MANATEE -- Residents surveyed said Manatee County Animal Services Division does not meet their expectations, but they continue to support its effort to provide No Kill services.
Of 714 residents who responded to a questionnaire about whether the division meets expectations, 68.3 percent said the division did not meet their expectation, 11.8 percent were neutral, and 15.4 percent said the division meets their expectations, according to preliminary results of surveys taken by a company hired to evaluate the division. The results are part of an operational audit by the Matrix Consulting Group of Mountain View, Calif.
Residents want to see significant improvements, particularly in adherence to the county's No Kill policy, the survey found.
In statements residents' reiterated the theme: "The No Kill standard should be fully implemented so that the number of euthanizations is next to zero, and the shelter should not call itself 'No Kill' until this is the case." "The results so far are not any surprise, and it's exactly what I would have anticipated and expected," said Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.
A final report and the company's recommendations are expected in the next week or two, according to Nick Azzara, the county's information outreach manager.
In 2011, the Manatee County Commission adopted a No Kill policy, which specified the division would stop killing healthy animals in its care under a formal resolution and plan.
However, instituting a No Kill policy without ad
ditional money to expand programs or hire additional staff may have contributed to the division's difficulties, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has acknowledged. Other highlights of the preliminary survey findings:
Of 16 county employees who responded to a questionnaire, most felt positively about the division's service but perceived a lack of support for some areas of their work.
In answer to a survey statement that said: "We have the staff we need to perform effectively," none agreed, 6.7 percent were neutral, and 93.3 percent disagreed.
Of 81 volunteers who answered a questionnaire about whether the division met service expectations, 43.5 agreed; 21.7 percent were neutral; 33.3 percent disagreed, and 1.5 percent submitted no response.
In general, volunteers surveyed viewed compassion, personnel, adoption services and the volunteer workforce as the division's greatest strengths.
The county signed a $53,000 contract with Matrix to audit the animal services operation and to submit a formal report with recommendations.
Last week, Public Safety Director Ron Koper Jr., who supervised the division suddenly left the county. County officials cited no reason, and no resignation letter or paperwork was in his file Monday.
Meanwhile, animal rescue workers are already singing the praises of one of the staff members that transferred to Animal Services when interim director Bill Hutchison took over from former chief Kris Weiskopf.
Sue Kolze, vice president of the rescue group Animal Network, Inc., sent emails to officials Monday with high praise for Animal Services officer Jerry Hill, who handled a complicated dog case over the weekend with finesse.
"We had a happy ending to what could have been a very unhappy ending, thanks to Jerry's willingness to help," Kolze wrote.
Laurie Feagans, retired emergency management director, will fill the public safety post until a permanent replacement can be found, officials said last week.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.