Hillsborough County to vet caring for abandoned pets: ‘Let them go’

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence spends her days caring for and treating sick and injured animals. On at least three occasions last year, people abandoned dogs and cats at her Alafia River Animal Hospital.

“We either adopt, fix them up, adopt them out, in some cases, it’s just more than we can handle at the time. We may have more animals to adopt or we don’t have room,” said Dr. Alence.

She called Hillsborough County Pet Resources to pick up the animals.

“I was told that it was my job, since I was a veterinarian it was my job to take these in,” she recalled.

Security cameras on her property have captured one abandonment after another. In October an SUV pulled up to the animal hospital in the early hours of the morning, before sunrise. A man opened the trunk, then his dog began roaming around. As he carried 2 cats toward the back part of the property, the dog follows. He left them, then drove off.

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A month earlier security camera video shows the same guy left a load of cats. Several months earlier someone else discarded some cats.

According to Dr. Alence, the county’s response to her calls were slow and stunning. According to Dr. Alence, the person on the phone at Pet Resources told her to just let the animals out and let them go.

“I was shocked quite frankly,” said Dr. Alence. “Let it out, and I said I can’t do that. I said that would be animal endangerment, I’m on a main road, I can’t just let the dog, let the cat out.”

According to Dr. Alence, she was told that abandoning cats and dogs at a vet’s office is like dropping off a baby at a fire station.

“I asked if I should bring the cats to a fire station and I was told, ‘That wouldn’t be acceptable’,” she said.

In an October email obtained by 8 On Your Side, Pet Resources director Scott Trebatoski admitted that one reason for slower response than in the past is money.

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“The reason that our officers have not been as responsive as you have seen in the past is because in the past huge amounts of overtime were utilized which had a major budgetary impact,” wrote Trebatoski. He added the annual cost of overtime was as high as $250,000 dollars per year.

He went on to add, “You had asked for clarification on the comments received from our staff and the sheriff’s office to ‘just let the animals out’ and whether it is agency policy for employees to say that. The answer is a resounding ‘No.’ Our customer service manager is now spot checking all incoming and outgoing calls that are recorded to determine who has been providing that type of comment, so we can address it promptly.”

Dr. Alence then reasoned, “Why not drop the abandoned animals at Pet Resources, where a vet is on staff?”

Here’s why not, a sign in front of Pet Resources states abandoning animals is a crime.

It’s a crime at Pet Resources, but apparently the county feels it’s okay to abandon animals at a veterinarian’s office.

Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence speaks with 8 On Your Side Investigator Steve Andrews.
Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence speaks with 8 On Your Side Investigator Steve Andrews.
Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence speaks with 8 On Your Side Investigator Steve Andrews.
Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Alence speaks with 8 On Your Side Investigator Steve Andrews.

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