County animal shelter ‘turned a corner’ since June

Tony the Tiger, left, and Birdie, right, entered Alachua County's animal shelter and were up for adoption as of Aug. 18.
Tony the Tiger, left, and Birdie, right, entered Alachua County's animal shelter and were up for adoption as of Aug. 18.

Over the past two months, Alachua County’s animal shelter has removed its emergency status but continues a restricted intake process to keep numbers low.  

The shelter population has dropped from 247 to 65 since a June 28 meeting that prompted direct action by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).  

“We’re not there, but I want to say we’ve turned a corner, and I really want to thank the staff for stepping up,” BOCC Commissioner Ken Cornell said during Tuesday’s regular meeting.  

Assistant County Manager Carl Smart updated the commission at its Tuesday meeting on four priorities that came out of the June meeting—overcrowding, staffing, an animal advisory board and shelter improvements.  

The shelter no longer needs to keep animals in crates because of overcrowding, Smart said, a community concern at the last meeting. Instead, all cats and dogs are housed in kennels, and the shelter’s one pig got adopted by a farm.  

However, only residents from Alachua County can surrender animals and the shelter only accepts owner-surrendered animals by appointment. Smart said the shelter staff tries to help owners work through issues that cause them to give up their pets.  

Alachua County Animal Resources and Care has also stopped accepting healthy strays to curb the population. 

Two adoption events helped clear out the crates. The first, Best Friends event, resulted in 44 animals taken to homes and the second, Summer Lovin’ event, took another 52 animals out of the shelter’s hands.  

The shelter plans to hold more adoption events, perhaps monthly or more often if needed. Staff added that planning could allow the animals who’ve been at the shelter the longest to swap with long-term residents of Clay County’s shelter in order to get different eyes on the dogs and cats.  

On the staffing side, Smart said multiple positions remain in the works, including an administrative coordinator and investigators. The county is in the process of hiring a new director and is currently onboarding three animal control officers and a kennel technician.  

The county’s Public Works Department has put up temporary coverings for the outdoor kennels, and the shelter has hired a contractor to install permanent, water-proof coverings. Public works also poured concrete at a washing area, and county staff have improved landscaping, fencing and pressure washing.  

Alachua County plans to build a new shelter that can accommodate the intakes. Michele Lieberman, county manager, said staff and UF are discussing a potential property owned by the university. She said the BOCC will need to wait for further details.  

The BOCC made six appointments to the Animal Welfare Advisory Board at its Aug. 9 meeting, and the sheriff’s office will nominate the final member.  

Cornell asked that the shelter give another update in December, and Lieberman said the commission will get unofficial updates before then.  

“My hope would be that you will be seeing us multiple times before December if all goes well,” Lieberman said.  

Staff would need to bring a permanent director before the dais along with any property deal with UF.  

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