STRAINED: Emergency Dispatchers Expand Roles As St. Augustine Animal Control Critically Understaffed

Animal control in St. Johns County seems to be in a tight spot these days, with only two control officers responding to all the calls for all of St. Johns County. Just one of those officers may have up to 65 pending requests for cat traps alone.

Not only that, but animal control calls are now being routed to the fire rescue dispatchers, which is affecting call, wait and response times for emergencies involving residents.

"We see a lot of complaints for Animal Control here in town. Not responding, mixed information, things of that sort, and I’m not sure if the general public is aware that Animal Control dispatch is actually the same people who dispatch the Fire Trucks and Ambulances. We are basically inundated with calls every day that are a mix of 911 calls, non-emergency Fire Rescue calls, and Animal Control," says one emergency dispatcher, also adding that only 3 dispatchers today are responsible for all of SJC.

"We’re happy to answer for Animal Control, but it’s gotten to the point that we can’t get people assistance as timely as they deserve it."

Some will tell you it's a lack of funding, others say local government hasn't done enough to make sure that there are adequate resources available (which I guess also comes down to money also).

Another piece of the puzzle is that it is just simply hard to hire dispatchers who can handle the pressure of the job, which is why you may have been consistently seeing posts online, looking to hire dispatchers locally.

We're told that St. Johns Fire Rescue just hired five new dispatchers, two of them quit within the first week.

"We try to give references to other no-kill shelters and even citizens who are willing to donate their free time to help the animals in the county, but as a government entity, we can’t even offer those recommendations anymore."

Whatever the reason, this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed, and fast!

Please keep this in mind if you are calling about an animal control issue, and try not to become frustrated with response times. They are doing everything in their power to get to calls as fast as possible.

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