Hillsborough County animal shelter picks and chooses who will get public records

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Is Hillsborough County trying to squelch information about what goes on in its overcrowded animal shelter?  

The Pet Resource Center has for months been picking and choosing with whom it will share information about dogs and cats in the pound.

According to Rescue Me Tampa’s Tamar Barry, obtaining medical information about these shelter animals is essential.

“You can’t expect someone to adopt a dog first and then get their records after they adopted the dog, that’s not okay,” she said.

The Pet Resource Center stopped supplying medical records to Rescue Me Tampa, claiming the files are exempt from the public records law.

“They’re only using that on us,” claims Barry. “Other people who will email and ask for the same records, they will get those records. But we will be told they are exempt and that’s just not okay.”

That’s true. Records we’ve obtained show the PRC handing over to others, the same medical records it’s denying Rescue Me Tampa.

“If it’s a public record for one person, it’s a public for all persons,” adds attorney Charlie Carlson.

Carlson, who has in the past represented WFLA-TV, says a government agency cannot pick and choose who it’s going to give records to.

“That would be inconsistent with the Public Records Act,” he said. “Because as I said, the Public Records Act is there for all persons.”

The PRC cut off the medical records shortly after one of Target 8’s reports revealed it had mistakenly euthanized a dog named Loki.

“This is our county shelter,” said Barry. “They need to not be playing games with the citizens. We need to be able to trust them because these are lives there and we have no trust in them whatsoever.”

What’s even more ridiculous is that the county will send out a plea on a dog detailing its medical problems. When asked for the animal’s record, the PRC claimed those medical records were exempt.

Wednesday afternoon, the Pet Resource Center said in an effort to be as transparent as possible, the county will provide medical records for dogs and cats at the shelter. That comes after the threat of a lawsuit.

If you have something that you think should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1 800 338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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