Broward May Throw Bone to Private Sector

One year ago, a study by a national consulting firm found that Broward County's Animal Care and Regulation Department was woefully short-staffed, making it impossible to guarantee service required by law for control of the local pet population. But this year, the county faces a $165 million budget shortfall -- not exactly a climate ideal for expanding payroll. That's why Animal Control may be slated for privatization.

"It always has to be an option," says Beth Chavez, director of the Community Services Department, adding that the Broward County Commission discussed privatization in a budget workshop in October. "We're going to have a separate workshop on the overall issue."

The study, by the National Animal Control Association (NACA), found that Broward Animal Control was particularly short on field staff, the workers who capture dangerous animals, transports sick pets, pick up strays and investigate reports of animal abuse. While the agency's field staff of 13 was big enough to serve the region, NACA said that number was "misleading" because some had been reassigned and other positions had been left unfilled.

NACA challenged the county to follow through on its intention to build a new animal control facility in Fort Lauderdale, based on the inadequacies of the current one. A kennel supervisor told the consultants that there was "high turnover" for employees and that shelters were "always shorthanded." The study determined there weren't enough staff to clean the shelters.

On April 21, Chavez and others associated with Animal Control met with commissioners, presenting them with "an array of options" about how their agency could continue to function as a public agency. They're waiting to hear back about whether commissioners will choose one of those options or reject them all in favor of privatizing.

The agency's uncertain future played a role in the departure its director Ray Sim, in January after he'd served in that capacity for just three months. In an application he filed with his new employer, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care in Houston, Sim cited the move toward privatizing Broward's agency as his reason for leaving.

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