The New Port Richey City Council chose Tuesday night to officially express its desire to end its animal control contract with Pasco County Animal Services in April.
The announcement made in a resolution is a step forward in pursuit of a proposed private-public program that would provide animal control services within the city limits to residents.
The resolution, which will be brought to the county, requests that the agreement for the county's animal control services ends April 1.
The city would adopt its own animal control ordinances and enforce them, according to the resolution.
The proposed program could save the city money eventually and improve services, city officials say.
The city contracted out its animal control services to Pasco County Animal Services for just under $60,000 in fiscal year 2011. That number has been quoted to rise to nearly $75,000 in fiscal year 2012.
A proposed plan presented in September suggests using volunteers to assist . The plan would cost $57,000 in its first year due to start up costs. Future annual savings could amount to $26,000, according to city officials.
The plan was created by Terry Spencer, a veterinarian who lived in town but has since moved to Gainesville, then-police chief Jeffrey Harrington and business owner Sharon McReynolds.
In the initial proposal plan, volunteers would go out and retrieve stray dogs in the city, as well as pick up injured or at-risk cats that have been confined by a resident. The proposal also suggested a trap-neuter-release service for managed feral cat colonies. Also suggested was involving local veterinarians to provide services at a discount to residents and required animal licenses for dogs and cats.
The idea received praise from the City Council when it came before them at a workshop Sept 13.
Currently, the county picks up stray dogs in the city but not stray or confined and injured cats, although cats are accepted at the county animal shelter. Before the current agreement with the county, the city contracted out its animal control services to the but discontinued the deal when the contract got too expensive in 2008.
The has expressed interest in involvement. The initial proposal suggested that the kennels be located at the police station. Police Chief James Steffens stated Wednesday in an e-mail to Patch that the police station has been proposed as a temporary site but that police "are looking for other sites that will be more efficient and effective."*
The plan still needs to come before the council for formal consideration, and there will likely be changes. It would require the change of city ordinances and a zoning change for kennels to be located at the department.
Rowena Hover, who says she is a resident, mentioned concerns about the cat licensing part of the proposal when the idea was first raised and again on Tuesday.
Spencer, a Patch blogger, wrote in an email to Patch that she recommends starting the program only with dog control, which is what the city currently contracts with the county for.
“Once that is operational, “ she wrote, “add in owned cats once a group of citizens has looked closely at the ordinance to be sure it doesn't inadvertently cause enforcement issues for cats outside their homes.“
She said she thought a group of responsible feral cat supporters should be found to help with the Trap-Neuter-Release portion of the ordinance for ferals cats. Infrastructure and funding is also necessary.
"Without responsible cat owners supporting licensing there would be no city dollars available to help with projects like that," she wrote. "The program needs to be self supporting."
The city resolution to end its contract is going to be sent to the county for consideration of acceptance.
Daniel Johnson, assistant county administrator for public services, expressed in a note to the city that when the city previously contracted with the SPCA, the SPCA shelter would reach capacity and residents would be referred to the county shelter. The county is an open admission shelter and cannot close its doors when full, he stated.
He also expressed concern that the cost savings to the city would not be as great as the city predicted in the long-term.
“I would request that the city provide some assurance that it will be responsible for animals belonging to your residents," Johnson stated.
*This article has been updated. The city police department has been the proposed temporary site of the kennels, but officials are now looking at sites that are more effecient and effective.