Having worked in animal control/public sheltering for nearly 20 years, get to know Founding Member Scott Trebatoski!
Department DirectorHillsborough County Pet Resource CenterTampa, Florida
Tell us about you and your history in animal welfare.
ST: I’m originally from Wisconsin where I worked in retail management for a large $1 billion+ sales retailer before returning full-time to graduate school for my MBA. From there I went on to working in the HR field and eventually found myself working for Lee County government in Florida. In an unusual turn of events I ended up working to fix human resources problems in the Animal Services Department. Shortly after starting in this field I was tapped to be president of the Florida Animal Control Association and I was appointed by the Governor of Mississippi to run the companion animals response for the entire state of Mississippi for two weeks following Hurricane Katrina. From that point I have stayed in the public sheltering and animal control field in Florida – Lee County, Jacksonville and now Hillsborough County.
I am an expert in government relations, writing and getting ordinances passed, innovative programs including collaborations between government and private organizations, HR challenges in this field, emergency management and response to hurricanes, community cat programs, turning around public shelters from high-kill to low-kill status in a quick timeline, and a number of other skills learned in over 20 years of working as director of a public animal control and sheltering operations with intake between 15,000 and 20,000+ annually.
What's an accomplishment you're most proud of in your career?
ST: My greatest accomplishment is having been able to take two deep south public animal shelters from less than 50% live outcomes to 90%+ live outcomes. Showing that the program established in the first community could be sustained after I left and showing that sound principles applied in vastly different communities will still result in solid live outcome programs.
After working in Jacksonville for a number of years making that community no-kill, I was able to build a team in Hillsborough County that took live outcomes from 48% to 70% in 9 months on the way to the current 92%+ live outcomes for dogs and around 90% overall.
The second most important accomplishment I am very proud of is being part of the first full-scale government backed community cat program in Jacksonville and seeing other communities take on that model across the nation.
Name something related to shelters and animal welfare that you are super passionate about and want others to learn about?
ST: I'm really passionate about showing communities that think it’s too difficult or too expensive to try to become leaders in live outcomes through government operations that very simple and low-cost changes can make huge impacts on the live outcomes in their community. From opening up the adoption and rescue programs, to adding community cat management, to modernizing overall operations at often little to no net cost increase to their operations.
We accomplished a major turnaround in Jacksonville during the peak of the Great Recession where our budget and staffing were cut to the bone, yet we accomplished high live outcomes and program innovations not previously seen in government operations. It’s been amazing to travel to small and rural communities to show them how very simple changes that they have overlooked or felt would have no real impact can dramatically improve their operations and live outcome success.
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn.
ST: I have no formal background in animal sheltering, welfare or other related field when I began in this profession. My tactic was to establish a good business operations plan along with cost-benefit analysis to improve operations. It nearly cost me my job within the first few months in this field because at the time, twenty years ago, people didn’t feel animal welfare and shelter management should be business based but should focus 100% on animal welfare issues without regard to the “business operations” – and that cost-benefit analysis somehow would be detrimental to animal welfare in the community.
However, by the time I was prepared to move on from that first community the very people and groups that wanted to see me run off for mentioning I was planning to run our operations as a business were the same people pleading with the local government to try to keep me there.
Who is your "animal welfare crush?"
ST: My working relationship with Dr. Julie Levy and Dr. Cynda Crawford are unparalleled and the amazing things that they have helped collaborate with me and my shelters have been nothing short of amazing. Without their work, support and collaboration I’m not sure that there would have been the levels of success I have led in Jacksonville and Hillsborough County. I find them invaluable in this profession and amazing in their dedication and passion.
I would be less than honest, however, if I didn’t also mention Aimee Sadler and her Dogs Playing for Life leadership. After seeing her presentation at a Best Friends conference I was enthralled with the concept of dogs socializing each other and I immediately went back to my shelter to start the program the very next day. So much is learned through playgroups and so much benefit is achieved from this time for dog-to-dog socialization that it simply amazes me that we had not been doing this before. It is one of the most cost effective enrichment programs with vast benefits I’ve seen in my career. So my “animal welfare crush” is not one person but three very impactful professionals that have helped me be more successful.
Visit Hillsborough County Pet Resources Foundation
Thanks so much for the wonderful interview and all the amazing things you do for animals, Scott!
The leadership and innovation you bring into our industry is so very important and we can't wait to learn more about you and your work on the forum.
If you have a question for Scott or want to learn more about how he's consistently been able to increase live outcomes, leave them in the comments below!
I'm a huge fan of your work, and very happy to see this feature. We're lucky to have you in animal welfare!
Thank you. It has been challenging at times, difficult and depressing at times, but in the end more and more pets are being saved so that brings the joy and makes it all worth while.
What are you doing now to reduce the killing of cats at this shelter? There are still too many dying sadly. What new programs have you implemented to try to increase feline live outcome rate?
Cats are still our biggest area for working to improve. We are unable to fully utilize the robust return to field practices of some communities due to strong veterinary opposition and other political concerns. So we have relied heavily on a great cat rescue community and we do a huge amount of direct adoptions. Our biggest cat issue is neonatal kittens. Even though we can have 800+ kittens out in foster during peak times we still don’t have enough rescue space or resources for all of them. We have implemented a “Wait until 8” program where we provide the resources to private citizens so that they can care for the litters they bring in until they are 8 weeks of age, then they bring them to us for sterilization. Most of those kittens have found homes before we sterilize them so they don’t impact our shelter efforts. Our next push is to look at an expanded cat sterilization program run and provided by us to the public. Around 52% of our cat intake is kittens and nearly 60% of our euthanasia of cats is kittens (mainly neonatal). It’s a real challenge for a public shelter since we don’t have the ability to provide a nursery or 24-hour a day care. We continue to look for new and better ways to address cats, but not too many years ago over 75% didn’t make it out of the shelter and now it’s right around 10-11%. We’d like to see that cut at least in half in the next few years.
Please do as much spay/neuter of owned cats in your community as possible. It will move the needle dramatically with kitten intake(which seems to be your biggest issue right now). We still need so much more spay/neuter funding for the owned as well as the un-owned cat community. Keep doing an excellent job.
This was a wonderful read! Thank you, Scott! And congratulations for all of your accomplishments!