Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Land O'Lakes kennels give fresh start to New Port Richey animal unit

LAND O'LAKES — It's a bit of a hike, but there's plenty of room.

For the past month, New Port Richey's volunteer-run animal protection unit has been using a facility in Land O'Lakes to house the animals it takes into custody. The facility has about 60 kennels with indoor and outdoor runs, several quarantine rooms and some grassy fields where the animals are walked and run.

The kennels on U.S. 41, a few miles south of State Road 52, are a haul from New Port Richey, but program leader Sharon McReynolds said the facility has been a blessing.

"The distance is not ideal, but it's been wonderful for us," said McReynolds, who arranged for the city to rent the facility from veterinarian Joseph Brooks. This week there are 25 dogs, 15 puppies and a cat at the facility.

The spacious grounds have offered a fresh start for the New Port Richey program, which was temporarily shut down last month amid a slew of controversies.

New Port Richey decided last year to stop using Pasco County Animal Services, and instead launch a volunteer-run program to handle animal complaints. At first, the program borrowed kennels next to the SPCA headquarters in New Port Richey. But the SPCA called on the city in March to vacate those kennels after a parvo outbreak killed 10 dogs from the SPCA shelter.

SPCA executive director Jennie Briguglio believed the outbreak originated at the kennels on loan to the city. The city-run kennel had been placed under quarantine after losing two dogs to parvovirus, but McReynolds never told the neighboring SPCA.

That revelation came on the heels of concerns raised by former New Port Richey police Chief James Steffens in emails to interim City Manager Susan Dillinger over volunteers' handling of the unit's operations. Among other things, he described how McReynolds authorized $1,400 in medical care for a pit bull that Steffens said should be euthanized, and noted that McReynolds refused to put down a couple of other sickly dogs that ex-volunteer Beth Robbins believed were needlessly suffering.

McReynolds said Monday those accusations led to the unit being "shut down" and the city did an extensive investigation, which found no wrongdoing by the program.

"Believe me, the city did their due diligence," McReynolds said as she showed the new kennels to the Times and interim police Chief Kim Bogart.

Temporarily shutting down the program and moving to Land O'Lakes took its toll on the unit, though. McReynolds said several rescues were skeptical about continuing to work with the program, but have come back once they saw the positive revival of operations. The longer drive to the Land O'Lakes kennel also reduced the number of volunteers from 30 to about 12, McReynolds said.

"Most of the volunteers we lost have assured me they will come back once we return to New Port Richey," McReynolds said.

The controversy over the program also led to some operational changes on the city side. Initially, the unit was under the auspices of the Police Department. Now, McReynolds said, she works directly with Dillinger on any issues that come up. The Police Department is still working with the unit on logistical issues, such as animal calls involving possible criminal activity. And the unit's only animal protection officer, Jeff McReynolds, who happens to be Sharon's husband, has an office and vehicle at the Police Department, from where he responds to calls for service.

Bogart said some issues remain, including getting the animal facility back in the city, but said he was pleased with what he saw at the temporary Land O'Lakes site.

"I feel like we are buying time to make some rational and informed decisions," Bogart said.

The city is working on building its own kennels at its old public works building in an industrial park off Congress Street, a project Bogart said needs to be on the fast track. Bogart said there also needs to be discussions on the volunteer unit's plans to seek nonprofit status.

McReynolds said that is her goal, but she hopes that she will still have the backing of the city and police should that occur and the unit becomes its own entity.

Land O'Lakes kennels give fresh start to New Port Richey animal unit 04/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 7:39pm]
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.