Hillsborough Animal Services chief sets goals, answers critics - FOX 13 News

Hillsborough Animal Services chief sets goals, answers critics

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TAMPA (FOX 13) - On the job for less than four months, Hillsborough County's new chief in charge of rounding up and saving or euthanizing stray animals is already under fire.

Scott Trebatoski is the fourth Director of Pet Resources (formerly Animal Services) in three years.

He comes with many accolades from his last job running Jacksonville's public shelter, but knows he's got a tough job ahead here.

Even so, Trebatoski says he was eager to make the move.

"It's a good challenge and I was up for the challenge," he says.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough Animal Services gets new top dog

His mission is to reduce the killing and increase the number of animals that make it out of the shelter alive. Saving more animals, even at public shelters that take in strays and surrendered animals, is a growing trend.

"Nowadays, if you're not at least at 75 percent after you've put all your programs in, you really need to re-evaluate," he says.

His numbers got him hired: taking Jacksonville from a 17 percent save rate when he started there in 2008 to some months at 90 percent when he left in March.

Hillsborough's rate has slowly improved over the years, from barely 15 percent in 2000 to just over 50 percent last year.

But there are other problems plaguing the shelter, from low morale to complaints of mismanagement and botched euthanasia procedures under the last director.

At Trebatoski's first public meeting with volunteers and rescue groups on May 1st, tensions boiled over.

"Had I known that that level of frustration was in the community, I would have had that meeting much sooner," he says.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New animal services director faces tough questions

Trebatoski says relations have improved, but some rescuers like Tamar Barry are still frustrated. Barry runs a Facebook page called "Rescue Me Tampa Shelter Dogs." It features shelter dogs that are running out of time.

She says a policy change at the shelter that limits public access is failing too many dogs.

"A lot of them are there 8, 9, 10, 11 days, and then they go to vet them and they're sick,” Barry says. “So a lot of them will end up going straight to [euthanasia]. They didn't get sent out on the high-risk reports to the rescues. They didn't get seen by the public."

Trebatoski says people can see dogs being held as strays, but it's no longer an "open shelter."

"People can still see them. They just don't have the ability to go to the areas where animals are stray without an employee being with them. The difference is they have to be escorted into other areas of the shelter," he said.

Trebatoski says limiting access has cut down on the spread of disease, but the woman who runs the "Urgent Cats of Tampa Bay" Facebook page disagrees.

"I haven't seen a reduction in the number of URI cases -- upper respiratory infection -- and also, I'm sorry, but the vast majority of people have no idea they can ask for an escort to go back into the locked areas of the shelter," Jen Morgan says.

Trebatoski is asking for patience and is promising a 55 to 60 percent save rate by this time next year. He says ultimately 80, even 90 percent is possible with enough resources.

"I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think it was achievable. My goal here is to make the Tampa area the best in the country," Trebatoski says.

For more information:

LINK: Hillsborough County adoption page

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