Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 16th 2014

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The Buzz 2/27/14

Animal Shelter Upheaval Continues Since the mistaken euthanasia of Cowgirl, a Labrador retriever mix, in August 2013 revealed flaws in the Escambia County Animal Shelter’s (ECAS) practices, bad news related to shelter operations has steadily continued to manifest. On Feb. 20, another twist in the plot at ECAS occurred with the resignation of Dr. Alphonso W. Steward, III, ECAS’s veterinarian, amid allegations that his surgical practices were resulting in multiple animal deaths at the shelter.

On Thursday, Feb. 20, Marilyn D. Wesley, Director of the Escambia County Department of Community Affairs, sent an email to county administration and commissioners stating that Dr. Steward resigned earlier that day. Steward was employed at ECAS since Nov. 15, 2013, shortly after two additional mistaken euthanizations following that of Cowgirl, and the resignations of former shelter veterinarian Dr. Melissa Adkison and former Director of Animal Services Delfi Messinger.

One bright spot amidst the recent shelter drama has been the county commissioners’ approval in January of ECAS becoming a fellow of the Target Zero Initiative, an organization that consults with shelters to get them as close to a “no kill” status as possible.

Early last week, the IN received word that many animals undergoing operations at ECAS had died in the three months since Dr. Steward came on board as the veterinarian for ECAS. Community groups appealing to county commissioners reported that as many as 10 animals may have died as a result of poor surgical practices, which they stated included unnecessarily large incisions and no pain medications being administered to animals undergoing surgery.

Though Wesley’s email did not explicitly reference these allegations, after announcing Steward’s resignation the message stated, “Following a series of events at the Animal Shelter, a team has been formed, including staff from Human Resources, Risk Management, the County Attorney’s office and Animal Services,” before explaining that an investigation of the current policies and procedures within the shelter’s Surgery Suite has begun.

The IN will continue reporting on details about the shelter’s investigation as they are made available.

ECAT Ridership Rates Are Up Recently, representatives from Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) announced that the system gave a total of 403,612 rides in the fourth quarter of 2013, making the annual total over 1.5 million rides.

The ridership numbers for the fourth quarter of 2013 reflect an almost 4 percent increase over 2012 numbers for the same period. “These numbers indicate the use of public transportation in Pensacola is on the rise,” the representatives concluded. In 2012, ridership was up over 11 percent from the previous year, marking steady increases in the utilization of public transit locally.

The ECAT announcement mirrors findings released in late 2013 by the U.S. PIRG, a federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs). THE U.S. PIRG report listed Pensacola among the top 10 cities in the U.S. with the highest declines in driving between the years 2006 and 2011. Increases in bicycle commuting and use of public transit were among the factors behind the decreased miles driven per-capita numbers, of which Pensacola ranked tenth among the 100 most populous urbanized areas in the country.