The euthanizing of a dog named Buddy prompted about 50 dog owners to ask Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night to improve the county’s response to lost and abandoned animals.
After hearing their concerns, commissioners asked County Administrator Bradley Arnold to work on addressing the problems in the next county budget, which will be enacted next month.
Many of the dog owners, who wore paper badges with a picture of Buddy and the words “Dog Lives Matter,” are members of Responsible Dog Owners of The Villages.
Weekends are an issue, said Villager Susan Gros. She said a last-minute placement for Buddy, a pit bull mix, was found and a call was made about 4:45 p.m. on Aug. 15 to the humane society, which closed at 3 p.m. The dog was euthanized at 8 a.m. Aug. 16 before humane society opened.
“If you’ve got an animal on death row, you need coverage for these hours,” she said. “The cost of euthanized dogs is not cheap. The cost of placement is zero dollars.”
Gros said animal control officers should respond to more than just reports of vicious dogs on weekends and after hours.
“As a county, we are embarrassed by the fact that Sumter County is perceived throughout the state as a high kill,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “This has to change.”
Gros said she has handled 40 lost dogs referred to her by The Villages Community Watch over the past four months.
Claudia Labbe, a Humane Society volunteer, said the county needs to modernize the way animals are handled.
“We hope the county will be receptive to a more progressive approach than old-world style outdated methods,” she said.
Diane Ferguson, president of the Responsible Dog Owners group, said the county could save a lot of dog lives by promoting a foster care program.
Since a partnership began early last year between the county’s animal services division and the Sumter County Humane Society, about 2,000 animals were saved, said Celine Petrie, who chairs the society’s board.
“While we regret every animal where a life is lost, we have saved 1,054 animals this year,” she said.
After the group of dog owners left the room, commissioners agreed that the county should respond to their concerns.
“One of the most imperative things in my mind is to close the gap,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin. “There is this time when there is no activity and animals suffer.”
Board chairman Garry Breeden said services need to accommodate the county’s growth.
“In order to keep up, we will have to continue to expand,” he said.