Cockfighting roosters euthanized improperly by Hillsborough County

Director of Pet Resources Center Scott Trebatoski.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – A Hillsborough County Animal Control Officer is working the phones these days instead of dealing with animals in the field.  His future with the county is uncertain.

Sgt. Steve Scanlon admitted violating the county’s euthanasia policy while directing the destruction of roosters seized during a raid on a cockfighting ring in Lithia.

“Steve was told to follow the protocol,” said Pet Resources Center director Scott Trebatoski. “He did  not instruct his staff to follow that protocol.”

According to Trebatoski, county policy is that roosters should be euthanized with an injection of sodium pentobarbital into the body cavity.  The county generally tranquilizes the birds first.  Instead, when Scanlon arrived at 10239 Lyons Rd. In Lithia on Feb. 27, he discovered that the needles he picked up at the PRC were too small, so he instructed his staff to inject the sodium pentobarbital into the head or brain of the roosters.  Animal Control Officer Paris Dunkley told supervisors that’s not all that happened. Scanlon’s actions with one bird, Dunkley claims, nearly brought her to tears.

RELATED: Cockfighting ring broken up in Hillsborough County

“I turned around and I saw him wring the bird’s neck and throw the bird to the ground,” Dunkley told a county investigator during a recorded interview.

Later in the same interview, Dunkley stated she did not see the actual wringing but did observe Scanlon’s hand come from the bird’s neck. Scanlon denied the accusation.

“This didn’t happen, I adamantly deny it,” he said in a taped interview with the county human resource analyst Angel Carey.  After speaking with two other members of the Pet Resources Center who were on sight during the mass euthanasia, Carey concluded the allegation is not sustained.

“The only thing that I violated ma’am, was I violated our county policy.  I did not treat any rooster in a cruel manner,” Scanlon told Carey.

Scanlon admitted that the method utilized to euthanize (injecting sodium pentobarbital in the back of the head) was the wrong method.

In an email to Angel Carey, PRC Managing Director David Morton wrote:

“Morgan Woodward and I met with Steve to discuss the allegations of performing euthanisa by injecting into the birds head.  Steve Admitted to euthanizing the birds by injecting them in the back of the head, denied snapping the birds necks, admitted that he knew it was wrong to euthanize using that method, admitted that he had gone through to perform I.C. Euthanasia’s, admitted that he did speak with Morgan earlier in the day and he recalled Morgan telling him not to do perform the euthanasia’s like that.”  Scanlon was relieved of his supervisor duties.

Efforts to contact Scanlon have been unsuccessful.

According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the right way to euthanize roosters includes gentle handling, adequate sedation, and an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital. Intracardiac injections are not acceptable unless the animal is first rendered comatose by an adequate dose of approved pre-euthanasia sedative.  It is never acceptable to kill any conscious animal by injections to the heart or brain. Injections into the brain are not a recognized or approved method.

“He’s currently been assigned desk duty,” said Scott Trebatoski.  “This situation is not completely resolved right now.  The initial investigation of one allegation was looked at. There is still an HR disciplinary process so right now he’s basically been assigned to an office desk position.  The final resolution of what will happen is not complete and I cannot comment.”

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