The winds of change are blowing at Bay County Animal Control and it starts at the top. County officials hope new leadership, revised polices and public education will reduce the population of unwanted animals.
Carol Treftz has just completed her first month as Chief of Animal Services. After 16 years of caring for animals, the passion still burns. "It's still a job that I wake up every day and I'm ready to come to work," Treftz said. "I get to make a change not just for animals but for the citizens of the county."
At the shelter Wednesday morning, the newly-remodeled lobby was crowded with people surrendering their animals or finalizing adoptions. Ann Marie Williams of Lynn Haven spotted a West Highland terrier that stole her heart. "I think she's going to be perfect," Williams said.
Williams said she used to buy dogs from breeders but now adopts from shelters. "There's too many dogs that need a good home," Williams said. "Everyone was very helpful and made the selection very easy for me."
Making adoptions easy is one of the goals shared by Treftz and her supervisor Jamie Jones, the county's General Services Director. That was one of the recommendations made by the University of Florida Maddie's Shelter during a recent evaluation of Bay County's programs and practices.
Treftz, who has budgeted to hire additional animal control officers, insists on continuing education and takes a hands on approach. "I would never ask any of my staff to do something that I wouldn't do myself," Treftz said. "I have been out in the trucks with my officers and there are things that we're working on."
Jones is optimistic that changes in the works – staff additions, Maddie's report recommendations and a new animal control ordinance that will make enforcement less confusing – will make a difference. "We believe we can move forward in a positive direction," Jones said. "We're doing everything we can to get the animals adopted and get them to good homes."
For now, the focus is on staffing and operational changes and neither Treftz nor Jones is sure what role volunteers will play in the shelter's future. "When we do look at the volunteer program, we can bring it back in a structured format to where it's an enjoyable experience for the volunteers [and] a helpful experience for the staff, the animals and the general public," Jones said.
"I'm open to anything that will help the citizens and help us... we have to work as a team," Treftz said.
Millie the Westie won't be heading to her now home until her "hold" period ends. Williams is only slightly concerned about how her other dog will react to having a companion. "It doesn't matter what he thinks... he's going to have to adapt," Williams said with a laugh.
For Treftz, caring for neglected and unwanted animals means long hours but is rewarding. "I do believe that shelter animals are grateful... I will always believe that," Treftz said.
Click here to learn more about Bay County Animal Control Services.