Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Politics

Kill rate at animal shelter needs to be reduced, commissioners tell administrator

TAMPA — Hillsborough commissioners told their administrator Wednesday to come up with a strategy for killing fewer dogs and cats at the county's shelter.

The move came a little more than a week after County Administrator Mike Merrill announced a shakeup at the county's Animal Services Department. The changes included the abrupt retirement of the department's director of operations.

At the time, Merrill said he wanted the county to get more aggressive in reducing the number of animals euthanized at the shelter. Wednesday's 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Les Miller absent, formalizes that.

The changes within the department have prompted applause but also protests from some animal activists and members of a panel that advises the county on animal issues. Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who initiated Wednesday's discussion, said he is not advocating for Hillsborough County to adopt a no-kill policy like some other shelters around the country.

But he said he believes Hillsborough can do a better job even as it makes gains in reducing the number of animals killed each year.

Since 2005, the county has reduced the number of animals euthanized at its shelter by 52 percent, to fewer than 14,000 dogs and cats last year. But the county still kills 65 percent of the animals that end up at its shelter.

"To me, that is unacceptable," Hagan said.

Some animals inevitably will still need to be put down because they are sick or dangerous, he added.

As part of the analysis, Merrill and his staff were asked to present the financial implications of a more aggressive approach. Would it require more space as animals are sheltered longer, and more employees to watch them?

"I think it's important to lower the kill rate," said Commissioner Al Higginbotham. "I am concerned about, do we have the space? Do we have the staff?"

Animal Services has experienced sharp financial cuts due to declining tax revenue in recent years. The department no longer traps nuisance feral cats or picks up road kill.

Under the proposal, Merrill said his staff will work closely with the county's volunteer Animal Advisory Committee. That group's meetings will also get broadcast on the county's television station, as the issue is expected to draw strong community interest.

Merrill said he expects to announce a new director for the department in coming days.

In other action, commissioners agreed to give the nonprofit group Mental Health Care Inc. $2.1 million to purchase and renovate a 24-unit apartment building near the University of South Florida.

The building will be converted into living quarters for the chronically homeless, in an effort to stabilize their lives and get them necessary services, such as mental health care. The so-called "housing first" initiative is intended as a pilot program and was championed by Commissioner Sandra Murman and a homelessness task force she helped create.

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

Comments
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA — With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Published: 12/11/17
Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy Moore raced Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama’s special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their...
Published: 12/11/17
As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

The GOP tax plan on the cusp of becoming law diverges wildly from the promises President Trump and top advisers said they would deliver for the middle class — an evolution that shows how traditional Republican orthodoxy swamped Trump’s distinctive br...
Published: 12/10/17

Same income, but not taxes, in GOP plan

In most places, a dollar is a dollar. But in the tax code envisioned by Republicans, the amount you make may be less important than how you make it.Consider two chefs working side by side for the same catering company, doing the same job, for the sam...
Published: 12/09/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Renegade Republican Roy Moore may be plagued by scandal, but it will take more than that to convince the voters of 44th Place North to show up for Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday. In a state where Democrats are used to losing, the m...
Published: 12/09/17
 ‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

WASHINGTON — Around 5:30 each morning, President Donald Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to "Fox & Friends" for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s "...
Published: 12/09/17
Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

  It seems like a distant memory now, but Al Franken’s arrival in the U.S. Senate eight years ago marked the very moment when Democrats’ control of Washington reached its highest point in a generation. After an eight-month recount, the ...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

WASHINGTON — Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said Thursday he would resign his seat in a statement where he acknowledged discussing surrogacy with two former female subordinates.Franks...
Published: 12/07/17
Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once...
Published: 12/07/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17