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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

New vet brings stability to embattled animal services department


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BROOKSVILLE - After a tumultuous 2012 at animal services, Hernando County commissioners hired Lisa Centonze to bring stability to the embattled department by becoming its first full-time managing veterinarian.

The board hired Centonze, formerly a veterinarian with Hillsborough County government, to head up Hernando's operation. She was given an $80,000 annual contract and started her duties Jan. 24.

Centonze's arrived while the animal services department was recovering from a botched canine euthanasia program in 2012 and a critical audit recommending new performance guidelines.

A family member brought a mixed-breed dog named Zeus to Animal Services on April 13, 2012, and subsequent reports say the animal was evaluated, deemed unadoptable and euthanized within 15 minutes of arrival - an unusually quick assessment.

A lack of kennel space reportedly contributed to the situation, although a department volunteer at the time said kennels were available.

In October 2012, the department was in the spotlight again when a severely ill Labrador retriever was left to suffer more than a day in its kennel before being euthanized.

Centonze vowed to implement recommendations from the county's audit of the department, as well as the report from the University of Florida, which outlined needed changes.

"I won't reinvent the wheel," she said. "They've already made recommendations and my job is to implement them and make sure everyone makes sure they are being followed."

Centonze vowed to meet with area veterinarians and rescue groups to "create a consistent vision that the whole community wants to have for homeless animals."

"I will meet with staff, talk to them about what they like and don't like about the facility and what their vision is for the future," she said at the time. "I will also talk about what my vision is."

One of those visions came true in July when Rick Silvani, with PetLuv Nonprofit Spay and Neuter Clinic, donated a cat viewing room at animal services.

Centonze added a surgery center in one part of the center and started doing medical procedures. She enacted a series of procedural policies spelled out by the audit, including more detailed evaluations of animal adoptability and stricter guidelines on euthanasia.

Centonze recently came before the commission and gave a status report on changes at animal services. Each commissioner praised Centonze and told her to keep up the improvements.

(352) 544-5290

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