Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough hires new leader for troubled Animal Services

JoJo, a 1-year-old male German shepherd, was set to go home with his new family when Hillsborough County Animal Services staff euthanized him in early October. JoJo's death prompted an internal investigation at the animal shelter.

Hillsborough County Animal Services

JoJo, a 1-year-old male German shepherd, was set to go home with his new family when Hillsborough County Animal Services staff euthanized him in early October. JoJo's death prompted an internal investigation at the animal shelter.

TAMPA — For the second time in two years, Hillsborough County has hired a new director to run its animal shelter.

Scott Trebatoski, the city of Jacksonville's shelter director, was picked as the next Hills­borough County Animal Services director, county officials announced Wednesday.

Trebatoski was a finalist in 2012 when an interview panel that included local animal welfare advocates selected Ian Hallett — then deputy chief of the shelter in Austin, Texas — for the job here. In December, after months of complaints from some of those same advocates, County Administrator Mike Merrill transferred Hallett to a different department and started looking for a new director.

On Wednesday, Merrill said Trebatoski inherited an agency with similar problems when he took over Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services division in 2008, and revamped it into one of Florida's best.

"Scott brings the proven ability to build a team," Merrill said. "Having someone of that caliber here is really great for the community."

Trebatoski, 50, starts March 10 and will make $120,000 per year. He is bringing John Page, his operations manager in Jacksonville, with him. Page will make $98,000 per year, Merrill said.

In addition to Wednesday's hires, the county also will add six positions to Animal Services, Merrill said, including a veterinarian. The six new positions — which don't include Trebatoski and Page — will cost about $212,000 per year.

The staff restructuring is the result of months of consultation from former Temple Terrace City Manager Kim Leinbach. Merrill brought Leinbach on in November to analyze Animal Services, long the subject of complaints and criticism from local animal advocates.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Trebatoski said it took him five years to improve Jacksonville's live-release rate — the percentage of animals the shelter takes in that leave alive — from 17 percent to 87 percent. Hills­borough's live-release rate in 2013 was 49 percent, according to the county, up from 39 percent in 2012.

"It's going to be a long-term process," Trebatoski said. "It's a big job for one person."

Before Jacksonville, Trebatoski led Lee County Animal Services for six years before his career there ended in controversy after one of his superiors questioned his management ability, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.

Internal investigations into allegations of negative morale and potential misuse of euthanasia drugs by an employee contributed to his dismissal, the newspaper said, but a county commissioner said Trebatoski had been mistreated.

"There was nothing about his career in Lee County that concerned us," Merrill said. "To me, what speaks volumes is what he's done in Jacksonville."

Humane Society Tampa Bay executive director Sherry Silk, who was part of the hiring panel in 2012, said she was "ecstatic" to hear the county hired Trebatoski.

"I would be shocked if he can't do great things here," Silk said. "If the cats could talk, they would be very happy."

Two years ago, Silk was similarly optimistic about Hallett, who now works in the county's Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department.

After taking the Animal Services job, though, Hallett faced resistance from some employees and volunteers who were unhappy with the management change.

Two veterinarians quit, complaining of poor communication and direction. There were outbreaks of disease attributed to poor management of animals held longer in an effort to increase adoption rates. Several dogs up for adoption were mistakenly euthanized.

The outcry over troubles drowned out improvements made during Hallett's tenure in adoptions and reduced kill rates.

"He just wasn't able to get the traction that he needed," Silk said of Hallett. "I don't think Scott will have that problem."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or

Hillsborough hires new leader for troubled Animal Services 02/12/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to


    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter


    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.