TAVARES – Lake County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to take over the county’s animal shelter  from the Sheriff's Office in January.

The enforcement of animal codes, however, will remain under the sheriff, while the county solely is responsible for the shelter.

County Manager David Heath informed board members Tuesday that the majority of employees who came to the shelter from the Sheriff's Office would seek to remain with the Sheriff's Office.

If that happens, the county will have to fill as many as 18 positions in the shelter, according to Heath.

“As the number of animals go up, we need to respond to that by ramping up our efforts to get our animals out faster,” Heath said. “The board has talked about a rescue coordinator, and we had mixed results with outsourcing vets.”

Heath said he recommended the board keep a full-time vet rather than having a part-time one.

“We are going to have to recruit a manager for the division,” he said.

When Borders supervised the shelter, he did not hire a manager, according to county officials.

Heath has suggested that the County Commission hold a workshop to decide whether to adopt a no-kill policy.

Borders took over operation of Animal Services in 2014 at the request of the County Commission, which had been plagued by missteps and high euthanization rates at the shelter.

The head of the Animal Services division announced her resignation in March, 2014, citing a tight budget and public pressure over the department’s euthanization rate. Cyndi Nason was the second director of Animal Services to resign within a year.

Nason and Marjorie Boyd both resigned amid pressure from animal activists, who claimed the shelter was putting down too many animals.

Before Nason took the position in May, 2013, two internal audits — one focused on the shelter’s record keeping and the other on pet licensing laws — cited at least 45 areas for improvements.

But the public criticism was only a partial reason for the resignations. Funding shortfalls kept the county from hiring a field supervisor and rescue coordinator to help take the pressure off the director.

In July 2014, two follow-up audits on Lake County Animal Services found the shelter still had problems with cash management, record keeping, proper recording of liens and facility needs.

Borders acknowledged in 2014 that mistakes were made during Jacquelyn Johnston’s tenure as the Animal Services director, leading to adoptable pets being euthanized.

In the nine days Johnston oversaw Animal Services, the center euthanized 147 animals, according to Herrell. On Oct. 9, 2014, sheriff’s officials learned she euthanized 18 dogs and two cats. Borders said at the time the majority of animals euthanized were sick or vicious.

Since then, the shelter has encountered other challenges.

The shelter closed its adoption activities for 10 days in June after it learned that two adult dogs and one puppy were afflicted with parvovirus — a life-threatening illness that affects the intestinal tract. The two adult dogs were euthanized.

A parvovirus outbreak in August 2015 resulted in 16 dogs being euthanized.

An animal expert questioned if shelter officials were taking the right measures to avoid parvo.

Other animal experts also have concerns about the latest data report from the sheriff computing the percentage of animals that leave the shelter alive, known as the live release rate. The numbers, which are calculated based on the Asilomar Live Release Rate, a uniform method for collecting and reporting shelter data, simply do not add up based on the formula, experts said.

Commission Chairman Sean Parks said it was essential to reach out to volunteers and experts that “work so passionately and diligently for the sake of animal wellness in Lake County and keep them a part of the process from the beginning.”

Moreover, Campione added it was important to speak with nonprofit organizations such as the South Lake Animal League about potential partnerships.

“Partnering with local nonprofits is critical to the mission of saving animals’ lives and conserving public dollars,” she said.

Campione said after the meeting she was in favor of hiring a rescue coordinator.

“A rescue coordinator is essential because the key to reducing euthanasia is to facilitate and promote the adoption of pets, which requires constant coordination,” she said. “The second essential component is a more aggressive spay and neuter program.”