BROOKSVILLE — The improvements continue at Hernando County Animal Services, with managing veterinarian Lisa Centonze performing her first surgeries at the shelter this week.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation approved the shelter as a licensed provider of veterinary medicine services, Centonze announced.
"I was very excited to get some surgeries done today,'' she said Thursday.
She spayed two cats and three dogs and neutered a cat, and two of those animals are already set for adoption.
"It was really exciting. I love being back in surgery,'' Centonze said.
The beginning of medical treatment at the shelter is a milestone.
"This means that ... when any dog or cat is adopted from this facility, it will be sterilized, vaccinated, treated for fleas and other parasites, and tested,'' Centonze said.
Dogs will be tested for heartworm disease, and cats for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency disease.
Prior to the issuance of the state permit, all animal adopters paid a sterilization deposit. Once the animal was spayed or neutered elsewhere, the adopter could have the deposit refunded. Centonze noted that performing the surgeries at the shelter, prior to adoption, will be more convenient for the adopters and also provide a more effective means of animal population control.
In addition to sterilization, other medical procedures can be conducted in the new surgery area at the shelter.
The surgical area was created in the portion of the Animal Services building most recently used by code enforcement officers. The shelter's veterinary technician also shares that space. A number of veterinarians and other animal welfare advocates donated equipment to make the medical and surgical services possible.
County staffers are expected to make further improvements to the surgery area, including construction of two walls and a door so the area that must be kept sterile for procedures will remain small.
Adding surgical capabilities is the latest in a series of improvements at Animal Services in the wake of the highly controversial euthanasia of a young black-and-white dog named Zeus a year ago. The mixed breed had been surrendered at the shelter, then was euthanized just 12 minutes later.
The outcry prompted investigations and an audit. Those produced a host of recommendations on how to improve Animal Services operations.
Key among those was when the county hired Centonze earlier this year to serve as the shelter's first managing veterinarian. An advocate/rescue and volunteer coordinator and a veterinary technician were also brought on board.
New permanent procedures have been put into place, including policies on rating animals based on their adoptability. The audit and investigations also cited the need to implement model procedures and processes.
Several weeks ago, county officials approved new hours that have the shelter open on Saturdays to provide more flexible times for residents to find their lost pets or adopt new ones.
Soon there will also be a glassed-in cat display area in the front lobby.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.