Manatee County Animal Services accused of using controversial "heart stick" procedure

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Manatee County Animal Services is once again the target of claims of wrongdoing by members of the public, this time for the alleged use of a euthanization process that many people say is cruel to the animals.

"He did see a hypodermic needle attached to a stick and shortly thereafter the kitten was dead,” says Debbie Woosley, describing an affidavit posted on Support No Kill Manatee’s Facebook page. It documents what a person doing community service at the agency claims to have seen: Animal Services officials performing a “heart stick,” a euthanization procedure frowned upon by many animal lovers that involves inserting a needle directly into the animal’s heart. The procedure is controversial and has been banned in several states across the county.


"I’ve certainly talked to some veterinarians about it and it does need to be performed correctly,” says Woosley. “If it isn't, it’s very, very painful."

"Really I don’t know what a ‘heart stick’ is or what they are talking about,” says Kris Weiskopf, the director of Animal Services in Manatee. While he denies the allegations, Weiskopf does say that in specific situations Animal Services have used a heart-injection process to put animals down -- though he stresses that he is not talking about the heart stick procedure.

“The process that I know we use is by American Veterinarian Association guidelines, which all of our technicians are certified [in] through Animal Control Association," Weiskopf says.

"If there is that particular case for whatever … then we are going to go ahead and anesthetize that dog, and we are going to give them a narcotic to knock them out,” Weiskopf explains. “Then there’s the potential of an inter-cardio injection they are given to the heart."

In addition to denying the specific claims, Weiskopf says putting an animal down is never taken lightly by his staff.

"Everyone here is so compassionate the most difficult part of their job is the euthanasia part," he says.

In the meantime, animal advocates continue to be skeptical of Animal Services and they point to the affidavit as evidence of wrongdoing.

"We would like to see some oversight,” Woolsey says.

Officials stress that they do not use heart stick, and they follow state guidelines whenever they have to euthanize an animal.