The Hernando County Sheriff is calling on the community to help ease issues with animal control work. A tight budget has field officers overloaded with calls.
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis is the first to admit the Animal Enforcement Unit is working on overload.
"It is a tough job and I want to get them a little bit of help," Nienhuis said Friday.
Right now, there are just four officers covering the entire county for animal complaint calls and transports to the county's shelter. It's leading to some problems. Just this week, an abandoned pit bull was dropped off by an enforcement officer to Animal Control, but vets were never alerted of the dog's dire condition. The next day, it was found dead.
That officer is now under investigation, but the sheriff says it highlighted the overall need for extra help.
"We had talked about it quite a bit, but this kind of gave us the push we needed to get it back to the front burner," Nienhuis said.
Right now, animal enforcement officers handle on average more than 800 service calls a month. Nienhuis hopes volunteers will help bridge the gaps caused by their budget.
"We still haven't fully recovered from the economic downturn, so this will be a relatively quick fix," Nienhuis said.
Volunteers will be trained to help officers with paperwork and responding to low-risk calls.
"If they can even take a little bit of load off these animal services officers, I think it'll be a win-win. It'll be great for the animals we're trying to help, it'll be great for the service we give to the citizens," Nienhuis said.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office just announced the need for volunteers on Friday and already they're seeing a huge amount of interest. For more information, contact Sue Raffensperger at 352-797-3660.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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