Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando discusses options for the future Animal Services

BROOKSVILLE — The staff has been accused of animal abuse and neglect. The operation has been scrutinized by veterinarians, volunteers and an auditor. County officials have even considered privatizing it. On Tuesday, the future of Hernando County Animal Services became even cloudier as commissioners considered options for their 2012-13 budget.

The commission agreed to begin negotiating with the sheriff for his takeover of the four Animal Services officers, while county staffers pitched an idea to restructure the other department that shares space and a manager at the shelter site — county Code Enforcement.

The discussion raised questions by some animal welfare advocates, who wanted to know why the county would even consider making such sweeping changes to the department before the release of the ongoing audit of Animal Services.

That audit and investigation was ordered after the euthanization of a young pit bull mix named Zeus in mid April. The dog was euthanized just 12 minutes after it was turned in by a family member for adoption, igniting a firestorm of criticism of the shelter and its staff.

Under the county staff proposal for Code Enforcement, the four existing code officers would move under the building official in the Land Services Department, along with an administrative secretary and a customer service employee. Supervising Code Enforcement would be the embattled Animal Services manager, Liana Teague.

Land Services director Ron Pianta said he had already talked to Teague about the possible change.

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes questioned whether code enforcement was a state-mandated function. Pianta said it was not, but that it was something the public has come to expect.

Dukes suggested moving only two of the four officers and eliminating the other positions to help reduce the deficit in the county's general fund, but Pianta said the job couldn't be done adequately with that level of staffing.

Teague told commissioners the relocation of Code Enforcement would be a good move, but that with those employees leaving the shelter and the Animal Services officers going to the Sheriff's Office, there would be just four kennel workers and two support staffers left to run the shelter.

That's "not enough staff'' to provide for the animals and the community, she said.

Dukes asked if she had enough volunteers at the shelter. Teague said there are some volunteers who assist with animals and customer service, but that the core work of the shelter is done by the kennel workers, with some help from the Animal Service officers.

Commissioner Dave Russell asked Sheriff Al Nienhuis if help from the officers would still be allowed at the shelter if he begins to oversee them. Nienhuis said he would be a team player, but that he needed the animal officers who help his staff in responding to animal calls.

Working at the shelter, in addition to their enforcement work, also could create confusion over who reports to whom, he added.

Teague said the commission needed to find more resources for the shelter.

"That's where the audit is really going to help us,'' Russell said.

Audit Services director Peggy Caskey said last week that she anticipates release of the audit this month.

Joanne Schoch, executive director for the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, expressed concern about the proposed changes for Animal Services workers, especially since the audit findings have yet to be released.

"I have a real concern that this seems to be premature,'' Schoch said.

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

Hernando discusses options for the future Animal Services 07/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 5:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.