Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County Animal Service to add three staffers

BROOKSVILLE — For animal advocates hoping to see positive changes at Hernando County Animal Services, Tuesday offered not just one win but two.

County Commissioners approved a reorganization plan that will add a veterinarian manager, two other staffers and the assistance of jail trustees — just as public safety director Mike Nickerson had recommended.

But the commission wasn't ready to discuss the proposed new animal services ordinance, which many animal welfare activists strongly opposed. In fact, as the meeting began Tuesday in the standing-room-only commission chambers, Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes asked for a show of hands from people there to talk new animal ordinance.

Most of the hands in the room shot up.

Dukes and the other commissioners acknowledged that they had each received hundreds of emails in the last couple of days from all over the world urging the commission not pass the ordinance, which first became public with the release of the agenda on Friday.

"There are some things in there that are either unclear or misleading,'' he said, noting that there was no way to hear the issue Tuesday. "We can't fix it today. It's not fair to you and not fair to us with this much interest and this many questions."

Dukes promised the people crowding the room that county staff would meet with their key representatives to redraft the ordinance before it is scheduled to come back before the commission on Nov. 13.

County officials have been anxious to get a handle on issues at Animal Services for months. The premature euthanization of a dog named Zeus in April, a critical review from the University of Florida and a series of findings and recommendations by an auditor all led to Tuesday's recommendations to the commission.

The reviews recommended adding five staff members but, conscious of the county's current budget issues, Nickerson trimmed that to three new staff members. One will be a veterinarian who also serves as shelter manager. One will be an animal advocate and coordinator of rescues and volunteers. The third is a veterinarian technician. Jail trustees will round out the additional help planned for Animal Services.

The cost is $245,000 and this year's share of that was to come out of the county's reserves. Commissioners didn't settle on how to pay the cost into the future.

Dukes noted that many of the emails the commissioners received on animal services were not from county citizens and he noted that many of the headline-producing mistakes made at the shelter were due to people not following the rules.

He suggested that what was really needed was a strong leader and "to fix this from the top down.''

But Nickerson stood his ground on the issue of fully implementing the audit recommendations. He said that even a strong leader can't fix everything when animal services staff has been decimated by cuts in recent years. He blamed himself and partially former animal and code services director Liana Teague for perhaps not fighting strongly enough for the needs of the department.

Laurie Boynton, the volunteer who first blew the whistle on the Zeus case, praised the addition of the needed staff especially the animal advocate to ensure that someone inside animal services was working with the same goal as the volunteers — to save more animals.

"You know how important this issue is in Hernando County, that animals are treated humanely,'' she said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County Animal Service to add three staffers 10/23/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 8:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Deputies responding to car crash in Riverview find shooting victim inside


    RIVERVIEW — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating after deputies responding to a single-car crash late Wednesday discovered someone in the car had been shot, authorities said.

  2. Commentary: Ten years later, the iPhone owns us


    Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January, 2007, before an adoring congregation, in his signature "Sermon on the Mount" style. On June 29, it became available to the public. Ten years later, the phone has spread like Christianity. The device represents "the pinnacle product of all capitalism," as Brian Merchant …

    Apple is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the iPhone's release on June 29, 2007. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: School grades, teacher pay, transgender lawsuit and more


    SCHOOL GRADES: Florida's school grades showed improvement as the state's revised accountability system entered its third year in its current form. …

    Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates her school's A grade with students in a summer program at the school.
  4. Whiskey wasn't my thing, but then I visited the Teeling Distillery in Ireland



    If you drink your way through a four-day trip to Ireland, can you make an honest recommendation on anything?

    The focal point of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin is the copper pots used in the process.
  5. Faulty AC leaves Chinsegut manor house, supporters steaming

    Human Interest


    As summer temperatures climb, volunteers at Chinsegut Hill Manor House say a faulty air-conditioning system has put them in a hot spot.

    Thomas Hoops of Tampa, left, takes a breather with his 1-year-old daughter, Zoe Hoops, on the porch of the Chinsegut Hill Manor House.