Can Fort Pierce regain control of animal shelter?

St. Lucie County’s long-term animal shelter plans hinge on Fort Pierce regaining control of its Savannah Road facility from the Humane Society of St. Lucie County/Second Chance Shelters.

In the meantime, the county opened a temporary animal shelter at 2700 Industrial Avenue 3 at Treasure Coast International Airport to handle stray and unwanted dogs and cats for the next six months.

Pet owners looking for a missing dog or cat can see if they are being held at the temporary animal shelter by checking the photos on county’s lost pet web site at: www.StLucieCo.Gov/lost pets.

They can also call 911 and ask to report a lost pet to animal control officers, said county spokesman Erick Gill. Pet owners who want to surrender their animals should also call 911.

Fort Pierce is to issue a request-for-proposals to operate the city’s animal shelter at 100 Savannah Road, said Deputy County Administrator Jeff Bremer during an Oct. 8 media briefing at the temporary shelter.

“As we move forward, we will look to that potential as a more permanent solution to this temporary shelter,” Bremer said. “So, we’re looking forward to seeing that progress as we move forward.”

However, the Humane Society of St. Lucie County/Second Chance Shelters continues to operate the 66,000-square-foot animal shelter under a 50-year-lease set to expire Oct. 5, 2037. Rent is $1 per year.

The Savannah Road shelter is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. for adoption, lost and found, and pet surrender services, the group’s website says. It also operates an animal shelter at 8890 Glades Cut-off Road, Port St. Lucie.

Bremer referred questions about the conflict regarding the Savannah Road shelter to Fort Pierce and Second Chance Shelters.

Fort Pierce City Manager Nick Mimms refused to address questions about the shelter or the request-for-proposals.

Longstanding issues with the operations and finances of the Humane Society of St. Lucie County/Second Chance Shelters came to a head after a volunteer died after being mauled by a large dog on May 9 at the Savannah Road animal shelter.

Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie broke off annual funding talks with the group for the budget year starting Oct. 1 and began working together on the temporary shelter and a long-term plan.

“These three partners do not want to be in the sheltering business,” Bremer said. “I do want to emphasize that this is in fact a temporary shelter.”

The county set up 100 dog cages in the shelter and can add another 100, officials said. It also has outside kennels and dog walking areas.

The shelter housed 29 canines and one feline as of last week. That included dogs confiscated in criminal investigations.

“I think we have done the best we can in terms of making sure it’s secure and safe,” Bremer said. “We do have a quarantine area for potentially dangerous animals.”

Animal control officers are working with local rescue agencies to find the owners of stray pets and new owners for abandoned animals, Bremer said.

“Our effort is to have a no-kill (facility),” said Maria Valencia, the county’s animal safety coordinator. “Our effort is to rescue animals as best we can.”

The county-owned industrial building was constructed in 1977 and previously used to store county transit vans.

The three local governments plan to use the temporary shelter until contract disputes over the occupancy of the Savannah Road shelter are resolved and a new non-profit is chosen to operate the facility, Gill said.

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