In April 2012, Miami-Dade Animal Services began using a new chemical disinfectant to clean the floor of its kennel. Within weeks, multiple male dogs at the kennel developed an alarming problem, a former employee alleges: their scrotums were badly irritated or burned. It happened more to large dogs, and sometimes the genital skin was so severely singed it turned bright red or black.
"It's horrifying," says Jacquelyn Johnston, who worked at the clinic at the time. "That's the most sensitive skin on their body."
A Miami-Dade spokeswoman declined to comment on the accusations, saying without specific dog identifications, she didn't have enough information to discuss the claims,
Johnston started working at the shelter in 2011. As a clinic supervisor, she oversaw medical documentation and examined the dogs before procedures, including neutering—which is how she noticed, after the new chemical was introduced, the horrible condition of some dogs' scrotums.
The cause of the burns, she eventually figured out, was a lack of proper care and oversight during cleaning: According to protocol, all the animals were supposed to be removed when the chemical was used on the floor, and then kept separately until the area was thoroughly rinsed out. But some employees weren't trained properly, or simply weren't diligent enough about following procedure.
"So what was happening was the chemical was being [used], and the dogs were being left in the kennel run," Johnston says.
Once she started noticing the damage, Johnston contacted superiors, but the problem persisted, she says. Johnson shared some of those emails with New Times. "The number of chemical burns in the scrotal region of large dogs is continuing to increase," she wrote in one email to Miami-Dade Animal Shelter bosses in June 2012. "This began and was reported when the cleaning chemical was changed."
Over the next two years or so, dozens more dogs appeared with the burns. Johnston, who no longer works at the shelter, believes the problem still persists, at least sporadically, when new staff begin at the clinic or others fail to follow protocol. "It's still going on," she says. "It tends to be one of these issues that kind of goes in waves."
(See below for photos of two of the
A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Animal Services said the agency couldn't respond to the accusations — recently outlined, accompanied by gruesome photos, on a local animal rights' group's Facebook page — without more specific information, like the individual dogs' ID numbers.
"It could be any number of reasons why the dogs' scrotums were irritated that way," said Lilian Bohorquez, the spokeswoman, responding to the photos.
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About a year ago, Bohorquez added, the shelter switched to another chemical, recommended by a University of Florida specialist; since then, about the same time she joined the agency, Bohorquez had never been aware of such an incident.
"If this was an issue, and it was reported back in 2012, I am certain that ... the report was addressed," she said.
Johnston was laid off in January 2014, ostensibly because of a budget shortage, she says. Now that she's gone, she's worried there's nobody left inside the facility to report the burning.
"The only person who was tracking these cases was me," Johnston says. "So, since I'm no longer there, it's impossible to know how many continue to occur."