By Jen Horton and Sarahrose Ministeri
The DeLand Police Department has come under fire after it seized 126 animals from the Animal Rescue Konsortium (ARK) shelter in DeLand and placed them in temporary homes.
Animal activists have been burning up email connections and the Internet with allegations that the animals taken may be destroyed. Fanning the flames is a lack of information about the process.
DeLand Deputy Police Chief Randy Henderson explained the animals cannot be killed; they are being held now for safekeeping in shelters and rescue homes, and no decisions will be made about their fate until the case is reviewed by a judge.
DeLand police officers executed a search warrant about 8:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at the ARK shelter, 441 S. Woodland Blvd., after receiving complaints about the care of animals there. After a veterinarian toured the shelter at the City of DeLand's request, the decision was made to seize the animals.
Shelter supporters have said the complaints were lodged frivolously by a rival animal-rescue group, and also said police and firefighters who entered the shelter got a skewed impression of conditions, because the morning clean-up had not yet been done by ARK volunteers.
The animals are safe right now, and are in holding, Henderson said.
The Police Department has filed paperwork with the court, and is waiting for a hearing date within the next 30 days.
"We hope to be in front of a judge next week," Henderson said Nov. 9. "The welfare of these animals is of the highest priority, and we would like to see this resolved."
No-kill advocates contacted The Beacon and said some of the rescued animals were taken to shelters in Flagler and Seminole counties that don't have no-kill policies.
"That is true," Henderson said. "But nothing can happen to these animals until court."
The judge may release the animals back to ARK, or they could be given to the shelters or rescue homes where they are now being housed. If that happens, the shelters would have control of the animals.
Henderson said he deliberately chose shelters that do not use euthanasia as a means of population control.
"A great deal of effort went to finding shelters with high adoption rates, who did not use euthanasia for population control," he said.
The cooperation from shelters has been great, he said.
Henderson pointed out that the City of DeLand has a no-kill philosophy. The Second Chance Animal Shelter, run by the DeLand Police Department, has a survival rate of 99.4 percent, Henderson said. The only animals the city's shelter has had to euthanize were either suffering, or were not able to be rehabilitated for adoption.
All of the dogs seized from ARK have been placed in shelters or rescue homes save one, an aggressive dog that bites, Henderson said. All of the cats were also placed.." More