Charged with finding ways to reduce the number of animals euthanized at the Hillsborough County animal shelter in Greater Brandon, the newly created Animal Services Task Force will hold its first meeting Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.
The meeting will be held at the Fred B. Karl County Center in Tampa, at 601 Eas Kennedy Blvd., in conference rooms A and B on the 26th floor.
The hearing is in reaction to charges from animal welfare groups that Hillsborough County Animal Services is euthanizing too many dogs and cats at its Greater Brandon facility in Tampa, at 440 North Falkenburg Road, south of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Falkenburg Road Jail.
Hillsborough County commissioners in May called for the creation of the task force to study ways to reduce the number of euthanized animals.
Now, with Ian Hallett on the job, the newly named animal services director, the task force is set to go. Serving on the task force are members of the Animal Advisory Committee and the three community members they appointed to join them. The advisory committee includes two members of the Hillsborough County Veterinarian Medical Society, one member from the board of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and an appointee by each county commissioner.
Among those currently serving on the committee are Riverview veterinarian Dr. Kimberly Tyson and Lithia resident Tim Golden, president of Hillsborough County Dog Fanciers.
At its Sept. 19 meeting the committee voted to appoint Karen Atwood, Amy Howland and Sharon Espinola to serve with the committee on the task force.
Commissioners want the task force to study no-kill ordinances in other municipalities and come up with a financially feasible plan for Hillsborough County.
While the county has reduced the number of euthanized animals by 52 percent since 2005, an estimated 14,500 animals of the 21,000 animals the county shelter takes in each year are still euthanized.
"There will always be a need for some animals to be euthanized because of illness and other reasons," said Commissioner Ken Hagan. "But I've yet to hear one person say the county shouldn't have the goal of reducing the euthanasia rate."
Thirty-four communities throughout the country have adopted a no-kill policy including Manatee and Broward counties. The commission charged the task force with looking at the policies of those communities and come up with a plan that Hillsborough County can implement.
It's an issue Hillsborough County's new director of Animal Services has tackled previously.
Before coming to Hillsborough County, he served as the deputy chief for Austin Animal Services in Texas where he developed a program to reduce animal euthanasia. When he took over the Austin facility, it has a 60 percent euthanasia rate. When he departed, more than 90 percent of the animals at the Austin facility were being saved.
The dilemma facing Hillsborough County is how to save more animals without increasing the cost of feeding and sheltering more unwanted dogs and cats.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner noted that other municipalities have accomplished this by implementing a more comprehensive spay- and-neuter program, working with animal rescue groups and educating the public on responsible pet ownership.
"To save more animals, it’s going to take an entire community, a more robust adoption program and a spay and neuter program," said Beckner. "Having a 65 percent euthanasia rate is dismal and we can certainly do better than that."
Hallett agreed, telling the advisory committee last month that he and his staff are totally behind efforts to reduce the number of euthanized animals.
He said he's already putting measures in place to reduce the kill rate.
"By fiscal year 2012, my goal is to hit a 70 percent live release rate," said Hallett.
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