Pasco County Animal Services Director John Malley resigned this week as the agency struggles to reach its goal to save 90 percent of animals surrendered to the shelter.
Malley, who has been with the department for six years, said he will continue to work for Pasco County in another capacity. “I don’t really want to comment on the reasons,” he said. “I’ll just say it was a good decision at the time.”
The department came under fire last summer from animal activists and rescue groups over its 85 percent kill rate and the conditions in the animal intake center referred to as Building C. That prompted the department to rewrite its business plan and change the department’s culture so it focused on more animal adoptions.
“The new approach is we view every animal as adoptable - unless it's so ill it cannot be saved or if it's truly aggressive,” he told the Tribune last year. “Our goal is to save 90 percent of the animals that are brought to us.”
The department has almost finished renovations on Building C. Under the new business plan, the shelter stopped accepting stray cats and accepts owner-released dogs only twice a week. The county raised the price of dog licenses in order to pay for more animal control officers.
The department also abandoned the practice in its adoption center of using only half of the 78 available dog kennels. Although that practice created a calmer environment for the dogs, it meant fewer animals would be available for adoption.
Malley assumed the department head position in 2011after longtime director Denise Hilton retired. His leadership has been criticized by some animal advocates who felt the department wasn’t moving quickly enough to reduce its euthanasia rate.
Others praised his efforts to modernize the department. “I thought it was good to move to the 90-percent effort,” Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said. “He was working hard to improve the level of service there, and I appreciate all the new changes he recently implemented.”
Malley also ran into opposition from some breeders and pet dealers over the county’s new animal control ordinance, which makes it illegal for dog owners to tether their pets and requires kennels and dealers to be licensed and inspected. Opponents accused him failing to notify them when the county’s animal advisory board met to discuss changing the ordinance.
The agency also took more than a year to implement a digital shelter management system that could have prevented mistakes like one in January, when a dog scheduled to be adopted by a rescue group was accidentally euthanized.
Malley earned $55,500 a year as a department head. Personnel Director Barbara De Simone said he is currently using vacation but she expects him to apply for a position in another department. “We’re looking at whatever’s open right now,” she said.
Animal Services Supervisor Kevin Mallory has been named acting director until a replacement is hired.