Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough takes steps to limit kills at county animal shelter

TAMPA — Hillsborough County took the first step Thursday toward making its animal shelter a no-kill zone, or at least one where sharply fewer animals are euthanized.

It began with the immediate departure of the Animal Services Department's longtime director of operations, Dennis McCullough, who "voluntarily retired," said County Administrator Mike Merrill.

McCullough, 61, who spent 15 years with the county after 20 years with the Secret Service, will remain with the county until Aug. 3, but on leave.

He declined comment.

Employees of the department were given literature Thursday coinciding with McCullough's departure showing that there will be a new philosophy moving forward.

It will greater mandate attempts to ensure as few animals as possible are put to death.

Merrill said he is trying to avoid the description of "no-kill shelter," which other agencies have adopted. It's impractical to think the shelter won't continue to have to euthanize sick or dangerous animals, he said.

Animal Services euthanized a little more than 14,000 animals last year. That number is sharply down from nearly 30,000 since 2005, reductions for which McCullough has earned credit.

"Everybody wants to save as many animals as possible," Merrill said, declining to elaborate on McCullough's departure. "Any way we can reduce that number as much as possible, we want to explore."

Steps include:

•Setting goals to increase adoptions and return more strays to their owners;

•Renewing an emphasis on the importance of pet sterilizations;

•Employing a strategy used by some nonprofit shelters of capturing feral cats, sterilizing them and reintroducing them near where they were captured.

Two leaders of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which uses the so-called catch-neuter-release program, will step in to temporarily run the county's shelter on a volunteer basis.

Dexter Barge, the county's code enforcement director, takes over for McCullough short-term.

The county is currently seeking a new Animal Services director. Merrill said he hopes to name a replacement soon and will take the concept of creating a no-kill, or reduced-kill shelter, to commissioners in coming weeks.

A group calling itself Save 90 has been advocating that goal, or at least saving 90 percent of the animals that are euthanized now. Public shelters in Manatee and Broward counties, to name two, have moved in that direction within the past year.

County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan addressed the Save 90 group last weekend in remarks posted to YouTube. He voiced support for the cause and foretold changes in Animal Services management. "The killing must stop," said Hagan, who could not be reached late Thursday.

Hagan also backed a new ordinance that bans owners from tethering unsupervised pets. Supporters of the ordinance blamed McCullough and members of the county's volunteer Animal Advisory Committee of fighting the ordinance for more than a year. McCullough said at the time that he was trying to ensure good pet owners weren't turned into criminals.

Other commissioners reached Thursday said they want to learn more about how no-kill pet shelters work and whether it could result in increased costs to house more dogs and cats longer.

"I like the direction we're trying to go," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe. "But I don't understand the implications."

Members of the Animal Advisory Committee said they were caught off guard by changes within the department, finding out about them through Hagan's video clip.

Veterinarian Michael Haworth, a member of the committee, described McCullough as a "stand-up guy" who succeeded in helping to reduce the number of animals killed each year. He said he doesn't understand why the county's main sounding-board for issues relating to animals hasn't been consulted.

"I don't understand how they can't take more time to look at this before they jump into it," Haworth said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at varian@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3387.

Coalition cleared

A Hillsborough group called Save 90 is headed in part by the leaders of the Animal Coalition of Tampa, which offers low-cost spay and neutering programs. Dennis McCullough raised concerns last year that the coalition sought reimbursements from the county for sterilizations of cats that didn't exist or whose owners couldn't be verified. The county administration confirmed this week that a sheriff's investigation found no evidence of criminal intent.

Hillsborough takes steps to limit kills at county animal shelter 04/19/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 12:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond

    Crime

    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally