How Sheriff Wayne Ivey Is Making a Difference in the Lives of Shelter Animals

Shelter animals are one of the most difficult to place in forever homes. They are also the most frequently returned. It’s an epidemic across the nation, as well as in many other countries. Here in Brevard County, Sheriff Wayne Ivey is taking action to help these homeless animals.

The Sherrif’s Office took over the Animal Services and Enforcement Department in October 2014 in hopes that it would lead to improvements within the agency. Since that time, Ivey has made huge strides in the city’s treatment of shelter animals.

In the beginning, probably the largest concern the agency faced was the number of euthanizations among the animals in their care. The good news is those numbers have steadily decreased each year since the takeover (from 4,869 in 2013 to 160 in 2017). They were also concerned with animal care and facilities, among other issues.

Getting Started

One of the first things Ivey did was to enlist the aid of inmates to walk dogs in order to supplement shelter volunteers and free up staff for other duties. So far, it’s been a great success, with incarceration studies showing it’s beneficial to both groups.

He also pledged to “build coalitions with private organizations involved in animal-related issues” and to seek ways to raise more funds to supplement the growing costs of animal services, through donations and sponsorships.

At the time, Ivey was quoted in Florida Today: “Animal control and animal services are vital parts of our community. By the end of next year, we want this to be a model for other agencies. I feel very confident in our team.”

Making Progress

In January 2018, county commissioners unanimously approved new animal control rules proposed by the sheriff. They include establishing a spay/neuter trust fund, a new public education program, tethering guidelines for canines left outside and others. The measures are designed to improve the lives of animals and residents.

Now essentially a no-kill facility, since it has a live-release rate of 90 percent or higher versus the 55 percent when the transition occurred, more animals than ever are waiting for adoption.

Rescuing an animal is a gift. More people are adopting rather than buying from breeders than ever before, and many of them say the animals rescued them, not the other way around.

Shelter animals have just as much to offer as pedigreed pooches, if not more. They are frequently so grateful to be out of the noise and madness that prevails in most shelters and rescue facilities that they make the loyalist of pets who want nothing more than to be loved and the chance to give back.

Animal Adoptions

Beth Digiorgio of Malabar miraculously rescued her family’s dog, Sasha, twice from Animal Services. The first time was in 2009 when Sasha was just 1 year old, and they adopted her for their son Nick. After Beth thought they’d lost Sasha forever, an incredible reunion took place after 5 ½ months apart. Beth spoke of how loyal Sasha is and how the animal literally saved her life in 2017.

Awards & Accolades

In February 2018, members of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services Unit received recognition at the Florida Animal Control Association Awards for their outstanding innovation, dedication and commitment to finding forever homes for homeless pets. They were presented with the “Outstanding Cooperative Team Achievement Award.”

Soon after in April, Ivey and his team received national attention as recipients of the prestigious Maddie Hero Award and a $10,000 grant given in recognition of “the ‘top dogs’ in communities that are not only advancing the welfare of companion animals in the United States, but are leading the way with their innovative ideas, progressive thinking and lifesaving actions.”

Relying heavily on staff—like Director of Animal Services Joe Hellebrand and veterinarian Dr. Sarah Boyd—and volunteers, Ivey has given credit where credit is due.

“We were able to put an amazing team together—a team that consists of staff, volunteers, rescues and other animal welfare organizations—and I’m smart enough to stay out of their way and let them do what they do best: save animals,” he says.

Community Involvement

The agency also counts on support from community members. AJ Hiers, of Boniface Hiers Motor Group, has been purchasing food for the shelter animals since the 2014 transition, helping to feed more than 24,607 animals in the process. A promoter of “Adopt Don’t Shop,” he’s also brought in volunteers and resources, paid adoption fees for the month of December and donated $10,000 to build the shelter’s dog park.

Other contributors to the cause include Aubree, 3, and Cadance, 4, daughters of Eric and Nikki Gould, who have made it a family tradition to request donations for BCSO’s animal shelter in lieu of personal gifts. The two have donated more than 10,000 pounds of food and supplies to the shelter so far through their efforts.

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