Martin’s Domestic Animal Control Task Force meets, discusses ‘the elephant in the room’

 

 

 

Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor provides an update on the most recent Martin County Domestic Animal Control Task Force meeting where Joanne Bury was elected as chair and Jeff Kirsch as vice chair.  

 

There was a lively discussion of issues related to the goal of making Martin County a “no kill” community, with much of the focus on — as Task Force member Carl Leveridge called it — the elephant in the room: the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast.

 

Task Force members recognized that there is not enough time to revise the $560,000-a-year  HSTC contract with Martin County before it expires on September 30.  Assistant County Administrator David Graham advised the Task Force that the County Attorney’s Office is drafting a proposed amendment to extend the contract for six months on the same terms and conditions contained in the current contract.

 

While some Task Force members said they would prefer a month-to-month contract, member Jeff Kirsch, an attorney, pointed out that the existing contract contains a 60-day termination provision and Mr. Graham noted that the existing contract also contains a provision that allows amendments to be made at any time.  

 

The Martin County Commission will consider the HSTC contract extension at next Tuesday’s Commission meeting (September 20, 2016). 

 

HSTC did not respond to a July 25 letter from the County asking to extend the contract on a month-to-month basis and indicated that a new contract proposal would be submitted by HSTC. But  Mr. Graham told the Task Force that no proposal has been submitted by HSTC and it is his understanding that the six-month extension that is being drafted by the County Attorney’s Office will be presented to the Commission on Tuesday for approval.

 

As with the first Task Force meeting last week, there was good attendance by members of the public, including volunteers with local shelters and rescue organizations, who did not hesitate to correct Task Force member Leveridge’s repeated statements that the Martin County Sheriff’s Office found that no laws were broken in an extensive investigation of the HSTC shelter. As is clear from the Sheriff’s report, sworn affidavits were issued by investigators who found probable cause to believe that state law was violated in at least seven instances involving euthanasia of animals.

 

The Task Force voted to obtain documentation and data from HSTC to confirm the number of animals taken in, the number euthanized, the reason(s) for euthanasia, and the number of animals adopted during each of the last three years.  HSTC also will be asked to provide minutes of its Board of Directors meetings during the last 12 months as well as annual budgets for the past three years and HSTC’s policies and procedures manual, including the organization’s euthanasia policy.

 

During a discussion of the heart stick method of euthanasia which is the most frequently used method of euthanizing animals at the HSTC shelter, Task Force member Leveridge suggested that heart stick is not an uncommon or improper method of euthanasia.  However Dr. Sara Mathews, the only veterinarian on the Task Force, said this is not a good method of euthanasia, and in 25 years of veterinary practice, she does not recall ever using cardiac injection to euthanize an animal.  At the request of the Task Force, Dr. Mathews agreed to make a presentation at the next meeting about proper practices and procedures for euthanasia established by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.

 

The Task Force also asked to have representatives of Palm Beach or Miami-Dade Counties attend a meeting to describe how they became “no kill” communities.  

 

Task Force members voted unanimously to direct staff to post copies of the Pegasus Foundation report and other public comments on the DAC web page for easy access by members of the public.  These materials can be viewed by going to the Martin County website at www.martin.fl.us and typing “DAC Task Force” in the search box to be directed to the web page.

 

The Task Force members appear to be dedicated animal-lovers who want to end the killing of healthy, adoptable, treatable animals in Martin County. They recognize the enormity of their task but are approaching it with determination.  Public speakers and Task Force members agreed this evening that while changes clearly need to be made in the manner in which the HSTC shelter operates in order to properly serve the County’s needs, the ideal solution is to foster cooperation and partnerships between HSTC, the County, and private shelters and rescue organizations that provide compassionate animal care, adoption, and shelter in Martin County.

 

A great big thank-you is owed to Task Force members Joanne Bury, Sally Swartz, Keri Burgess, Jeff Kirsch, Carl Leveridge and Sara Mathews for their willingness to serve.  And the excellent support provided by David Graham and Sue Lawton is very much appreciated.

 

The next Task Force meeting has been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.  Check the County website for information that will be posted on a weekly basis to keep the public informed this important work.

 

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