LARGO — A veterinarian with a strong background in high-volume spaying and neutering has been chosen Pinellas County's director of veterinary services.
Stacie Wadsworth, 55, also has done work for shelters, humane organizations and rescues. She began her new job at Pinellas Animal Services on Monday. She will earn about $87,000 a year. The job came open when Caroline Olausen resigned in September to go into private practice.
"I feel like we got lucky," Animal Services director Maureen Freaney said. "She's got a great background."
Freaney agreed that Wadsworth's experience with rescue and other humane organizations is a good fit for the recent philosophical change among county officials. That change includes an attempt to work more closely with other organizations, such as the SPCA Tampa Bay, the Humane Society and PetPals, to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation in the county. The change also reflects a willingness to try some new ideas to help solve the problem. The County Commission recently agreed to loosen rules regarding the feeding and care of feral cats to make way for a pilot program of trap, neuter, vaccinate and release by a group calling itself Meow Now. The pilot is scheduled to begin sometime after the first of the year when the commission officially acts to loosen the rules.
Wadsworth said she has worked with TNVR.
"I've seen it actually work," she said. "I've seen colonies go down to zero."
Other Pinellas activists would like the commission to pass a rule making it mandatory to spay and neuter all pets, with certain exceptions that include breeding animals. But officials have been less open to that proposal.
Wadsworth did not say whether she supports mandatory spay-neuter rules, but said the implementation and enforcement of such rules can be a problem.
For Wadsworth, her job goes deeper than making sure the animals are treated well.
"It's not just about the animal. It's about the human-animal bond," she said. "We're a country that loves our animals. . . . It's just part of our culture. How do we manage that in a humane way?"
Wadsworth has a bachelor's degree in animal science and her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Florida. She expects to earn her master of arts degree in professional counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in May. She began her working life in 1986 as the managing veterinarian at Collier County Animal Services Veterinary Clinic. She left there after a year and worked at several clinics, including Wildlife on Easy Street (now Big Cat Rescue) in Tampa, before opening her own practice, Carrollwood Cats, in 1991. She sold the practice in 2007 and has since worked as a relief veterinarian, primarily for spaying and neutering, at the Humane Alliance in Asheville, N.C., Animal Allies Spay Neuter Clinic in Spartanburg, S.C., and Noah's ARC spay/neuter and ACT in Tampa.
She is divorced and has two children and two grandchildren. She is the owner of two horses.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.