Urgent Action Alert: Staff asks to extend HSTC contract WITHOUT Task Force recommendations



From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Martin County staff is asking the Board of County Commissioners to extend the animal care services contract with the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast until the end of the year (December 31, 2016) without incorporating any of the recommendations of the Domestic Animal Control Task Force.


 Please urge commissioners not to accept this recommendation. Instead, ask commissioners to support the original staff recommendation, that is, to approve an extension of the HSTC contract only if the recommendations of the DAC Task Force are incorporated.


In a memorandum to the Commission, Staff reports that a meeting was conducted yesterday between a representative of the Domestic Animal Control Task Force and HSTC “to discuss the recommendations made by the DAC to the Board of County Commissioners” for conditions to be applied to any extension or renewal of the $560,000-a-year contract between HSTC and the County. 


The memorandum says that “all parties acknowledged that additional discussion, research, and negotiation would be necessary to reach an accord.”


The proposal to extend the existing contract for three months with taxpayers continuing to pay HSTC more than $46,660.00-a-month is an attempt to delay meaningful changes that are needed to save the lives of healthy, treatable, adoptable animals that are currently being euthanized at the Palm City shelter at an unacceptably high rate.


Two new commissioners will be seated before further proposals are presented, and it is likely that HSTC will simply refuse to agree to incorporate any of the recommendations of the Task Force when the contract is presented for renewal, relying on the new commissioners to join Commissioner Doug Smith in supporting the HSTC agenda.


The HSTC recently sent a letter to DAC Task Force Chair Joanne Bury declining to respond to a request for information and documentation to assist the Task Force in fulfilling its mission. Despite the fact that the Task Force was created by a unanimous vote of the County Commission, HSTC says it does not acknowledge the authority of the Task Force to review its operations and procedures in connection with the delivery of animal care services for which taxpayers pay more than half-a-million dollars a year.


The letter reflects no interest in working with other organizations or trying to address the concerns of many residents about the manner in which the HSTC shelter is operated. The letter is arrogant and attacks animal advocates who have spoken out for the animals of Martin County, accusing critics of publishing “numerous lies” and spreading “vile and false statements” about HSTC.


Problems associated with the HSTC shelter will never be corrected so long as the organization continues to deny the existence of inhumane conditions that have been well-documented and are supported by data as well as personal observations of volunteers and employees, former volunteers and employees, and representatives of rescue organizations and private shelters throughout Martin County.


Staff suggests that the HSTC shelter is the only available facility to take in stray, feral and abandoned animals in Martin County.


This is simply not the case. There are a number of rescue organizations and private shelters that are ready, willing and able to take animals from Martin County Animal Control. If necessary, the County Commission can turn to Furry Friends, Domino’s House, Caring Fields Felines, Nala’s New Life Rescue and other no-kill shelters who will work cooperatively in an alliance to provide humane, compassionate animal care services for the County.


Please encourage commissioners to approve a three-month extension of the HSTC contract only if the recommendations set out in the DAC Task Force letter of September 30, 2016, are incorporated. Failure to require these conditions to be included in any renewal or extension of the HSTC contract could result in the needless death of many, many animals at the Palm City shelter.


The item on Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners Agenda is No. 8A3 which, despite considerable public interest in this issue, has not been given a pre-set time for discussion. If you can attend Tuesday’s meeting, you should plan to speak at the 9:05 a.m. public comment period to ask Commissioners to insist on incorporating the DAC Task Force recommendations in any renewal or extension of the HSTC contract.


If you cannot attend Tuesday’s BCC meeting at the County Administration Center at 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, you can e-mail commissioners atascott@martin.fl.us, jhaddox@martin.fl.us, sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us and dsmith@martin.fl.us.


You may also e-mail members of the Task Force at dac@martin.fl.us, joannebury1593@comcast.net, soldbykeri@aol.com, sdswartz42@att.net, jeff-kirschpa@att.net and carllev2u@gmail.com.

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