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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

County issues new euthanasia guidelines

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:12 PM

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The mistaken euthanasia of a second dog at Animal Services prompted the county Monday to issue a series of department guidelines to prevent similar occurrences.

The death of a reddish-brown lab or shepherd mix resulted in one employee already resigning and the reassignment of Public Safety Director Mike Nickerson to take full-time control of Animal Services, at least until the county chooses a new manager.

Kennel worker Michael Steele mistakenly removed a different dog, which was the same color and breed of Holly, the animal which was supposed to be euthanized.

"To permit Chief Nickerson to focus on running the Animal Services Division, I am temporarily relieving him of his oversight of Hernando County Fire Rescue," County Administrator Len Sossamon wrote in a memo.

In that memo, Sossamon listed a dozen recommendations to supplement to replace existing guidelines.

Those recommendations ask that permanent policies and procedures for euthanasia and other related shelter operations be adopted, implemented and uniformly applied. Sossamon is calling for a procedural checklist be used for the euthanasia room to ensure all pertinent animal identification information is checked and cross-checked. He is also calling for the use of a computer in that room to monitor animal tracking.

In this recent case, Steele did not know that Holly, the dog that was supposed to be euthanized, had been removed and placed in a different cage.

Steele referred to the cage or kennel number, not realizing it was actually a different dog that had only been in the facility a couple days.

Recommendations include a thorough review of tracking procedures: including kennel card, staff card, photo information, cage number and neck tag.

The need for frequent kennel cage rotation will also be addressed.

Also, the report said there should be consideration for doing euthanasia procedures in the morning, prior to the opening of the facility to the public.

"The need for additional employee training should be assessed," the memo said. "A comprehensive review of staffing levels and job assignments should also be considered."

This latest incident comes after a pit bill mix named Zeus was euthanized in April within a half-hour of being dropped off at the shelter.

The Zeus death brought widespread criticism to the department, a critical audit suggesting policy changes and ultimately led to the reassignment of then-Animal Services Manager Liana Teague.

Mike Rampino, formerly the chief of the once-independent Spring Hill Fire Rescue District, will assume administrative oversight of the county fire department following Nickerson's reassignment. (352) 544-5290

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