Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hillsborough Animal Services Director Named

I recently watched this weeks Hillsborough County Commission meeting, and the previous Animal Advisory Committee meeting.  It was readily apparent that everyone, other the Commissioner Hagan and the cities Administrator, appeared to have been kept out of the loop in the shakeup taking place in animal services and the search for a new animal services director.  Friday the announcement was made that Ian Hallett, who is currently the Deputy Chief of Austin Animal Services in Texas was named as the new Animal Services Director for Hillsborough County Florida.  Based on the less than forthright manner in which the situation appeared to be handled, it does seem that the County Commission is about to be bombarded to get their checkbook out, especially if the budget trajectory in Austin is any indication.  Keep in mind that in the beginning of 2010 that the following was stated in an article:
The plan calls for hiring a nonprofit group to manage pet adoptions, expanding a pet foster program and offering more free sterilizations, among other things. City officials say the three dozen ideas contained in the plan will cost $1 million a year, though animal rescue groups dispute that estimate and say the plan will save the city money in the long run. The council isn't scheduled to commit money for the plan today.

The plan closely resembles so-called "no-kill" plans that have succeeded elsewhere, said Nathan Winograd of the California -based No Kill Advocacy Center , which helps cities nationwide improve their animal shelters.

"If Austin implements not just the letter but the spirit of the plan, it will be a success," he said. -

(1) Based on a recent article that stated that Austin would be asked for an additional million next year.

So as you can see, the city officials and the no-kill advocates both had it wrong by a bundle.  Who knows how much further Austin officials can rob Peter to pay Paul, but eventually there has to be some fiscal sanity.  Especially since Austin's ability to sustain their no-kill status means more and more foster homes, which means more and more costs for food, veterinary expenses, etc. 
The Austin Animal Center has been over capacity since it opened six months ago.

"I can't get overwhelmed," said AAC director Abigail Smith. "I think every day is a new challenge. Our shelter system, communitywide, is beginning to become overwhelmed."

The center will seek an additional $1 million next year on top of its present $7.8 million budget. The money would be used to hire more staff and maximize the center's capabilities. -
Unlike the no-kill activists who like to judge everyone, I won't assume that Mr. Hallett will take Hillsborough down this fiscally irresponsible path.  Maybe he's had the opportunity to see that it just leads to a shelter system constantly stressed to the breaking point, and year over year increases to the taxpayer's bill.  And hopefully the Hillsborough County Commission will ensure that all taxpayers are represented, not just the vocal minority, especially if they understand that an ever expanding foster network will mean an ever expanding budget.  Here are the Hillsborough numbers for the same periods as Austin above:

Only time will tell.  While I hope that Hillsborough restores part of the budget to continue the progress that they are known for in spay neuter, I think their County Commission needs to make sure that the funds don't end up being used to support more and more animals in the shelter and in foster care, as that path is not sustainable without throwing more funds out year after year.  One of the commission members asked for the various programs being proposed to be presented with a price tag, but the commissioners need to use some common sense as well.   Remember, Austin was told it was going to save them money and you can see how well that's worked out.  It's simple, more animals under various forms of care (shelter, foster) means more costs (food, veterinary care, etc.).  Considering the hit that Florida homeowners have taken in the home market prices, can Hillsborough afford increases like those seen in Austin?