Commissioners vote not to renew contract with embattled Humane Society of St. Lucie County

Commissioners vote not to renew contract with embattled Humane Society of St. Lucie County
Commissioners vote not to renew contract with embattled Humane Society of St. Lucie County (Source: WPTV)

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — St. Lucie County Commissioners voted Tuesday night not to renew the contract with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County.

This is the final vote to end all local contracts with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County.

Commissioners with the City of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie also voted within the last month to find ways to dissolve current contracts and move forward with finding alternative sheltering options.

“We’ve given St. Lucie County the opportunity to do the right thing for the homeless pets,” said animal advocate Terri Walden. “Tomorrow is the first day of building the better solution for St. Lucie County homeless pets."

In a letter to St. Lucie County Commissioners, Public Safety Director Ron Parrish said county leaders have worked for more than a year to find reasonable terms for a new contract with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County without success.

Parrish called recent correspondence with shelter leadership “less than amicable”, leading to an impasse with all three municipalities.

St. Lucie County is working with Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce to find alternative ways to manage, care for, and shelter the animals at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County.

County leaders say a temporary shelter location is being developed at the Treasure Coast International Airport, though renovations are still underway.

The vote by St. Lucie County Commissioners comes one day after the City of Fort Pierce discussed how it plans to terminate the current lease at the Savannah Road location in Fort Pierce.

The Brennan and Kretschmer Lawfirm, representing the City of Fort Pierce, stated in a letter served to shelter leadership that the Humane Society of St. Lucie County violated its lease agreement by failing to address maintenance problems. The letter also states that the law firm feels the shelter violated various laws surrounding the care and treatment provided to the animals, which could also break the lease.

A Code Enforcement Property Maintenance Inspection Report details the deficiencies in the required maintenance “significant.”

The letter from Brennan and Kretschemer said the city is requiring all maintenance deficiencies to be corrected by September 16. Code Enforcement will make another inspection that day to determine if deficiencies have been rectified.

The attorney also listed the following failures to comply with federal, state and local laws:

  1. Numerous German Shepard puppies died with no response from the Humane Society with some puppies taken from the shelter by St. Lucie County Animal, Safety, Service & Protection to an emergency clinic, in violation of Fla. Stat. §828.13(2)(c) and City Ordinance 4-24(b)(5).
  2. An adult dog in Building A at the leased premises was neglected by the Humane Society which required that the dog be taken from the Humane Society by St. Lucie County Animal, Safety, Service & Protection to an emergency clinic in violation of Fla. Stat. §828.13(2)(c) and City Ordinance 4-24(b)(5).
  3. A number of Boston Terrier puppies were sick while at the Humane Society with no response from the Humane Society. All puppies died in violation of Fla. Stat. §828.13(2)(c) and City Ordinance 4-24(b)(5).
  4. Numerous other dogs which were in the care of the Humane Society were neglected during their care, including a dog named Levi with a cut foot, a dog named Bea that passed out, and dogs named Champ, Peach and Chloe that became lethargic, skinny and underweight in violation of City Ordinance 4-24(b)(5).
  5. A Shih-Tzu puppy was eaten by rats while in the care of the Humane Society and a Chihuahua puppy also died as a result of multiple rat bites while in the care of the Humane Society in violation of City Ordinance 4.24(b)(1).
  6. A cat impounded by St. Lucie County Animal, Safety, Service & Protection was dropped in the cat room at the Humane Society at 10:38 A.M., on June 26, 2019. At 5:30 P.M., the cat was still in the trap without food or water in violation of City Ordinance 4-24(b)(2).
  7. The Humane Society has failed to properly register animals adopted by residents of the City in violation of City Ordinance 4-77(d).

“Please surrender the savannah shelter peacefully and allow the former municipal partners move on,” said Ron Parrish.

Shelter leadership has told WPTV in the past it does not know if it can function independently without support from local governments.

A criminal investigation is still underway at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County.

The volunteer whose complaint prompted the investigation was glad to see the county vote against renewing a contract with the shelter.

“I’m glad I could help. I took a stand for the animals I befriended. They’re not here anymore. So, for me it’s important,” Mutchler said.

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