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County animal shelter’s philosophy change well underway

The shelter no longer accepts owner-surrendered pets. The County Commission is poised to ban euthanasia at the shelter and end the sale of dogs and cats at flea markets.

Things are set to change drastically at Marion County Animal Services after Marion County commissioners gave officials the green light to move forward with policy changes that would transform the county shelter into a no-kill facility.

At a Monday workshop meeting, the commissioners also discussed changes to the county’s animal ordinance, which would ban the euthanasia of animals at the shelter unless for medical reasons.

“It only makes for a more humane community,” said Animal Services Director Deb Horvath, of the changes in the decades-old policy of euthanizing dogs and cats to reduce the shelter population.

In June, the agency took the first steps in the transformation after completing an extensive assessment process by the University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program and the Million Cat Challenge. Officials with the animal shelter, located at 5701 SE 66th St., announced they would no longer accept owner-surrendered animals. The change will allow them to focus on strays and abused animals.

“People have to become more vigilant about their animals. We should be their last resort, not their first. That’s what happens with government agencies. We become everyone’s first resort. ‘Oh, just take it to the pound.’ It’s happened all over the country. You need to do everything else you can before we’re on your radar,” Horvath said.

Soon, the shelter will offer help to resolve issues that owners have with their pets, including behavioral. If a solution is not available, the owner will get help finding a new home for the pet without it entering the shelter, Horvath said.

The commission was supportive of the changes and in some instances asked that Horvath fully implement some of the recommendations rather than take a more conservative approach. One issue included charging third-party rescue organizations a $20 fee to help cover sterilization costs. Horvath felt they should keep the fee in place to help recoup some of the $100 (give-or-take) it costs to spay or neuter a cat or dog.

Kathy Bryant, commission chairwoman, said if the rescue organization is willing to take the animal, she was fine with waiving the fee. It costs $8 a day to house an animal at the shelter.

“If we have to hold on to that animal for three extra days because were charging a rescue $20. There’s your difference there,” Bryant said. “You have to keep thinking because of the way we’re going to manage intakes, we’re not going to be taking in as many animals. There is going to be some savings associated there that’s going to offset some of these other things.”

 Commissioner Michelle Stone agreed.

“Otherwise, we’re just going to have a mouth to feed,” Stone said.

Among the host of policy changes the shelter hopes to implement or have implemented is changing to a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant that is less toxic to animals and the environment, installing sound dampening material to reduce the stress on animals, offering reduced-cost pet sterilizations to low-income households, offering free or deeply discounted pet adoptions and forming a coalition that includes the area’s other pet rescue organization.

The commission will hold a public meeting Aug. 7 to discuss changes to the county’s animal ordinance. In addition to the commitment to reduce euthanasia, the proposed changes include a ban on the sale of dogs and cats at flea markets or on the roadside, establishing a catch-neuter-release program for community cats and increasing the time a dog has to bark for it to be a nuisance from 15 to 30 minutes.

A majority of the commission seemed open to voting for the ordinance changes.

Since 2013, more than 57 percent of the animals that entered the Marion County animal center never made it out alive. Nearly 33,000 animals were euthanized in that time, according to animal center figures.

Date: 23 july 2018
Source: http://www.ocala.com/news/20180723/county-animal-shelters-philosophy-change-well-underway