ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — For the first time, St. Lucie County leaders opened the doors of the new, temporary animal shelter to the public.
Wednesday, county leaders gave a tour of the facility to local leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, and animal advocates, wanting to see the conditions in which animals will be living.
The shelter, located at 2700 Industrial Avenue 3 in Fort Pierce, has been accepting animals picked up by animal control since Oct. 1. That is when the contracts expired between the Humane Society of St. Lucie County and Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County.
Inside the large, clean, air-conditioned building, at least 100 new kennels are ready for cats and dogs.
Rooms are separated for large and small dogs.
County staff and volunteers say they walk dogs three times a day.
One room contains dozens, if not at least 100 bags of dog food.
Fencing was installed in the back of the property to give dogs space to run.
On Wednesday, one cat and 26 dogs were staying at the shelter.
County officials say animals would only be euthanized for humane purposes, such as grave injuries or illness.
“Our effort is to be no-kill. Our effort is to rescue animals as best we can,” said St. Lucie County Deputy County Administrator Jeff Bremer.
Bremer praised the collaboration between St. Lucie County, Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce to ensure the facility would operate properly, and quickly.
“They really came through to put this thing up in short order,” Bremer said.
Sheriff’s office trustees helped set up kennels and will also be helping with maintaining and cleaning the facility and kennels.
There is 24/7 security and staffing, according to Bremer.
Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc said he is pleased following the tour.
“For a temporary set up, it’s great,” Bolduc said. “The animals are going to be extremely well taken care of.” He also says his animal control officers will feel comfortable dropping off animals at the temporary shelter, knowing they will get the proper care.
A former volunteer at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County and animal advocate, Dale Mutchler, also toured the facility Wednesday.
He was the volunteer who sounded the alarm to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, prompting a criminal investigation at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County this summer. He had concerns about animal neglect, maintenance issues at the Humane Society, and poor management.
That investigation is still ongoing.
“I'm glad the dogs have a safe intake now, and actually have a chance to get out of here and go somewhere else,” Mutchler said.
Negotiations fell through between the three municipalities and the Humane Society of St. Lucie County this summer. The municipalities had concerns about the Humane Society’s financial struggles, maintenance needs and the allegations of neglect that are under investigation.
The Humane Society of St. Lucie County argued that to properly operate a shelter and accommodate animals from all three municipalities, they were not being paid enough money and would need more money in future contracts.
“We really wanted to work out a deal going forward and we just never could get the negotiations to go right. It’s a shame,” said Chief Bolduc.
Fort Pierce city officials are still working to evict the Humane Society of St. Lucie County from the Savannah Road location. The Humane Society of St. Lucie County is fighting that eviction effort.
The three municipalities hope to fix up the Savannah Road shelter and use it again as the permanent shelter location for a new shelter operator.
HOW TO USE THE SHELTER
St. Lucie County officials say the shelter is not open to the public for walkthroughs.
If you lose an animal, you can check online to see which animals are currently at the shelter through this link.
If you see your pet you can arrange to have animal control meet you at the shelter and bring the animal to you.
If you need to surrender an animal, you now need to call 911 and animal control will pick it up and bring it to the shelter.