From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast has rebuffed an effort by the Martin County Domestic Animal Control Task Force to gather information to assist members in fulfilling the mission assigned to the Task Force by the Board of County Commissioners.
At Wednesday’s Task Force meeting, members briefly discussed responses received from HSTC and other private shelters and rescue organizations to a request that was sent on September 22, 2016, for information about the number of animals that need services and the resources required to fulfill that need.
HSTC Executive Director Frank Valente began his response to the Task Force request by expressing dismay that HSTC was not given a special seat as an official member of the Task Force.
The Task Force was established by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners. One member is appointed by each of the five County Commissioners. One seat is filled by a licensed veterinarian appointed by the Commission. Another seat is designated for a representative of the Sheriff’s Animal Control Division; however, Sheriff Snyder has declined to designate a representative to fill the AC seat.
The mission of the Task Force set out in a resolution adopted by the County Commission is to review and make recommendations regarding County ordinances, contracts, and policies related to animal care and control.
Nonetheless, Valente wrote that HSTC does not acknowledge any authority of the DAC Task Force “to scrutinize our organization or dictate policies and procedures” regarding the care and treatment of stray, feral and abandoned animals pursuant to the $560,000-a-year contract between HSTC and the County.
He complained about “attacks against our organization” and what he described as numerous lies, vile and false statements and the lack of civility displayed by animal advocates who have raised serious concerns about the care and treatment which is provided to animals confined to the Palm City shelter.
HSTC declined to provide information and documentation requested by the DAC Task Force and suggested that members ask for the information by way of a formal Public Records Act request or a request pursuant to Florida law that requires animal shelters to make certain information available to the public at all times.
Valente noted that the Task Force has designated its veterinarian member, Dr. Sara Matthews, to attend a meeting with the County Attorney and several HSTC Board members to discuss the HSTC contract and disparagingly expressed hope that Dr. Matthews will be objective and “non-hostile” toward HSTC representatives. Valente said that unless both sides agree to any proposals regarding operation of the shelter, the meeting will be a waste of everyone’s time.
The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow to explore terms and conditions for extension of the HSTC contract that expired on September 30, 2016. The County Attorney says HSTC has agreed to a three-month extension under existing terms and conditions to allow for time to negotiate a new contract or to find an alternative to using the Palm City shelter as the County’s impoundment facility.
The tone of the HSTC response to the DAC Task Force inquiry is not conciliatory.
It is defensive, belligerent and fails to recognize the genuine concern for animals that motivates members of the Task Force as well as residents who want to save the lives of healthy, treatable, adoptable animals.
The letter is supposed to be posted tomorrow on the County website’s DAC Task Force page. To access the page, go to www.martin.fl.us and type DAC Task Force in the search box.
This afternoon’s meeting was in large measure tedious but extremely important as the Task Force began reviewing local animal control and care ordinances, starting with a line-by-line examination of definitions.
The first proposed change:
The current definition of “animal” in the County ordinance is “any living dumb creature.”
The Task Force suggested the definition be changed to “any non-human living creature.”
It took two hours to get through the first two pages of definitions in the ordinance. This chore will be continued at future meetings.
The Task Force briefly discussed TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) provisions of the County code, which currently includes a pilot program that expires July 1, 2017. Task Force members all expressed interest in extending and expanding TNR as an effective way of controlling the feral and stray cat population.
Barbi Moline of Nala’s New Life Rescue, one of several private shelter/rescue organizations that responded to the Task Force inquiry about capacity to shelter, care and treat stray, abandoned and feral animals, gave a brief explanation of her organization’s mission and operation.
The DAC Task Force has made recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners for several requirements the County should include in any extension or renewal of the HSTC contract, including: installation of security cameras in areas of the shelter where euthanasia is performed, elimination of the use of “heart stick” (intercardiac injection) to euthanize animals brought to the shelter pursuant to the County contract, and use of an on-site independent shelter management consultant to provide assistance and guidance to improve the operation of the Palm City shelter.
The Board of County Commissioners will be considering the Task Force recommendations and the possible extension or renewal of the HSTC contract at its meeting onTuesday, October 18. You can let Commissioners know how you feel about this issue by attending the meeting and speaking during the 9:05 a.m. public comment period or by sending an e-mail to Commissioners at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with a copy to the County Attorney and County Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.