The hiring of Scott Trebatoski as Hillsborough County's new animal services director should end a personality sideshow and allow the shelter to move on with saving more abandoned dogs and cats.
County officials announced the hiring Wednesday, coming two months after the embattled former director, Ian Hallett, was abruptly moved to the parks department. Hallett's poor communication skills and centralization of the agency alienated some rescue groups and shelter volunteers. But he also managed in barely a year in charge to cut the death toll at the shelter while leading the county on a more successful path toward placing unwanted animals into homes.
Trebatoski takes over with everything a modern shelter manager should need. While Hallett lost his job while instituting a new policy to lower the kill rate, county commissioners did not abandon that sound change in strategy. The county, to its credit, put additional resources into the shelter. Senior administrators stepped up to repair relations with activists and volunteers, who are instrumental in helping place these animals and doing the routine work. Officials sought outside advice on improving the operation. The county also added personnel to animal services, including a veterinarian.
Trebatoski, who is coming from Jacksonville where he holds a similar job, was a finalist for the Hillsborough job in 2012. He is aware of this community's interest in moving the shelter from a warehousing operation to one more focused on saving and placing animals. He'll need to get up to speed on a department that has been in receivership for months, which has taken a toll on leadership and morale. But the county has been extremely supportive of animal services throughout this transition to a new shelter strategy. Trebatoski needs to appreciate that show of confidence. He can start by mending fences with outside groups and building on the gains that Hallett achieved.