The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a special meeting on Tuesday evening to learn more about its Animal Resources and Care department, which has faced overcrowding and employee shortages.
The commission initially scheduled it as a policy meeting, but public interest in the topic prompted an individual meeting. The shelter, built in 1983, wasn’t designed for the current operation or to keep animals for more than a week.
“Yes, we do have staffing issues, and I think ya’ll know that it’s not just in this department,” Michele Lieberman, county manager, said at the meeting.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lieberman discussed staffing challenges throughout Alachua County as part of a nationwide shift. Those changes influenced her proposal for a cautious 2023 budget.
The county’s shelter has hired new staff, including a behaviorist, but needs more employees, along with volunteers. Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said volunteer forms have been stocked in the boardroom for the past few months.
Ed Williams, director of Animal Resources and Care, resigned in May and finished his final day on June 19.
In May, the shelter received 251 intakes. Of those, 83 were adopted, 41 were rescue transfers, 37 were returned to the owner and 19 were euthanized.
The shelter’s live release rate has stayed close to 90% over the past five years—up from just below 30% in 2000. Last year, the shelter took care of 3,174 animals.
Deputy County Manager Carl Smart told the commission that the average stay for intakes has increased. The current average for dogs is 70 days while cats average 22 days. Smart said the shelter started using crates to keep animals, though the county doesn’t want to rely on crates. As of Tuesday, there were 21 dogs in crates, Smart said, constituting a slight decline.
“We face serious capacity challenges at our shelters,” Smart said. “The supply of animals coming in is overwhelming the demand from adopters.”
Alachua County began waiving adoption fees for June and Smart said that’s had an effect as well.
However, Wheeler said the county’s new shelter is still under development and won’t open for a couple of years, forcing creative short-term solutions.
“I can’t imagine working in a place that had that many needy animals,” she said.
Shelter staff is also looking at adding a new dog run to allow animals more outdoor time.