Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services accused of euthanizing animals unnecessarily

Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services accused of euthanizing animals unnecessarily

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services is under investigation by the state for alleged mismanagement.

This comes as three whistleblowers accuse the agency of misclassifying animals in order to keep its "no-kill" status.

For the past four years, Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services has prided itself on being a no-kill shelter.

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In an email to Mayor Lenny Curry, the executive director said, "Our collaboration and the lifesaving results serve as a model for communities across the nation. That we are the only no-kill city in Florida is not by accident."

"The thing is, no-kill is a term that should be low-kill," former employee Michael Sigler said.

But former employees said some animals are being put down unnecessarily.

"They would make up reasons to have to euthanize so it wouldn't go against the numbers," former employee John Dolores said.

In order to be considered a no-kill shelter, at least 90 percent of the animals that come in must be saved.

Action News Jax requested the numbers from the city and found that in 2017, close to 847 animals were euthanized out of more than 12,000 that came in, which qualifies it for no-kill status.

But former employees said staff would sometimes misclassify healthy animals in order to make room.

"There were animals that weren't sick that they listed as sick because they wanted it euthanized for one reason or another,” former employee Aqualla Stephen said.

And when the shelter reached capacity:

"They try to transfer as many as they can to other places," Sigler said.

In total, 4,946 animals were transferred from ACPS in 2017.

Action News Jax obtained a list from the city.

It shows more than 60 different groups where intake animals are transferred to.

We contacted each one and found most are no-kill shelters, and only two admitted they did put animals down when they're over capacity.

"As long as it's live-released from their location, their hands are washed. Whatever happens to that animal after that, not their problem," Sigler said.

Former kennel manager John Dolores said he tried to speak up about what he called unethical practices.

"You either played the game, or they got rid of you," Dolores said.

All three said they left ACPS on their own.

Action News Jax emailed the city detailing their accusations and received the following statement confirming a state investigation into allegations of poor management:

"There is currently an active Inspector General investigation that began at the beginning of the Curry administration, following allegations of poor management practices at Animal Care and Protective Services. While these reported incidents occurred during the previous administration, we remain vigilant and supportive of the investigative process, and will advise of any findings and proposed recommendations when notified of its completion."

In the meantime, Action News Jax asked these former employees why there's so much effort paid to keeping the no-kill status and their answer was money.

"These big, giant foundations throw millions of dollars into Jacksonville’s pockets as long as they stay in the status as no-kill,” Sigler said.

This year so far, the city confirms it's received $50,000 in grants, but last year, that number was zero.