FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Fort Pierce Commissioners voted Tuesday night to approve a new partnership and lease with the Sunrise Humane Society.
The newly formed nonprofit will fill a more than a yearlong void in the city. It was lacking an organization to run sheltering services for the city's lost and homeless animals.
Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County for more than a year had been operating a temporary shelter while searching for a permanent operator.
"I've not felt this good about a collaboration that we've done in a long, long time," said Fort Pierce City Commissioner Tom Perona.
"It's a really good day for us here in Fort Pierce," said Dr. Julie Kittams, who is leading Sunrise Humane Society. "The [city] shelter's been closed for a year and a half and it's time to reopen it and get going on animal welfare in Fort Pierce."
Kittams also serves as executive director to Operation S.O.S, a mobile spay and neuter clinic.
They were among the Treasure Coast animal welfare groups waiting for someone to take over shelter operations for Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County but got tired of waiting, forming Sunrise Humane Society.
"We've been waiting for a long time," Kittams said. "We first came up with this idea in about November of 2020."
The city agreed to a yearlong renewable lease on Savannah Road, which also includes provisions for regular inspections and monthly reports to ensure transparency. Additionally, the lease payment will be 20% of the prior month's impound fees.
Sunrise Humane Society replaces the former Humane Society of St. Lucie County, which came under fire for numerous inspection concerns, safety issues, financial turmoil and the death of a volunteer.
Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County ended their partnerships with the former Humane Society of St. Lucie County in 2019.
Since then, new leadership took over the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, which now runs sheltering services only for the city of Port St. Lucie.
Kittams is confident her staff will be able to rebuild trust in animal sheltering services in the city.
She is awaiting approvals from St. Lucie County but planning to open to the public and begin adopting out animals in April.