Cutbacks may force animal shelter to close Saturdays

BROOKSVILLE — The long odds that dogs and cats in Hernando County's Animal Services shelter already face in finding homes may soon get even worse.

County commissioners will be asked Tuesday to approve the closure of the Animal Services facility to the public on Saturdays as a part of the county's budget cutting.

That could mean fewer strays and animals given up by owners will find new homes, according to Mark Caskie, interim code enforcement director.

"We would only be open five days instead of six,'' he said. "We would still be open late on Thursdays but it will be an impact to the public, less time for the public to come in and do their business.''

Statistics show that for every one or two adoptions, another nine or 10 animals are euthanized. Caskie said the numbers do not correlate exactly because some owners bring their old or sick animals to the facility to have them put down, but there is no doubt there are many more animals than there are people willing to adopt them.

Like other county department leaders, Caskie was given a budget number reflecting the property tax reductions anticipated. In crafting a spending plan, he was told to make do with less and that he could not replace a shelter worker who retired this month.

The reduction from five kennel workers to four complicated the staffing schedule, he said, because "I have to care for the animals seven days a week.''

Caskie said the one-day closure to the public was necessary "to be more efficient and have a safer operation of the kennel.''

Saturday was chosen because the facility was open to the public for only half a day and six workers were on duty during that time. The choice was made based on staffing concerns.

Saturdays also have the smallest average number of daily visitors for the 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. hours that the facility is open with just 82. Thursdays are the busiest days with an average of 147 visitors per day and hours that extend to 6 p.m. On other days, the facility closes at 4:30 p.m.

Animal services officers will be available on weekends to help local law enforcement with animal-related issues, he said. Those officers sometimes handle issues with the public on Saturdays and would be available to do more field work if the facility closed to the public on Saturdays.

One-day-a-week closing to the public may not be the only service the public could lose from Animal Services under the current budget trimming.

Caskie said other cuts could be made by eliminating the spay and neuter rebate and free rabies vaccination clinics and reducing the amount of public outreach at community fairs and events.

Those kinds of losses would be unfortunate, he said.

"These are preventative programs. They have been a very positive thing.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

>>shelter facts

Hard numbers

2006: 731 adoptions; 4,809 euthanasias

2007: 715 adoptions; 5,783 euthanasias

2008 Jan.-May: 312 adoptions; 1,864 euthanasias

Source: Hernando County Animal Services

Cutbacks may force animal shelter to close Saturdays 07/11/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2008 7:32pm]

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