Animals were attacked, and at least one employee was seriously hurt, all because dogs are being doubled up in kennels at Central Florida’s largest public shelter.
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9 Investigates’ Karla Ray first exposed concerns inside Orange County Animal Services’ aging building seven years ago, leading to play for a new facility that still has not been built.
Now, she’s learned that without a larger building, co-kenneling is the only viable option.
The photos are too gruesome to show without a blur of an Orange County Animal Services employee’s leg torn open after they tried to break up a dog fight in May. The two dogs involved were co-kenneled due to space.
“It’s a survival instinct environment for the animals,” Christina Chaix, an animal advocate, said.
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The dog that did the biting was euthanized the same day, and it’s not the only time that shelter leaders have had to make that choice due to fights caused by overcrowding.
In fact, the shelter has been on notice for at least 10 months about the dangers of co-kenneling, after a senior dog named Art was mauled by two younger dogs in their shared kennel overnight last August.
By the time he was found, he had multiple puncture wounds, significant swelling, and his entire coat was stained red with blood.
Kennel notes show there was a previous medical request for single-dog housing, which was not adhered to by staff.
“The complacency, the lack of urgency to address this, that’s on them. And they need to fix that,” Melissa McGee said.
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McGee is a former OCAS Advisory Board member who said she is concerned about the well-being of the animals.
Since Art’s death, shelter staff have been questioned by the public at Advisory Board meetings and via records requests about continued fights.
9 Investigates obtained records showing dozens of dogs being involved in fights, and on a visit in early June, we saw almost every kennel doubled up.
No one from the publicly funded shelter would go on camera with us, so we took the safety concerns to current Advisory Board members.
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“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do that we haven’t already tried to do,” board member Lindsey Dodds said. “Realistically, we’re dealing with a government-run shelter, and I think that the public has to be realistic about what a government-funded shelter is capable of.”
Lindsey Dodds and Rosina McVicker pointed out that as a government-run shelter, OCAS cannot stop accepting surrenders or picking up strays. The only other option to free up space would be mass euthanasia.
“I don’t believe that there’s another option. I don’t think we have a choice other than to do the co-housing in the best way possible, to take the time to prepare the dogs in a manner that ideally is putting friendly dogs together,” McVicker said.
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Demolishing the old Pet Alliance shelter was the first step to building a new Orange County Animal Services facility, but even with that step out of the way, there is no timeline for the new shelter to be built.
We checked with the two most comparable shelters in the state; in Broward County, a spokesperson confirmed that no dogs were being co-kenneled, but in Palm Beach County, they have been forced to double up dogs.
An OCAS spokesperson told 9 Investigates in a statement that with the current shelter, cohousing is necessary and saves lives.
You can help the situation by fostering, and more information on that process can be found here.
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