Animal activists continue to hound Sumter County commissioners 

Animal activists were back before the Sumter County Board Tuesday night, pressing their demand that the county make its animal shelter “no kill.”

Commissioners and County Administrator Bradley Arnold defended the county operation and disputed some claims raised by the activists.

The Sheriff’s Office is investigating claims of legal violations in the way animals have been treated and euthanized at the shelter.

Nearly three years ago, the county began a partnership with the Humane Society/SPCA of Sumter County to find people to adopt more of the strays or lost pets handled by animal services.

Of 244 animals brought to the animal services shelter in August, 82 were euthanized and six died in the kennel, according to the latest animal services report.

In a report to the board, Arnold presented a 14-point rebuttal to many of the activists’ claims.

He said there is no evidence that non-certified employees are administering euthanasia. A claim that a horse held by the county died after eating moldy hay also is unsubstantiated, according to Arnold.

The county administrator said access and photos are allowed in the shelter, but visitors must be escorted and priority is given to people coming to reclaim their pets.

Volunteers are not permitted, Arnold said, because some animals are aggressive, sick or part of criminal investigations.

The amount of time for people to reclaim lost pets has been extended to five days whether or not the pets have identification, he said.

Arnold said animal services is working on a program to reduce the number of euthanized feral cats by trapping them, spaying or neutering them and returning them to their neighborhoods. Jacksonville has a similar program.

But Arnold’s explanations did not satisfy the activists.

Karen Taylor of Webster, a humane society volunteer, said the number of animals euthanized has spiked since May.

“Something needs to change,” she said. “Too many animals are dying.”

Angie Fox of Lost Pets of The Villages said it may be easier to visit a prisoner on Death Row than try to see animals in the county shelter.

“All you have to do is stop killing our pets and we’ll go away,” she said.

Oren Miller of The Villages said commissioners should sponsor a referendum next year to see how many residents want a no-kill shelter.

He said Lake County is among the Florida communities with a no-kill shelter.

“If Lake County can do it, Sumter County can, too,” he said.

Commissioner Steve Printz told the activists that the county’s goals are similar to theirs, but the county can’t do everything.

“Everything you’ve talked about is eminently doable through our partnership with the humane society,” he said. “The only thing we differ on is who does it and how it is done. Don’t expect the county to do it all.”

Board Chairman Doug Gilpin said his most important concern is that the county follows the statutes.

“It’s a tough job that animal control people have,” he said.