Investigator To Look Into Deaths At Escambia Animal Shelter

March 21, 2014

An investigation is being launched into animal deaths at the Escambia County Animal Shelter.

Sharyn Berg of Cantonment, co-founder of a group called Escambia Animal Activists, told the Escambia County Commission that an unusually large number of animals had died from surgical complications during the tenure of the last veterinarian at the shelter, Dr. Alphonso Steward.

“Animals died while he was at the shelter through routine spay and neuter surgery. There were handfuls of other issues with his surgeries that had to be fixed by him and other vets,” she said, claiming that 10 animals had died under Steward’s surgical care in the last three months. She also alleged that Steward’s hiring process was inappropriate.

Interim Escambia County Administrator Larry Newsom said the county is bringing in an independent, third party veterinarian from out of town to look at the animal deaths, and the county will look into any issues with the hiring of Steward.

Last August, Director of Animal Services Delfi Messinger resigned due to pubic outcry after a family dog was mistakenly euthanized. A second dog was mistakenly put down in October, a month before newly hired veterinarian Dr. Melissa Adkison resigned. Steward resigned last month.

In an interview with the Pensacola Independent News, Steward blamed animal deaths on shelter staff and claimed staff members were involved in a social media campaign to tarnish his reputation.  To read that interview, click here.


13 Responses to “Investigator To Look Into Deaths At Escambia Animal Shelter”

  1. Beth on March 25th, 2014 10:03 pm

    Pet rescuer, which clinic has the 50 s/n on 9 mile?

  2. Pet Rescuer on March 23rd, 2014 6:23 am

    This is such a sad situation all around. I, too, was feeding an animal several years ago and when it disappeared, I was told by animal control that it had been picked up. I asked if I could come bail it out and how much, and was told it had come in sick and been put down immediately. I can tell you, that was completely untrue. The cat was very healthy, very friendly, and very adoptable. I have to wonder if most animals even get an exam before being put to sleep. Sad situation for lots of pet owners.

    There is a very good animal hospital on 9 Mile Road that has very affordable S/N prices ($50 N). Maybe they should partner with the county – this would in turn help control the overpopulation and lower S/N prices for pet owners.

  3. Molino Mom on March 22nd, 2014 7:03 pm

    Ms. Wesley is a hard working and caring person. I can’t believe she would be responsible for anything like this. She wears many hats for Escambia County.
    I have always been afraid of the shelter.

  4. bewildered on March 22nd, 2014 6:42 am

    Only one option: SPAY and NEUTER. We seem to be the only civilized country in the world where dogs and cats run rampant. Only in third world nations are pet owners not taking responsibility for their animals’ lives. Science was able to control the population of the wild horses in the West with injections that hinder them from breeding sucessfully, pigeon populations are controlled by adding contraceptives to seeds, etc. Please, someone explain why we cannot control the number of unwanted cats and dogs being born in the ffirst place and eliminate the need for a kill ” facility” altogether. (I cannot use “Shelter” which would mean it’s a safe place for unfortunate creatures)

  5. Whisper Burkett on March 22nd, 2014 4:27 am

    I had a couple friends that’s dog where put down for no reason at all it was disgusting and they were told they could come get their dog and that day they put the dog down so I think whoever is responsible for this needs to be in trouble text you because its just wrong and nobody should put down the dog just because there’s not enough something like that is ridiculous animals deserve every right they can have its just horrible it’s just sad

  6. David on March 21st, 2014 5:50 pm

    I think we can solve the problem by “altering” the staff and everyone involved in the cover up.

  7. Jan Papra on March 21st, 2014 2:27 pm

    The ironically named “shelter” is a mess. And when Steward has to resign, and Messenger has to resign, then the person who hired them and supervised them surely has to go as well. Ms. Wesley, who runs the Animal Services and directed those two people and the activities of the shelter needs to retire or find a job far, far away from animals and the county residents who love them.

    Alllow me to recommend transferring her to Transportation and the ECAT system.

  8. Sharyn Berg on March 21st, 2014 2:17 pm

    Until the hire of Dr. Al Steward, there had be very few deaths during s/n surgery at the shelter, which is the way it is normally. It’s a very safe surgery when done by a qualified vet. Dr. Owen and Dr. Ulrich have done a fantastic job for over 4 years. Truly dedicated veterinarians who honestly care for the animals at the shelter. When Dr. Steward blamed Gayle Sanders for the three deaths on Feb. 14, 2014, he neglected to mention the other 7 deaths in only 3 months. Drs. Owen and Ulrich have worked in the same facility with the same staff (Sanders) without the catastrophic results of Dr. Steward. Mr. Coe is exactly right about the need to look into County personnel who should no longer be in charge of Animal Services. In the 5 years the current director of Animal Services/Community Affairs has been in charge there have been 4 shelter managers and soon to be 4 veterinarians. As well as no written policy/procedures in those 5 years. Why is she still in charge? I believe, she’s responsible for Steward’s hire. Mr. Coe is also correct about not including the current Shelter Manager, John Robinson. Mr. Robinson started working at the shelter the day after Steward resigned. I have high hopes he will be able to help the shelter settle on to a proper path. I’ve liked what I have heard from him so far and look forward to working with him. Dr. Steward was also wrong to slam Phyllis Trout. Her friends know she has to put down on average 26 animals a day. This isn’t her fault and it isn’t her choice. We wouldn’t even need a shelter if people were more responsible pet owners. It amazes me that Ms. Trout is still so compassionate about the animals in her care. One would think that horrific responsibility would beat compassion out of a person for their own protection. Escambia Animal Advocates stands behind the shelter because when they succeed we all succeed. Together we can make Escambia County a better place for animals.

  9. Suzie B on March 21st, 2014 11:31 am

    After hoping for a safe, affordable place for animals to be altered, many people are now afraid of what may happen there. Things do happen during surgery in any situation but now, with this many cases, people may not look at this as being an affordable option for spay/neuter and the animal population will continue to grow out of hand. I hope they can turn it all around and get the reputation back to a positive one with a good, reliable staff. It’s a hard job to work there anyway so finding good people isn’t always easy.

  10. Puddin on March 21st, 2014 6:34 am

    Our animal shelter is a disaster. It needs a complete overhaul from the top down. A place that is meant to care for helpless animals has been turned into a death chamber. Ive been screaming for over a year about this place. Hopefully, someone is finally starting to listen. (AND THIS IS NOT SLANDER! I HAVE REAMS OF DATA PROVING IT).

  11. 429SCJ on March 21st, 2014 6:11 am

    A heart breaking situation in a cruel world.

    Let us seek kindness in our own souls and pray that others seek it in theirs.

  12. bartender on March 21st, 2014 3:59 am

    this has been an on going problem for the shelter. its not fair that so many animals have to die and a lot of them could have been adopted out.i know the sick have to be put down but so many didn’t have to be.i fed a dog at stone lake for weeks trying to catch it and when it was there no more I called the shelter and told them I had been feeding it for awhile and the man said did the dog belong to you and I said no but I wanted it.he said well if it wasn’t your dog don’t worry about it and I cant tell you nothing about it.that was a cold hearted person if you ask might be a job but don’t be so cold about it. I get sick everything I go to the dump and see all those bags of dogs and cats being dumped with the garbage.they could atleast put them in clean dirt some where else.these are gods animals and it wasn’t meant to be treated like this.

  13. Henry Coe on March 21st, 2014 1:54 am

    The shelter has a problem with the certain people in the county trying to micro manage it instead of letting the doctors run it in creating a system that works.

    It’s a horrible job to have euthanize so many cats and dogs but the accidental deaths have been the result of clerical errors created by the County’ in it’s attempt to micro manage the shelter and the burdens the county has place on staff in over bearing and tedious paperwork.

    Certain people in the country use their control or influence over the Animal Shelter as means to make themselves feel important by throwing their weight around.
    If you want the Animal Shelter to function, get the micro managing idiots out of the way of the people who work there and let them do there job using systems that they know work.
    What’s the point of the County hiring professionals and then not letting those professionals use the skills they have in managing the facility?
    Btw, I’m speaking of the previous directors, not this most recent one.
    If you are going investigate the problems with the Escambia County Animal Shelter, start with the County Personnel who have been trying to Micro Manage it without being qualified too.