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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Animal services a concern

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:39 PM

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For weeks, Public Safety Director Mike Nickerson has been touting the need for a veterinarian to take over operations, even if only part-time at first, at animal services.

Nickerson said he will make his case before county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting.

Animal services, rocked by a series of high-profile incidents involving dog euthanasia, was in the spotlight again earlier this month when a Labrador retriever was left to suffer more than a day in its kennel before being euthanized.

Nickerson was on vacation and the suffering animal was only discovered after Raul Figarola, a veterinarian with ASAP Animal Clinic, happened to be in the facility and noticed the dog displaying symptoms of mange, a skin disease.

Upon further examination, Figarola called Nickerson and recommended euthanasia.

Nickerson said he gave his authorization on the phone but, for whatever reason, the process was delayed for almost a day.

That prompted an outcry from Joanne Schoch, executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast Inc., who is asking county commissioners to take action Tuesday to resolve problems at animal services.

"The current conditions cannot be left to continue," Schoch said in an email.

County Administrator Len Sossamon last month issued Nickerson a written warning for failing to implement the recommendations of an animal services audit, which spelled out the need for permanent policies and better supervision.

Nickerson, already relieved of his duties as county fire chief to try and improve the embattled department, has said he plans to implement the audit recommendations and is determined to improve conditions.

But Nickerson said a veterinarian, skilled in animal behavior, is essential to begin the healing process.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N. Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Also on the agenda:

Commissioners authorized the report several weeks ago to see what the pros and cons of such a move would be to ratepayers. Since then, some board members have told Hernando Today they are reluctant to turn over control, fearing a loss of local control of water resources.

"I don't want to subject the ratepayers to another agency and the potential use of Hernando revenue to offset costs on other FGUA systems," County Commissioner Jim Adkins said. "I'd just rather have local control."

Economic Development Manager Mike McHugh said it would be easier to market the airport and adjacent industrial park to outside businesses not as familiar with Hernando County.

An attorney for Tampa International Airport said this week that the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority holds a property interest in the combination of words "Tampa" and "Airport" and that her client would defend that interest in court. (352) 544-5290

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