From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Please speak up for Martin County animals and for the Domestic Animal Control Task Force at the Martin County Board of County Commissioners meeting starting at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 13, 2016, at the County Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart.
On November 22, at the first meeting attended by newly elected commissioners Ed Ciampi and Harold Jenkins, Commissioner Doug Smith proposed dissolving the DAC Task Force that has worked so hard and so diligently to review and recommend revisions to outdated local animal control ordinances, establish a “no kill” policy for Martin County, and review animal services contracts.
Commissioner Jenkins said he wanted more time to study the matter, and the Commission then voted to “suspend” the DAC Task Force until December 13.
Commissioner Smith and Commissioner Ciampi appear determined to disband the Task Force because members are taking a close look at the $560,000-a-year contract with the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, which has an extremely high euthanasia rate for healthy, adoptable animals that are brought to the Palm City Shelter.
The contract expired September 30, 2016, but the County Administrator continues to cut checks to HSTC for $46,670.60 a month, even though there is no contract in place that establishes any obligations by the HSTC to provide services in exchange for receiving more taxpayer dollars each month than many taxpayers earn in a year.
The Task Force made a number of recommendations, which the BCC approved, for provisions to be included in any renewal or extension of the HSTC contract, including:
– Banning the use of excrutiatingly painful and disfavored ”heart stick” (intercardial injection) to euthanize animals at the shelter;
– Requiring the shelter to provide adequate flea and tick control for all animals; and
– Requiring the shelter to provide heartworm prevention for dogs.
The HSTC refused to agree to these provisions, so the contract expired.
Commissioners Smith and Ciampi want to renew the old HSTC contract without any changes — except for an increase in already excessive fees paid to HSTC – despite the failure of the County to monitor compliance with the contract in past years. The County has never attempted to determine whether HSTC has complied with its contractual obligations.
An audit of the contract was conducted by the County Clerk’s office and was given to County Administration to review due to a number of “findings of fault” suggesting that neither the County nor HSTC were in compliance with the prior contract. County Administrators have delayed release of the audit for more than two months and are still refusing to allow the public to review the audit results.
It would be fiscally irresponsible to renew the HSTC contract before the results of the audit are made public.
Commissioner Ciampi asked that commissioners plan to discuss the HSTC contract and the fate of the DAC Task Force at Tuesday’s meeting, but he directed the County Administrator not to place the item on the meeting agenda so it is impossible for the public to participate in the discussion. There is no way to know when or if commissioners will discuss these issues because they are not on Tuesday’s agenda.
Please plan to attend the meeting at 9:00 a.m. and address commissioners during the morning ”public comment” period to let them know how important the work of the Task Force is. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can e-mail commissioners at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Task Force is not focusing on the HSTC contract.
The Task Force is undertaking a careful study of the County Animal Control Ordinance which has not been significantly revised since 2003. There are new practices and procedures in veterinary and shelter medicine and management that should be incorporated into the outdated ordinance, especially with respect to TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs to reduce the population of free-roaming cats in the community and mandatory sterilization requirements.
Another critical goal of the Task Force is to move Martin County toward a “no kill” policy that limits euthanasia of healthy and adoptable animals. Most “no kill” policies establish a 10% goal for euthanasia, recognizing that it is necessary to humanely euthanize animals that are too sick or injured to continue to live.
HSTC directors appeared before the commission when the Task Force was established to advise that HSTC does not support “no kill” policies.
The euthanasia rate at the HSTC shelter is in excess of 50%.
The Task Force is gathering information and trying to educate residents about “no kill” communities and shelters like those operated in Palm Beach County, Brevard County, the City of Jacksonville, and other areas of the state.
At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a pre-set agenda item has been scheduled at the request of Commissioner Heard for a presentation by Karel Minor of Animal Welfare Management Services, a professional shelter management consultant, to discuss animal care and control services in Martin County. The presentation will be an excellent aide to commissioners and residents in evaluating existing services and considering ways to improve.
Please attend Tuesday’s meeting and ask commissioners to resume DAC Task Force operations immediately and to take the time to hear from the Task Force and members of the public before rushing to extend the HSTC contract at an unacceptably high cost to Martin County taxpayers and to our animals.