Animal services changes passed
By Michael D. Bates | Hernando TodayBROOKSVILLE - The county commission chambers were packed Tuesday with animal rights activists who pleaded with the board to do whatever it takes to save as many dogs and cats as humanly possible at the beleaguered animal services department.
Published: November 14, 2012
Published: November 14, 2012
They differed, though, on how to accomplish that.
Some praised the county's efforts in drafting a revised department ordinance, focusing on more humane treatment of strays and solidifying policies they thought have not been followed.
Others said the ordinance is peppered with unclear "legalese" that could actually do more harm than good and pleaded with commissioners for more time and input from the community.
After about two hours of debate, county commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the new ordinance, with revisions and amendments. County Commissioner John Druzbick, who voted against the ordinance, said he would have liked to see more of the amended specifics before the vote.
The revisions include more specific language on owner-surrendered animals, the rights of animal service officers who come on private property to retrieve strays and firmer guidelines on euthanasia.
Public Safety Director Mike Nickerson said many of the revisions are directly related to the recommendations of a recent county audit of the department, especially when it comes to strict adherence on policies such as euthanasia.
"We're under the gun to lower our euthanasia rates," Nickerson said.
Becky Swerdloff said people need to realize that sometimes they have to set aside their emotions and realize that ill animals may need to be euthanized.
After Raul Figarola — the veterinarian hired by the county on a 90-day contract to run animal services — recommended her horse be euthanized, Swerdloff said she found another vet who offered an alternative. She gained time with her animal but realizes now she put her horse "through hell" because of her needs.
"We want every animal to live past the time it should because it's cute and lovable," Swerdloff said.
That, she said is not fair to the animal.
Figarola, she said, looks past the emotional part and seeks what is best for the animal.
"He may not be the best politician, he may not be the easiest to talk to but he's a good vet," she said.
Figarola, present at Tuesday's meeting, said he would love to see a no-kill shelter in Hernando County and is working toward that goal, while he is there.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes praised Figarola for his work.
"We appreciate what you've done so far," he said.
Joanne Schoch, executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast Inc., applauded county commissioners for devoting so much time to trying to fix animal services.
She urged the board for more time before approving the ordinance and called for the formation of an advisory group.
"Each group has different needs," Schoch said. "Nobody is ever going to agree 100 percent on an ordinance that is passed," she said.
Resident Jeff Hamilton was appreciative of the commission for working to solve the problem.
"I applaud you for trying to fix the problem instead of trying to blame somebody," Hamilton said.