out till they have been done,” Smith reported. “We waited another a few several hours when she came back and explained to me that they won’t be capable to just take the pet mainly because they were being so busy and for me to arrive again the next day.”

Smith claimed she took the dog to the Hollywood Law enforcement Division, the place officers agreed to hold the dog until finally Animal Companies could select it up on Sunday. 4 days later on, Smith explained she emailed Broward Animal Care to get an update on the pet. “They told me the dog had been really ill and sent me medical data demonstrating that he experienced been euthanized,” Smith mentioned. “I had the perception that all shelters want to enable animals. But in Broward, it doesn’t seem to be that they treatment about the animals.”

Wooden admitted that Smith experienced a terrible experience and that Broward Animal Care delivered undesirable purchaser company. She observed the armed guard is stationed at the entrance following her predecessor been given death threats. “What was so discouraging for her is that she picked up a pleasant pet and we euthanized him,” Wooden explained. “It was incorporating insult to injury.”

But the puppy was infested with heartworms and a person of his lungs was filled with blood, Wood reported. “Euthanization was a tragic option, but the right decision for him,” she explained.  “But the irritating, incompetent client company doesn’t give her a great deal of have confidence in that the euthanization was accurate.”

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