Undercover investigation: Why more pets being dumped in Duval

Animals have been thrown out of moving vehicles, left behind at parks and dumped inside vacant homes.

“The problem is out of control,” Mike Merrill, with Florida Urgent Rescue, said.

Merrill believes it’s only getting worse.

“We are seeing animals who are dumped almost on a daily basis,” Merrill said.

Action News Jax requested the numbers from Clay, St. Johns, Nassau and Duval Counties for 2017.

We found 93 animals were abandoned in Clay County, two animals were dropped off at the pet center in St. Johns County, close to 1,500 stray dogs and cats were brought into Nassau County’s facility.

But in Duval County, which is the largest county in our area, more than 10,000 stray animals were turned in last year, but they’re the lucky ones.

Merrill said Jacksonville’s tough surrender policies are contributing to the high number of animals being dumped on local streets.

“They City of Jacksonville makes it extremely difficult for owners who can’t care for their pets or don’t want them anymore to turn them in to the shelter,” Merrill said.

Action News Jax decided to test it out and sent in a producer undercover to Animal Care and Protective Services to try to drop off a dog.

She was told she needed an appointment, but nothing was available for four weeks.

Mia Guyton was in a similar situation, she found two abandoned dogs at a park on a Saturday, and said no one from the city would help.

“It’s very frustrating they are supposed to be there to help. Signs say to call 630-CITY, you call and get a voicemail to call back during business hours,” Guyton said.

Action News Jax also found there are only 16 intake hours each week, Tuesday through Friday.

“The hours are a big issue,” Guyton said.

Guyton had to find someone to foster the dogs until regular business hours.

“I guess I was supposed to leave them there until Tuesday which we couldn’t do,” Guyton said.

Action News Jax’s Danielle Avitable went to animal control to get answers about its policies, but was told to contact the city.

After sending multiple emails asking for an interview to talk about possible policy changes, we were told “We do not have any additional information to provide in an interview.”

Guyton believes adding intake hours each week and easing up on surrender policies would go a long way toward lowering the number of animals being dumped countywide.

“People get evicted, they lose their homes, all kinds of things happen not everyone wants to just dump them because they don’t want them, they have no choice,” Guyton said.

Local animal rescue groups plan to push for policy changes at upcoming city council meetings.