Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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 or (813) 226-3387.

Kill rate at animal shelter needs to be reduced, commissioners tell administrator 05/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico


    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  2. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, died in a reported gun accident at the home of Zoller's parents Sept. 14. She alleges that her husband hit her and caused her to fall on a grave marker at their daughter's funeral Thursday in a tussle over their remaining 1-year-old son. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  3. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  4. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.

  5. Editorial: Once more, homeowners are let down by state housing agency


    Once upon a time, the federal government created a program called the Hardest Hit Fund. Its goal was admirable, and its mission important. The fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the economy. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington erred in …

    The Hardest Hit Fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington trusted Florida to get that money into the hands of people who needed it most.