MANATEE -- After less than four months as shelter manager at Manatee County Animal Services, Beth Lewis is no longer with the division.
Bill Hutchison, interim director of Animal Services, confirmed Lewis' departure Wednesday afternoon. The county's longstanding policy of not discussing personnel issues publicly makes it unclear whether Lewis quit or was fired.
Lewis, the former Hillsborough County Animal Services shelter supervisor, began at the county shelter, 305 25th St. W., Palmetto, on March 25. Lewis began her career about 12 years ago working in shelters in Austin, Texas.
Hutchison said Lewis has "wonderful animal empathy."
"She could look at a dog and figure out why the dog was being aggressive," Hutchison said. "She brought a lot of new ideas from her previous life and places she was."
But despite myriad positives with Lewis, Hutchison said there is a lot more to the job and "there were some problems in the other areas" that could not be overcome.
"I am sure she will do very well in whatever she chooses to do," Hutchison said. "She is really good with animals."
In March when Lewis was hired, Hutchison said Lewis' passion is "animal behavior evaluations, an area that has always been sorely lacking in our system. She has been in the forefront of the movement to save animals and now gets the opportunity to bring us in for a landing by installing and cementing those core values into all MCAS employees."
The Palmetto shelter, which declared in 2011 it would become the first no-kill agency in Florida, has been consistently overcrowded in recent months.
Lewis sought to make the Palmetto shelter more visible in the community as shelter manager, she told the Bradenton Herald in March.
"I want by the time I leave, retire or get fired, that this shelter is not known as a hid
den shelter," Lewis said on her first day. "We are doing great things and we are going to do even better things."
Sue Kolze, vice president of Animal Network, a nonprofit that funds heartworm treatments for dogs at Animal Services, said she was not concerned Lewis' departure would disrupt the Palmetto shelter's recent momentum.
"I will stand with Bill Hutchison in whatever he feels is best for the division," Kolze said. "I will stand by his decisions. I need to go with what he says he needs to do. ...I have complete faith in Bill and his decisions."
As the county searches for a new senior shelter manager, Taunia Ireland, who works in the animal control officer group in the shelter, will be the interim shelter manager, Hutchison said. Hutchison said the county will post the job this week.
"She's got a load of experience from the shelter," he said. "She is a really solid individual and has the respect and support of the whole group."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.