A long-stewing idea for New Port Richey to handle its own animal control services within the city using a team of volunteers in partnership with the city police department will soon be put to the test.
New Port Richey City Council members gave final approval Tuesday to the ordinance the city needs to take over animal control services from the county.
The animal control ordinance kicks in Oct 1, and that’s when the city’s Animal Protection Unit will need to start enforcing it. The unit is manned by volunteers overseen by the New Port Richey Police Department.
The Animal Protection Unit will focus only on dog control initially.
“I’m glad to see this moving forward,” said Councilman Bob Langford. “I think this is a positive thing for the city.”
The city is breaking away from its contract for Pasco County to provide animal services to the city.
The New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit will now be the entity to provide animal control services in the city.
The unit has 15 volunteers so far, some of whom don't live in the city. The department has an officer trained to answer criminal calls.
Among other things, the ordinance creates the Animal Protection Unit and establishes the rules for a dog licensing and registration program and creating a rabies vaccination requirement.
The ordinance requires dog owners to get their dog licensed and registered if the animal is at least four months old, but there’s a six month “grace period” before that rule is enforced. Members of the Animal Protection Unit will educate the public about the requirement during that grace period.
The ordinance also requires that owners get the anti-rabies vaccination for their dogs, cats and ferrets.
The city takeover of animal control services has been a long time coming. Sharon McReynolds, owner of Advanced Healthcare Alternatives, and veterinarian Terry Spencer came to the council a year ago with the idea for the Animal Protection Unit.
The plan was touted as saving the city money eventually and improving animal control services in the city limits.
Since then, details and hiccups have stalled the process.
A major detail was the issue of where animals would be housed. Last month, McReynolds, who is leading the volunteer unit, expressed concern that kennels proposed for the police station would not be completed by Oct. 1.
The Suncoast SPCA in New Port Richey stepped up to offer temporary kennels at a vacant building on its property.
“We have been very blessed with SPCA stepping forward with the building on their property that is currently unused,” McReynolds said.
The Animal Protection Unit shelter is separate from the rest of the SPCA property and will be fenced off.
“The SPCA Suncoast is not taking over in any capacity for New Port Richey animal control, nor providing any care or services with staffing or volunteers,” Jennie Briguglio, interim director of the SPCA, said in a statement. “Alll animal control operations and care will be taken care of by the city’s staff and volunteers.
The Animal Protection Unit has promised to upgrade the building in return for free use.
The takeover will cost the city $57,000, in its first year. The contract for the county to provide animal services to the city costs about $60,000 a year.
The takeover will eventually save the city $20,000-$30,000 a year, according to projections