Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Editorials

Concerted effort required to rebuild Animal Services

The fall-out from Animal Service workers euthanizing the wrong dog earlier this month includes a significant recognition from the county administration: Rebuilding public confidence in the troubled agency is not a part-time job.

Moving Public Safety Director Mike Nickerson to a full-time (but supposedly temporary) assignment overseeing Animal Services follows yet another report critical of the operations at the county shelter. Nickerson, himself, didn't escape blame for the Sept. 7 mix-up in which workers confused two reddish brown mixed-breed dogs and ended up killing an animal that had arrived at the shelter just two days earlier.

The error occurred because the agency didn't follow its own protocols. An Animal Services officer, who the county now says will be leaving the department, used the kennel number to identify the dog for euthanasia. Standard procedure is to cross-check the euthanasia schedule with an animal identification number assigned to each dog. In this instance, the dog to be put down had been moved, a newly arrived animal had taken its place in the cage and nobody bothered to match identifications beyond the kennel number.

But, that's only part of the problem. A county review found an agency using as many as four different identification numbers to track dogs: animal ID, cage number, paper collar and neck tag and each has its own numbering sequence. It's an inefficient and cumbersome process that adds to employees' workload, is applied inconsistently and brings errors.

It's also indicative of a needed management overhaul to adopt permanent procedures — the current rules are temporary and already have changed twice since April — to ensure humane treatment of animals and to help restore public confidence in county Animal Services. The agency, like other county departments, has been under financial siege from budget-balancing commissioners. However, the department also had to deal with an emotional public outcry in April after another high-profile incident in which an 8-month-old dog was euthanized just 12 minutes after being dropped off at the shelter.

The county investigation of the Sept. 7 error is the third examination of the agency since 2011 and each has found a department that is understaffed and working without sufficient procedures.

"Much as it seems like there is chaos, we're working through this,'' Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said, trying to assure the public on Tuesday.

He's right on both counts. The county is working to get better, but the chaotic results are unimpressive. Nickerson has been lauded for improving the working relationships between county employees and shelter volunteers, but the job demands his full-time attention. Toward that end, the demanding task of merging the county and Spring Hill fire departments is now assigned to Spring Hill Fire Rescue Chief Mike Rampino, and Nickerson is charged with bringing a series of recommended changes at Animal Services to the commission next month.

Clearly, changes are needed, but it is the commission that must accept ultimate responsibility and act accordingly. A patch-work animal control system should no longer be tolerated.

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17