ZEPHYRHILLS — Dissatisfied with Pasco County animal control, the City Council voted Monday night to look for someone else to deal with stray and dangerous animals within the city limits.
The city will put out a "request for proposals" from other individuals and businesses interested in providing animal services.
Council member Manny Funes has led the push to hire someone else for the job, arguing that the county's animal control services are inadequate. Council members Lance Smith and Luis Lopez joined him in the 3-2 vote.
Rob Brown, who has taught agriculture at Zephyrhills High School for 17 years, said he has experienced animal control problems first-hand. He said the livestock on the small farm he runs with his students were attacked by dogs from 2005 to 2006, with little help from animal control officers. Brown said there were many cases where pigs had their ears and feet damaged or chewed off by the dogs.
"They ate the hands off of one pig," Brown said. "An old pig will not fight back; it will literally let the dog eat it and won't struggle."
Brown said animal control gave him a wire cage with sardines to trap the dogs himself.
"I don't think animal control can do the job," Brown said. "They're not equipped to do the job, and the officers spend all their time apologizing for what they couldn't do."
Council president Jodi Wilkeson, who opposed seeking someone else to provide animal services, argued the city should consider the liability it might assume by taking animal control from the county.
She cited the danger of Brown and his high school students protecting their livestock as an example. "Florida statutes are so onerous it makes it difficult to make sure every situation can be handled," Wilkeson said.
Council member Kenneth Compton joined Wilkeson against seeking outside proposals.
Lopez said he informally polled residents on the quality of services from the county's animal control. He said the average answer was a one out of 10.
He also cited Sunday's Pasco Times article in which Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson said Animal Services had lost several positions to budget cuts, and lower priority calls wouldn't be answered as quickly. "That tells me, if you get any lower than one, you'll be hitting a zero," Lopez said. "I'd rather take a chance and put (a request for proposals) out for someone to handle the services than entrust it to the county."