Proposed staffing changes to Hillsborough County Animal Shelter

8:29 PM, Oct 30, 2013   |    comments
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Hillsborough County administrator Michael Merrill is proposing to make staffing adjustments at Hillsborough County Animal Services.

The shelter has been highly criticized by the public after four accidental euthanasia procedures, a recent disease outbreak, and health conditions of animals being adopted from there.

Merrill acknowledges the problems in a memo, saying, "Two critical areas of the county's shelter operations - unavoidable euthanasia and customer service - have not performed at acceptable levels. Although four accidental euthanasia procedures have occurred since November 2012, out of more than 12,000 during that same time period, even one accidental procedure is unacceptable."

Merrill is now proposing another manager to help the current HCAS director Ian Hallet and making staffing changes for three future positions. The memo says, "... We need to establish three new job classifications in the shelter management area of animal services..."

When the next three spots open, the positions will be hired for more experiences, educated, trained employees.

On the November 6th meeting with the Board of County Commissioners Merrill, says he will recommend hiring former Temple Terrace city manager Kim Leinbach for the manager position at the shelter.

"A lot of my attention has been on the disagreement in the community about how the shelter should proceed even though we have had a plan approved. I would like to get that plan implemented so with Kim Leinbach here, he will be able to help me so that I can focus on that and getting pets adopted faster."

Terry Lynn Sugar-Robertson is pleased to see the county administrator taking action but is concerned about Leinbach being the right fit, and about hiring a manager's salary. 

"Leinbach does not have an animal services background so that is a huge worry, and why not take our tax dollars and spend them on building more space for the animals there?" questioned Sugar-Robertson.

"Every animal is spreading things in there because they are so overpopulated. They do not have adequate space and they are not in taking them properly. What we want is we want staff that is in there that knows what they are doing, that think about the animals instead of playing the political game!"

Ian Hallet said the shelter does not need more space.

"At this point, we don't need more space, we need better processes, and we are going to have to completely redo those processes, and that is a management task and it is going to take management resources. It is more important for the animals to move through the shelter quickly than it is to build a bigger it is to build a bigger shelter and continue to let them stay there longer," said Hallet. 

Protesters like Sugar-Robertson want Hallet to contract with Manatee County's no-kill shelter.

"We have been communicating with them and what their community progress is like," said Hallet.

However, there has been no initiative to contract with Manatee County.

Hallet said his goal is to become a no-kill shelter. That means that 90 percent of the animals that leave the HCAS leave alive. He is hoping to get to at least a 70 percent no-kill rate. Currently, it is at 35-40 percent.

While Hallet has been in charge at HCAS, the adoption rate has increased.

"But he should not take credit for that because it is the rescue groups who are working and networking online and making calls to get those animals adopted in time, and sometimes they do not even allow the five days for each pet to wait for an adoption before it is euthanized, which leaves the rescue group less time to find them homes. "

"I think it is a partnership between the shelter and those rescue groups to get those pets adopted because when I came on board I extended the shelter's hours so they could access the pets longer and I changed the identification collars for each dog so their information was clearer and allowed less room for error," said Hallet. "I think we both can take credit for more pets being adopted this last year. We need to focus on the positive that 2,500 pets have been adopted since I have been here that comes out to five to ten more each day. That is five to ten more saved." 

Robertson plans to organize more petitions and more protests in order to be the voice for the animals.

"If we are going towards no kill, the shelter has to grow," said Robertson. "The shelter is not big enough."  

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