On Tuesday, October 8, I presented the following message at the weekly meeting of the Orlando Commissioners and Mayor Jacobs.
To start, I'd like to thank the Mayor, the Commissioners and Dr. Ralls for taking the first steps towards improving the lives of animals who find themselves at Orange County Animal Services. It is our understanding that Dr. Ridgway is going to be let go. And we thank you for that concession. We believe he is not entitled to any kind of retirement pay, but that may be out of our hands. On a positive note, we also have noticed that the "due out" or, more bluntly, euthanasia dates, have been extended whenever there are empty kennels. That extra week gives many animals a chance to find a new home, such as Andy, a senior pomeranian, who has no idea why he is here; he only knows he is scared and alone.
However, the more we dig, the thing we've discovered is that what OCAS is best at is covering up it's own mistakes. Since it has been expressed by the commission and the OCAS advisory board that the general public is responsible for the animal overpopulation problem, though we disagree, we have a few concerns regarding what we see as questionable budget expenditures that might have been better spent towards to make a dent in that problem.
1. Why was more than $2m spent on 2/18/2004 by Orange County to purchase a facility for OCAS use without first investigating what it would cost to rehab it? it is not now and has never been utilized by OCAS except to store surplus cat litter and newpapers. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to use funds like these and the current $60,000 budget surplus to get the s/n van up and running?
2. Why was the program to contract vets to work at the facility and in the s/n van dismantled and can it be reinstated?
3. Six weeks have passed since speakers suggested that OCAS ask the community for help to rehab the s/n van and we've heard nothing - why not? Other counties ask for help from their communities when they need it. Tavares, Clay Co, and just last week New Smyrna Beach Humane Society reached out because they were running out of food and money. In 24 hours their pantry was overflowing. It's obvious that people are willing and able to help the animals. Why won't OCAS ask for community involvement? Are they too proud, or do they have too much to hide?
4. We are again requesting that the issue of reinvigorating OCAS be formally put on the Agenda. It is our goal to help more animals with the assistance of dedicated, caring public servants. It is our hope that these problems, and many more, which have dogged the agency since 2001, can be remedied with the help of Your Honor and the Commission in a timely manner. Thank you for your support.