Local News

Pet Protection

SEBRING - A new law that regulates animal shelters probably wouldn't have stopped suspected hoarder Michelle Brown from collecting 27 cats and 18 dogs in her house. However, Senate Bill 674 does command public and private animal control agencies and humane societies to keep records. "It won't be hard," said Highlands County Animal Control Director Darryl Scott. "We'll have to tweak our operation to match. But it will add more work to the one secretary I have here." Barry Edgley, who has rescued three dogs and 80-90 cats in Zolfo Springs with his wife, Jill Edgley-Hampton, will probably buy the PetPoint Animal Management System for his computer. The state has already asked for records, which he's having to pull from filing cabinets.
"We're building a hospital and vaccination unit," Edgley said. "I'm putting in ventilation and lighting now." The law specifies organizations that take public money. "The Humane Society of Highlands County doesn't accept any tax dollars," said President Judy Spiegel. The new law includes a public policy statement: "The Legislature has determined that the importation of dogs and cats into, and the uncontrolled breeding of dogs and cats in this state poses risks to the wellbeing of dogs and cats, the health of human and animals, and the agricultural interests in this state," "I agree with that," Spiegel said. She thought the bill didn't go far enough, wanting a provision which licenses pet breeders. The Edgleys used to accept more dogs, but took in many of Brown's cats, seized after the 59-year-old Highlands County woman was arrested in June. "Cats don't take as much room," said Edgley, who places the rescued animals with the public. "This law wouldn't have affected Michelle," said Spiegel. "She never registered as a shelter." "She was a fosterer and a transporter," Scott agreed. "She never opened her own rescue. She just got caught up into loving animals too much. It got out of hand. This law wouldn't have applied to her." All three agreed that the new law is good, though. Scott believed that private shelters and humane societies needed to keep public records. Spiegel said all shelters now must prove what happened to rescued animals. The law requires data: the total number of dogs and cats taken in by the shelter, surrendered by the owner, strayed, impounded, confiscated, transferred from within Florida, transferred from out of state, born in the shelter, adopted, reclaimed by the owner, died in the kennel, euthanized, transferred to another shelter, lost, and trapped, neutered and released. gpinnell@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5828