Hernando Co. considers changes to animal control

Could shift from sheriff's office to county
Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 09:54:16-04

A big change could be coming to Hernando County animal control. A county commissioner wants to take those responsibilities away from the sheriff's office and move it back to the county's control. But the move would come with some cost.

From the moment Javier Fuertes hops into his truck he's busy answering calls for Hernando County Animal Control.

For the last few years, the job has been part of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

"What we were able to do is get some economies of scale by getting those officers to not only investigate calls involving animals, barking dogs and so forth, but also help the deputies in search warrants and so forth where animals are involved," said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Animal control was shifted from the county to the sheriff's office during tough budget times. The sheriff's office absorbed the staffing cost into its budget, saving nearly $350,000, and sheriff Al Nienhuis says response times and the image of animal control have only gotten better.  

"I have heard absolutely nothing but positive reports of our working relationship with the shelter," said Sheriff Nienhuis.

So he was pretty surprised when county commissioners recently floated the idea of going back to the way things were before.

"Nobody has come and talked to us about their concerns, if any," Sheriff Nienhuis said.

Commissioner Steve Champion claims the move is about accountability. In a statement saying:

"I would like to see prevention efforts put in place so that irresponsible pet owners are held responsible for their actions. While they are doing a good job now, my ultimate goal is to have the Animal Services shelter staff and animal officers working together on one team. I think that will go a long way to start holding people accountable."

While the sheriff is confident his team can continue to do a good job, he says he'll support whatever decision the county makes on animal control.



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