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City Tethered to County Animal Control for Rest of Fiscal Year

City Council wanted to be unleashed from its contract in April.

New Port Richey City Council members wanted to end in spring the city’s animal control service contract with Pasco County.

But it looks like the city will be tethered to the county animal control program for the rest of the fiscal year.

Daniel Johnson, assistant county administrator for public services, is recommending to the Pasco County Commission that the city not be let out of its contract April 1.

“I cannot absorb their financial burden, and I don’t believe their plan at this time is viable,” Johnson said to Patch Wednesday. 

The vote was a step forward in pursuit of a proposed private-public program that would provide animal control services within the city limits to New Port Richey residents. The initial proposal for the program suggests the program taps volunteers and veterinarians.

Johnson said the county staff is willing to “assist” the city in a transition to end its contract by the start of the new budget year, which is Oct. 1.

"I wish them luck in doing that," he said. "But I don't believe it's realistic."

City officials were agreeable to moving toward ending the contract when the current fiscal year concludes.

After the City Council discussed Johnson’s recommendation at its regular meeting Tuesday, City Manager John Schneiger said, “Our best approach is to work with the county.”

The contract with the county cost the city just under $60,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to the city. That number has been quoted by a proposed plan to rise to nearly $75,000 in fiscal year 2012.

Johnson said he heard about the city’s proposal to get out of its contract with the county weeks ago. He said he feels there is incorrect and missing information in the plan.

Essentially, “We don’t know at this point in time what their plans are,” he said.

Johnson’s concerned about the consequences, especially the possibility of ramifications to the county.

He said the county has also accounted for revenue from its animal control contracts with municipalities. Loss of the contract "could result in a layoff of an employee," he said.

Some Council members expressed frustration with the development.

"It's a shame when we're ready to go, and the county isn't," councilwoman Ginny Miller said.

She expressed that the county reasoning was because of "the money."

A final plan for the program the city could implement after ending the contract with the county has not been crafted or formally discussed or voted on. Neither have the ordinance changes that might be required.

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 initial proposal for the city program suggests having volunteers go out and retrieve stray dogs in the city. It also suggested involving local veterinarians to provide services at a discount to residents and required animal licenses for dogs and cats.

In addition, it suggested plans for controlling the feral cat population, but it’s looking now like cats wouldn’t be part of the program in its first year.

The has expressed interest in involvement. After looking at other locations, it’s looking like the city police department could be a  host to kennels, police Chief James Steffens said.  

Before the current agreement with the county, the city contracted out its animal control services to the but the deal was discontinued in 2008.

The county operates an open shelter. Johnson expressed concern that when animals were kept in SPCA kennels, they filled up, and animals were brought to the county.

Johnson said that New Port Richey and other municipalities in contracts with the county pay for county animal services via the half-cent sales tax, not property tax.

“If the city is not contracting with us, we are not obligated to accept pets from city residents,” he said.

Terry Spencer, DVM February 09, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Specifically, Mr. Johnson, how many stray dogs were retrieved from within the City limits of New Port Richey for $56,000 last fiscal year? And how many citations/investigations began within the City limits for $56k last fiscal year? Until the County provides such data, your concerns should not be addressed. Your concerns are not raised in the best interests of the City taxpayers, but rather in the best interests of the County employees.
Nancy Giordano February 09, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Animal control would not pick up strays I called about. They would only come out for an injured dog. I ended up driving all the way to Land o' Lakes to their shelter once. I stopped doing anything about strays after that because I could not afford the time and gas and risk of a bite, to drive strays all that way. Why can they charge so much if they do not even pick the strays up? Why does it take an extra employee to care for the few dogs you deem worthy of being picked up. Also, I live in Pasco County in addition to the city of New Port Richey and I pay both City and County taxes. Why should I not deserve the same level of animal control that the rest of county residents pay. I spend most of my money outside of the city, so I am contributing to the sales tax too!
sue campos June 26, 2012 at 08:34 PM
The problem is still there and it is a damn shame no one wants to change the protocol to protect them. It doesn't matter about the politics its about the welfare of the animals. I lived there for 22 yrs. and believe you me , the county has plenty of money to remedy this and many other issues !!! They just don't want to spend it because it will interfere with their potential raises.

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