Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Volunteer blasts new investigation of Animal Services practices

BROOKSVILLE — Laurie Boynton wants to know why the county is allowing Peggy Caskey to conduct the audit of Animal Services.

For one thing, the county has already had several investigations there including one that produced a 360-page report detailing problems and solutions done by five veterinarians through the University of Florida.

For another, Caskey has a conflict, according to Boynton.

Boynton is the most vocal of the core group of volunteers at Animal Services who brought to light the unfortunate case of Zeus, the dog immediately euthanized at the shelter last month, and other issues of animal mistreatment.

In an email to county commissioners and other officials, Boynton said late Wednesday that Caskey "is biased in favor'' of Animal Services. Not only is she a county employee "and not likely to want to do anything that might harm or embarrass her employer, annoy her superiors or impact the budget" but she has a relationship with the Humane Society of the Nature Coast and its executive director Joanne Schoch.

"She (Schoch) and her husband Dennis have repeatedly and recently made glowing statements about the Hernando County Animal Services shelter, its management and its staff,'' Boynton wrote. "They have made such statements even in the face of evidence of inhumane treatment by HCAS.''

Boynton concludes that "Caskey's connection to such blindly avid proponents of the very entity she is investigating, as well as her being answerable to the county government, makes her involvement as chief investigator of an audit improper and inappropriate.''

County officials and animal welfare group representatives said they have complete faith that Caskey will conduct an unbiased audit.

As soon as the County Commission approved Caskey to conduct the audit at the recommendation of interim County Administrator Ron Pianta, Caskey disclosed her involvement with the Humane Society, Pianta said.

She has served on the board of the organization and has helped the group get its own processes and documentation in the sort of order that an auditor would approve. In addition, Caskey volunteers as a foster parent for the Humane Society specializing in fostering Chihuahuas with aggression and behavior issues, Schoch said.

Pianta said the disclosure would be in the final audit and that he did not believe Caskey's involvement would color the outcome of the audit.

Schoch said that she believed Caskey's love of animals would make her take an even more careful look at the animal shelter's treatment of the dogs and cats housed there.

"You cannot ask for a stronger animal advocate than Peggy Caskey,'' she said.

Schoch acknowledged that she has had good experiences with Animal Services and that she thinks employees there have gone out of their way to try to place animals with the Humane Society to avoid euthanizing them.

At the same time, she also has some serious questions about the many findings of fault in the earlier report conducted by the veterinarians, especially findings of improper procedures used to euthanize animals at the shelter.

They included failing to check if animals were fully anesthetized before giving lethal injections into the heart, allowing them to wander freely in the room after giving them the anesthesia and euthanizing in front of other shelter animals.

"I was in tears'' after reading the findings, Schoch said. "I couldn't sleep. I know they're short-staffed and short on resources, but if there is one thing that's got to be gotten right, it's that.''

Schoch also said she doesn't know whether recent incidents at the shelter cited by volunteers actually happened because Boynton has refused to show her proof.

Schoch also noted that Caskey does not work for the county commission as Animal Services does. She works for the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

"My experience with Peggy Caskey is that she takes her job very seriously, she is the consummate professional and a dog lover,'' said Commissioner Jeff Stabins. "I believe Peggy Caskey will do the right thing, an absolutely fair and honorable job.''

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes believes that Caskey will do a good job on the audit because that is what she has done in the past. He said he is more worried about the tone of the letters from volunteers than any chance Caskey would be biased.

"I think that is going a bit far. It's almost a character assassination of someone you don't know,'' Dukes said. "I think it's doing more damage than good, all this name calling and threatening.''

Richard Silvani, executive director of PetLuv Nonprofit Spay and Neuter Clinic supports the volunteers' efforts to make needed changes at Animal Services. But he said raising questions about Caskey was "totally uncalled for.''

Caskey said she disclosed her relationship with the Humane Society and in that disclosure she wrote, "I do not believe I have a conflict or existing impairment that would affect my objectivity or independence in this audit.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Volunteer blasts new investigation of Animal Services practices 05/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man crashes into parked cars, gate at the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque

    Crime

    A Tampa man intentionally drove his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Shaun H. Urwiler, 42, was arrested July 16 for intentionally driving his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. USF hoops to play at Indiana in November

    Blogs

    The USF men's basketball team is set to get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse in non-conference play next season.

  3. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  4. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  5. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.

    Crime

    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, first said the boy raped her, then changed her story, detectives say.