After being appointed as the new Director of Liberty County Animal Control. on Sept. 15, Steve Marrero was swift to listen to concerns from local animal rescue organizations and the public and changed the LCAC’s euthanasia policy effective immediately.
Marrero was introduced as the new Director shortly after local rescue organizations questioned why animals were being given a put to sleep date despite the facility having the room to house the animal for a longer period of time.
The long-standing challenge of the LCAC’s euthanasia procedures was brought to the center of attention when a Pit-Bull mix named Honeybadger was euthanized on Sept. 10, even though there was plenty of kennel space at LCAC. Honeybadger had been tagged as aggressive but rescue organizations said LCAC officers had been working with the female dog and that, based on LCAC log notes, Honeybadger was improving.
“She was killed because her time was up,” Carpathia Paws Vice President Maryann Smith told the Courier for an earlier report posted online Sept. 29.
Because of the County’s prior put to sleep date policy, one of the main rescues Underground Tailroad had stopped networking with LCAC.
Underground Tailroad working in conjunction with Carpathia Paws and Animal Aid had pulled 771 of the 877 of the animals at LCAC last year which helped to reduce euthanasia rates by 87.9 percent since 2015.
Marrero, who has worked for several animal rescues the past 12 years and whose wife is the current Medical Director at the Brunswick Humane Society, said he met and spoke with several animal rescue organizations.
“I think we’ve bridged a lot of the gaps we had with outside agencies,” he said. “I eliminated the hold policy. I will not be euthanizing animals due to hold dates. It’s something that most facilities already do.”
He said Underground Tailroad has once again started pulling the cats and Animal Aid has been pulling the dogs.
“We are pleased to once again network with Liberty County Animal Control,” Rebecca Needham, founder of Underground Tailroad said in a Facebook post Oct. 14. “They are under new leadership, the "final out" dates are gone, and they are working on great community outreach programs.”
"We are so grateful for the outpouring of support during our campaign for change at Liberty County Animal Control," Smith said. "Thanks to members of our community as well as support throughout the state and nationally, we have made great strides in improving the lives of animals in our community. We are very pleased with the direction animal control is taking under the leadership of the new Director, Steve Marrero. He possesses the business acumen, vast hands on experience with animals and, more importantly, the compassion needed to not only carry out the county's stated mission to protect and control, but to also advocate for the animals in our community."
Marrero added that LCAC has been working with Cameron Moore with the University of Florida.
Moore oversees shelter engagement for the Million Cat Challenge, a project of Maddie’s Fund, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, and the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program designed to save the lives of millions of cats in animal shelters. As a member of the original team that developed Target Zero, she completed over 50 shelter assessments in 16 states, identifying opportunities to implement proven best practices and increase lifesaving.
“She came down and did an assessment of our policies and gave us recommendations,” Marrero said.
While there will no longer be hold dates there will be times when an animal may need to be euthanized Marrero said.
“You have those medical situations like an animal that was hit by a car and is dying,” he said.
He said should LCAC suddenly be at full capacity they may have to look at euthanizing to relief capacity.
“But I don’t perceive (space) being an issue,” Marrero said. “We only have one dog right now because we’ve done well with transferring animals out.”
Marrero added LCAC will look to expand services to the community. He wants to work with the various local municipalities to create a better trap, neuter, release (TNR) program to control the feral cat population.
“It decreases diseases and eliminates population growth,” he said.
He said they will continue to provide the LCAC’s current low-cost microchip program and find ways to offer low cost spay and neuter services to the community by partnering with local Veterinarians.
Marrero said they’ve received an outpouring of support from the community and have received donations of pet food and supplies.
He wants to be able to provide some of those goods back to the community and rescues.
“We have a lot of animal owners that are good pet owners but are struggling right now,” he said. “We need to help them out.”
"Marrero understands the importance of educating the public, community outreach, taking advantage of grants available to municipalities and reducing community cat populations through trap, neuter and release programs," Smith said. "There is still much work to be done but together we can make Liberty County a shining example of the humane treatment and rescue of helpless animals."