Editor’s note: This is the part two of the series looking at concerns and changes at Liberty county Animal Control.
Former Liberty County Animal Control (LCAC) Director, Randy Durrence retired Sept. 11, after decades of service as the Director for LCAC facility. On Sept 15, Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown introduced LCAC’s new Director Steve Marrero during a Zoom meeting meant to address specific concerns about Animal Control’s policies and partnerships with local rescues.
Marrero, retired from the military after 24 years, has worked with a variety of animal rescue organizations and veterinarians for the past 12 years. His wife is the current Medical Director at the Brunswick Humane Society. He said he places people, business and animals as the top priorities when addressing the community’s needs.
“I’m people minded,” he said. “That’s my focus. I want to make an impact. I’m very business oriented. Every organization that involves people, should be run as a business…and has to have a business model. And Animals. This position here is a blessing because it incorporates every aspect of my passion. I’m honored to be serving the people of Liberty County.”
One of the things that Marrero plans to focus on is creating a better relationship of the county run facility with local animal rescues agencies and the public.
“Communication and community engagement are always the big things,” Marrero said. “We have to let the public know what we do. We have to be able to dictate our vision to the public. I think we owe that to them as an animal control. We need to eliminate those misconceptions of what we probably did years ago that the public is still holding on to. They don’t understand what we do now and how we have changed. My focus is creating that community engagement. We are here for the community. Are we going to make everyone happy? No but we can try.”
That is going to be a tall task as a few rescue organizations have argued that the LCAC has lacked in transparency and has prevented them from bringing new ideas before the county commission.
“Liberty County Animal Control is a publicly financed facility being vehemently shielded by any public interference or questioning,” Underground Tailroad Founder Rebecca Needham wrote in an email dated Sept. 16. “Carpathia Paws, the rescue that pulled almost 90 percent of the animals last year, tried for commissioner meeting space: DENIED. Committee representation: DENIED…. Others have received zero response to their concerns…The lack of transparency is astronomical.”
Marrero said he plans to reach out to those agencies and others as soon as possible to exchange thoughts and ideas. He added they want to implement a foster program at LCAC and maybe offer in-house adoption in the future.
“We want to look at foster programs and start at looking at whether we can start doing adoptions at our facility,” he said. “I believe we have to have some type of foster system in place. That eliminates the emergencies, especially if we have a bunch of bottle babies. Right now, we have a staff of three and when dealing with bottle babies you are feeding all night long. They (LCAC Officers) can’t do that, they have another job to do for the community.”
Marrero said by implementing and growing a foster program the LCAC can extend their resources.
Brown said that Marrero will be creating a better business model for the LCAC and implementing the new policies that were updated in August 2020. The facility’s former policy book was written in 2017.
One of the long-term goals they want to achieve is allowing the public to adopt animals directly from Animal Control. Currently only animal rescues with a valid and current county contract can pull animals from LCAC.
Brown said they’ve made several changes since moving into their newer building in 2016. One of the first changes was to euthanize animals by injection only. Prior to that LCAC used a gas chamber.
Brown said they now have roughly four rescues under contract, they’ve extended state mandated holding periods, enhanced intake procedures and implemented the Shelter-trak software program allowing contracted agencies to keep tabs on every animal that arrives at the facility. Photos of the animals are taken and information on the animals’ description and disposition is noted on the forms. He said they also take videos to show the animals and use video to show the animals’ temperament.
None of these tactics were used under the prior SOPs.
But the main complaint that rescues have against the LCAC is that animals are still being euthanized, despite the facility having ample space.
“ I stopped networking Liberty County Animal Control after two years because you switched from the best practice of “euthanizing when space is needed” to “euthanizing after x days no matter how much space is available,” Needham wrote.
As of now that has is policy that will not change.
“I can’t promise that animals will not be euthanized,” Brown said.