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People barking about new Hernando Animal Services ordinance

6:06 PM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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Brooksville, Florida - "This is what we call the big yard," says Lisa Lewis, walking through a gate.

Lewis has a big yard and a big heart. For the past five years she's run the CARES dog rescue near Brooksville.

"My goal is to save as many off of death row and get them into forever homes," says Lewis, looking at the dogs running around her.

But now Lewis fears a proposed county ordinance could make all that work harder. She says the new rules limit the number of dogs she can have on her rural 10 acres.

"To me that's crazy," she says. "Let us do what we can do to find these dogs homes."

Lewis was among dozens of passionate pet people who turned out at the Hernando County Commission meeting Tuesday morning for a hearing on the ordinance. But commissioners have received so many emails and calls about it, they tabled discussion on it until November 13.

Despite the inconvenience, the animal advocates welcomed the delay. They hope they'll now have a chance to sit down with county officials and re-work the 57-page document, because they say it's filled with nonsensical rules.

"It's just a blanket. If you have a quarter of an acre, you can have four dogs. Excuse me? Four great Danes versus four Chihuahuas? Helloooo," railed Leah James, President of the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, speaking to a group outside the county building. "Where's the logic in that?"

The animal control ordinance is part of a move to make sweeping changes at Hernando Animal Services and reduce the euthanasia rates there. The shelter has been under scrutiny, ever since the rushed euthanasia of a dog named Zeus there in April. The controversy led to audits and a call for management change.

However, there's a lot of disagreement and misinformation about exactly what the new ordinance requires. So instead of dissecting it on the county building steps, some say there's a need for more information and a chance for citizens to weigh in.

"I think they jumped the gun a little bit," says dog groomer and breeder Lisa Tremblay of county officials. "They realized it, they pulled back, they said 'Let's get together, let's fix this,' and I think they will."

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