Animal Care Supporters Rally to Managers' Defense; Facebook Campaign, Petition Drive Refute Whistle-Blower Letter

By Cravey, Beth Reese | The Florida Times Union, August 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

Animal Care Supporters Rally to Managers' Defense; Facebook Campaign, Petition Drive Refute Whistle-Blower Letter


Cravey, Beth Reese, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

Volunteers and other supporters of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services launched a change.org petition drive and a Facebook campaign in response to an anonymous whistle-blower letter sent to City Hall alleging mismanagement at the city shelter.

The petition drive, initiated Wednesday by Angie Benz and addressed to Mayor Lenny Curry, had 102 signatures Friday afternoon.

The anonymous letter writer charged that division chief Nikki Harris and shelter manager Jen Walter falsified numbers to maintain no-kill status at the shelter, misclassified animals in order to euthanize them, euthanized animals that would have recovered from medical problems and turned away stray animals so they wouldn't be counted against the shelter's numbers.

In the petition they signed, Facebook posts they shared with the hashtag #acpsstrong and in emails to the Times-Union, volunteers, foster parents and other people who work with Harris and Walter on a regular basis said the claims are unfounded.

"Since she came on board, Nikki Harris has transformed the shelter. The mission changed from controlling the pet population to saving the lives of homeless pets," said Lindsay M. Layendecker, a volunteer and foster pet parent.

Harris and Walter "routinely bring scared dogs into their offices for special care. These women developed a behavior program which gives animals who might be killed at any other shelter a chance to thrive in ours. These are not the actions of leaders with an interest in killing animals or lying to cover it up," Layendecker said. "I could sit here and write an encyclopedia to refute the claims."

The anonymous letter was sent Aug. 13 to Carla Miller, director of the Jacksonville Office of Ethics. The author signed the letter as an anonymous whistle-blower. The letter asked Miller to open an ethics investigation and do a detailed audit of all the animals euthanized over the past year.

City spokesman James Croft referred questions last week to Thomas Cline Jr., the city's inspector general, who could not confirm or deny an investigation," but said the city looks into all complaints. …

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