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Politics

New animal services director aims to unify pet community

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Published:   |   Updated: February 17, 2014 at 09:08 PM

TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s new Animal Services director said today his first task when he takes over March 10 will be to build a community coalition focused on saving the lives of as many dogs and cats as possible.

Scott Trebatoski said that’s how he was able to turn around the high euthanasia rate at Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services. The Jacksonville agency was named the Outstanding Animal Control Agency from 2011 to 2013 by the Florida Animal Control Association. Lee County Animal Services, where Trebatoski was director before going to Jacksonville, also won the award under his direction in 2005-2006.

“The first thing I’d like to do is get to know the community and people that live in the community and try to sort of pull together a coalition,” he said at a press conference at the Falkenburg Road animal shelter. “That’s how we moved forward so quickly in Jacksonville ... having everybody working toward the same goal.”

Failure to pull together the disparate factions that make up Hillsborough’s animal welfare community contributed to the failure of Trebatoski’s predecessor, Ian Hallett. Like Trebatoski, Hallett was brought here from out of town – in Hallett’s case, Austin, Texas – to reduce Hillsborough’s high shelter kill rate. Though he had some success in that area, Hallett’s tenure was marked by turmoil inside the shelter, and he lost the early support he enjoyed from rescue groups and volunteers.

County Administrator Mike Merrill announced Trebatoski’s hiring last week. Merrill, citing Trebatoski’s success in Jacksonville, compared him to an all-pro quarterback who has taken his team to the Super Bowl.

Trebatoski didn’t go that far but did say he brings a record of turning around shelters that were not performing as well as they could have.

“I bring a lot of experience in getting shelters that were slow to start, up to speed,” he said. “That’s what I did at both of my two locations, and I want to do the same thing here.”

Other positive traits Trebatoski said he brings to his new job are an “even keel,” and an ability to adapt in tough situations. He said he plans to closely scrutinize the Hillsborough shelter’s euthanasia policies and procedures to avoid repeating unwarranted cat and dog killings last year that were highlighted in the media.

“It’s very important you don’t make mistakes in that area,” he said.

Trebatoski has been a board member of the Florida Animal Control Association for eight years, serving twice as president. He said he has experience in human resources and labor relations, in addition to his animal sheltering background.

“If you give me a chance, I’ll prove trustworthy,” Trebatoski said. “The only way this is going to work is for us to work together as a community.”

msalinero@tampatrib.com

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