BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's shelter animals are getting a hand from some friends to the south.
The Hernando County Commission signed an agreement this week with Hillsborough Community College, creating a partnership between the college's veterinary technology program and Hernando County Animal Services.
The partnership means that the shelter can send dogs, cats and other animals in need of everything from teeth cleaning to amputation to the college's fully equipped facilities in Plant City at no cost, shelter managing veterinarian Lisa Centonze told commissioners.
Already, a volunteer has stepped forward to provide transportation.
In return, students in the veterinary technology program can come to the Hernando shelter to gain hands-on experience while they complete their academic program.
"This formal agreement will allow for vet tech students from HCC to work at the Animal Services facility, assisting the workload of the county staff, all while allowing the students to gain work experience and provide a valuable education about shelter medicine and surgery,'' Centonze wrote in the material she provided to commissioners.
She said the arrangement with the college "offers a mutually beneficial relationship between our two organizations and would allow the Animal Services department to help more animals and potentially save additional lives.''
Commissioner Diane Rowden complimented Centonze for the work she has done in the few months since she arrived at Animal Services.
"Thank you very much for this,'' Rowden said. "You've certainly hit the ground running.''
Rowden also noted that when the county hired Centonze, "we got two for one.''
Centonze's husband, Vince, is also a veterinarian, and he is director of the veterinary technology program at HCC. Centonze noted that the shelter has already benefited from partnering with the college. Students have been involved in the medical care of several cases of shelter animals informally, she said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay or (352) 848-1434.