Backyard dog breeders expected to be hot topic at DAS meeting

— Two years ago, Collier County's Domestic Animal Services developed a list of 10 projects they hoped to complete.

DAS has completed eight of them, said Executive Director Amanda Townsend, including revising the animal control ordinance to accommodate the trapping, neutering and returning to the wild cats and revising the animal control ordinance to include anti-cruelty measures.

But perhaps more telling is the projects they didn't complete. The one that is getting the most attention recently was a plan to develop regulations for dog and cat breeding in the county.

Townsend expects that issue to come back as a public priority, especially after 45 Labrador and golden retrievers were surrendered by Golden Gate Estates dog breeder Anthony Perkins in July. Veterinarians said the dogs were dehydrated and showed signs of neglect.

One dog was later euthanized and 14 puppies later died of parvovirus, a contagious canine virus.

Tuesday night, the DAS board will host a public planning workshop to develop a new set of multiyear projects the department con complete to improve the lives of the community's people and pets, the agency said in a news release.

"We have been working on our top 10 list for months and months, hoping to improve our service directory," said Amanda Townsend, executive director of the county's domestic animal services. "Each advisory board member has come up with a top 10 list and we would like to get public input and further refine them at Tuesday's meeting."

The last time the DAS developed a project priority list was October 2009. Board member James Rich said he believes the community has lost confidence in the DAS board's ability to accomplish things.

"It takes so long to accomplish things because we meet once a month and we have all this red tape to go through," he said.

Rich, who is compiling the lists from board members, said there were 42 items proposed for DAS to take on as projects. Rich said he would like to see the county undertake a project to help provide spay/neuter services, food and other medical assistance to people who are in danger of losing their animals because of a downturn in the economy.

His second priority, he said, is to do something about "backyard breeders."

That issue has been a hot topic in recent months, after members of the public became outraged when was discovered Perkins was allowed to continue to breed dogs after a record of noncompliance on vaccinations and animal welfare issues.

They called for enforcement of animal control laws from the agency, which they said should have never let Perkins operate as long as he did.

Animal control officials visited Perkins more than a dozen visits since 2005 with complaints ranging from selling sick puppies to poor living conditions, according to DAS reports. He was never fined or punished as a result of those complaints.

DAS has operated under the policy of "general practice of taking a voluntary-compliance-through-education approach to its enforcement responsibilities," according to a press released issued in the wake of Perkins' surrender of his animals.

On Townsend's personal list are goals to decrease the number of animals taken in by the shelter through the implementation of pet retention programs; to enforce animal-related laws to protect people an animals; and to battle the ineffectiveness of current citation collection processes.

The public is encouraged to come to the meeting Tuesday evening, Townsend said, and also to contact advisory board members before the meeting. The contact information for the members is located on the DAS website, www.collierpets.com.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at DAS, 7610 Davis Blvd.

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