County governments banding together in animal shelter reboot

St. Lucie County’s local governments appear destined to go into the animal sheltering business starting Oct. 1.

St. Lucie County, Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce are paying $520,000 this year to Second Chance Animal Shelter, an arm of the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, to take in about 5,000 stray dogs and cats.

But unresolved safety, health and financial issues at Second Chance Animal Shelter facilities prompted the governments to agree to develop alternate plans for hundreds of animals in their care and control.

The governments will seek short-term sheltering services while preparing a joint request for proposals for long-term solutions, said Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc.

“At this point representatives from the three governmental agencies have decided we reached impasse,” Bolduc told the City Council on Aug. 19 about negotiations with the Humane Society.

Consequently, the City Council voted unanimously to work with St. Lucie County and Fort Pierce on deals for the short- and long-term sheltering of stray animals.

“I think it’s a shame,” said Vice Mayor Shannon Martin. “This is very sad to me.”

Martin said she told a Humane Society board member the organization was “run poorly” and needed to start over from scratch.

“We know they have operated in the red for the past couple of years,” Bolduc said. “Minimal is the way we would describe the animal care – minimally acceptable.”

“There has been a tremendous public outcry about the finances of the Humane Society, the lack of a budget or business plan, and just an ineffective use of fundraising over the years,” Bolduc said.

Second Chance Animal Shelter operates facilities at 8890 Glades Cut-Off Road, Port St. Lucie, and 100 Savannah Road, Fort Pierce.

An Aug. 22 Humane Society statement said the three governments did not budget enough money to properly care for all the stray animals and made late payments despite the group’s tight finances.

“Unfortunately, the jurisdictions focus on the Humane Society’s alleged failures of fundraising while ignoring their grossly deficient compensation for services,” the Humane Society said.

“Progress has been made and the Humane Society is committed to recommending implementing further recommendations, but is severely hampered by inadequate revenue,” the statement says.

The Fort Pierce Commission decided Aug. 5 to cut ties with the Humane Society and try to take control of the Savannah Road shelter.

Disaster struck at the Savannah Road shelter on May 9 when a volunteer died after being mauled by a large dog.

The group had already come under scrutiny for deteriorating finances and shelter conditions.

Best Friends Animal Society conducted an operational review of the Humane Society in May and found the organization in disarray.

The Humane Society has operated at a loss for two years, has no established budget and no plan to turn around the finances, the animal shelter support group reported.

“A common observation was that clear inconsistencies exist in most, if not all, shelter operations,” the report says. “There is a clear need for strong, consistent leadership to clarify expectations and enforce performance standards.”

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