Broward News

No-Kill Resolution Has Actually Led to More Dead Pets, Advocates Say

Just south of Oakland Park Boulevard on I-95, drivers turn to stare at an eye-catching billboard. It shows a picture of an adorable golden retriever and this striking web address:

The website offers the same picture with a devilish choice: You can either save the pup or kill it. Choosing the latter option will lead the site to call you a "heartless bastard."

But what's all this hypothetical dog-killing drama about?

A group called Pets Broward bought the billboard to draw attention to what it says has happened since the county passed a resolution in April 2012 declaring an intent to convert its animal shelters to no-kill facilities. In the two years since, say the folks at Pets Broward, killings at Broward County Animal Care have only increased.

"It was a feel-good, hollow resolution they put out, and they have people believing they are no-kill," says Meredith Bruder, a spokeswoman for the group. "But you can look up the stats and find out it's so far from no-kill it's scary."

Around the same time the resolution came on the books, another one was passed to make public shelters transparent. That means Broward County Animal Care must share its euthanasia rates with anyone who sends a written request with a self-addressed return envelope.

The publicly available data shows Bruder is not crying wolf. Although the percentage rate of animals killed at the shelter has steadily decreased since 2010, the total number of animals killed has, in fact, gone up.

Between October 2010 and April 2012, 799 animals were euthanized on average per month. In the months since the resolution passed — from May 2012 to the end of 2013 — that monthly average jumped to 889.

Bruder believes the numbers are increasing because a lot more animals are being taken to the Broward facility since the resolution misled people into thinking Broward centers are already no-kill. In the month immediately after the resolution passed, the number of animals dropped off at the shelter doubled, from 731 to 1,462. In reality, the resolution solidified only an "intent" to become no-kill; it gave no deadline for the county's shelters to top a 90 percent save rate.

To achieve this goal, the shelter has tried to decrease intake by upping its neutering and pet registration services. It's working with limited resources, though, because the resolution did not mean additional taxpayer dollars were added to the shelter.

"One of the things that has happened to us is that our intake has gone up. More people are surrendering their pets, so it's just more animals we're responsible for," says Lisa Mendheim, spokeswoman for Broward County Animal Care. "And nothing is going to turn on a dime. We're proud of what we've done so far, and we think the animals of Broward County would thank us for it."

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.