MILTON — Team Shelter USA has been in town this week providing a free assessment of the Santa Rosa County Animal Services department. Team Shelter USA is a national, full-service, animal welfare consulting firm helping funders, organizations and municipal leaders implement best practices. The assessment, normally a $30,000 expense was free with the help of A HOPE for Santa Rosa County founder Brandi Winkleman.

The assessors, Team Shelter USA founder Dr. Sara Pizano, Cameron Moore of the University of Florida and Dr. Meaghan Milo, intern at Maddie's Fund shelter medicine program have met with animal services staff and county officials in order to complete the assessment.

"We complete assessments for public shelters," said Pizano, "normally shelters with high euthanasia rates."

Her organization has completed 60 shelter assessments throughout the country.

Pizano said Team Shelter USA develops a unique strategy for each client by building a foundation of best practices. The process starts by reviewing public policy and ordinances, then managing intake at the shelter. When creating strategies, she uses every resource available to get animals out of the shelter: adoption, fostering, and trap-neuter-release. But, navigating those resources can be overwhelming.

"There are as many resources as there are stars," Pizano said.

Team Shelter can package those resources to create the best strategy. Pizano is currently writing a book called the "Best Practice Playbook."

Pizano said she was encouraged by the leadership at Santa Rosa County Animal Services.

"Brad Baker just took over animal services and he has already started implementing best practices," she said.

"We have been interacting with the assessment and look forward to their report mid month and go from there," Brad Baker said.

Once the report is reviewed, Baker will present the information to commissioners sometime in December.

Animal Protection Program News

The Animal Protection Program at King Middle School painted portraits of shelter dogs and cats and are selling them for $40. The APP sold several of the portraits at Barktoberfest and they still have some available.

"I was very happy with the fundraiser," Becca Shaw said. Shaw is the sixth grader that founded the APP. If you are interested in purchasing a painting, please call: 850-712-0764.

A HOPE for Santa Rosa County News

The pet food pantry is opening at the Paw Pad, 5755 Washington Street in Milton. Here are the requirements:Animal has to be fixed

Current on rabies shots No more animals while on the program This program is not for TNRcommunity cats Proof of income Proof of residency Identification

Spayneuter transports have started again, for more information: transport@AHOPE4SRC.com