Animal House: Michael Bricker: Animal Care & Protective Services’ New Top Dog

Animal House: Michael Bricker: Animal Care & Protective Services’ New Top Dog
ACPS Chief Mike Bricker with Sleepy, who was adopted in 2023.

Florida newcomer Michael “Mike” Bricker’s optimism and positivity was as welcome as his arrival in September 2023 when he took over as the new chief at Duval County Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS).

When Bricker first arrived, he noted the shelter’s lobby donation bins were often empty. While they are now overflowing with much-needed pet supplies, he still recognizes all of the work still to be done, including a need for transparency inside and outside of the shelter.

In other large cities, the best results have been achieved when the municipal shelter communicates and works cooperatively with its community and interested groups. Bricker said that citizens who feel informed will respond when their help is needed. He called Jacksonville’s caring, supportive animal community, city government, staff, volunteers and fosters the “invaluable” foundation upon which everything else must build. He said they are the resources ACPS needs to help as many homeless dogs and cats as possible.

With that in mind, a fresh start for ACPS is underway. Bricker is deploying new ideas to re-energize those working behind the scenes and encourage citizens to “get every dog and cat possible out of cages and into someone’s home.” His strategies have proven successful at previous shelters to increase live release rates and lower euthanasia statistics.

“When I arrived in Jacksonville and met people, I was surprised about one misconception. There is confusion about who ACPS is,” he said. “When I introduced myself, frequently someone would say, ‘I volunteered there. You’re on Beach Boulevard, right?’”

Bricker said his most important job has been implementing effective, consistent ways to distinguish ACPS and its downtown location from the Jacksonville Humane Society on Beach Boulevard. From a visual standpoint, ACPS can be identified by its use of bright red, from its volunteer and event t-shirts to its dog bandanas imprinted with “I am available for adoption.”

Local animal rescuers and advocates know how important it is that the community understands the differences between the local shelters. ACPS does euthanize when necessary, while the Jacksonville Humane Society is a no-kill shelter. Therefore, adoption and fostering are crucial at ACPS, which remains overcrowded and far above its capacity for dogs and cats.

Mike Bricker holding a kitten, Skittles, at the ACPS facility.
Mike Bricker holding a kitten, Skittles, at the ACPS facility.

The shelter has 264 kennels and more than 300 dogs. Additionally, every day, the shelter receives approximately 30 or more dogs brought for intake as lost, stray, owner surrenders or abuse confiscations. Two dogs were already housed in single-dog kennels before its recent emergency confiscation of 56 abused dogs and puppies.

ACPS is located at 2020 Forest St., on the corner of Margaret Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The shelter has ample free parking and a large public reception area with spacious visitation rooms for meeting adoptable animals.

“We want the community to know that ACPS is the city’s downtown shelter on the Forest Street exit off of I-95. Our website provides information, needs and ways to help,” Bricker said.

Bricker hopes that better community awareness and outreach will help attract more adopters, fosters and volunteers, who are always needed. Volunteers can walk dogs, play with cats, or work on events, marketing or social media efforts, even if only for a few hours. While there are age restrictions for volunteers, free training and dog handling classes are provided, including ongoing support. ACPS will be holding special events during Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 21-27; details will be posted on the ACPS Facebook page.

Volunteers and fosters say Chief Bricker has brought fresh energy and a clear mission to make ACPS the best animal shelter it can be. His goal of high animal-save rates and obvious concern for people and shelter animals reminded volunteers of why they came to help ACPS in the first place.

“I started volunteering with the Kitten Army six years ago to bottle-feed orphan kittens during the spring kitten season,” Pamela Love said. “Michael wants to bring everyone together. He wants people to feel like this is ‘our shelter,’ and we are truly welcome at ACPS.”

While he readily acknowledges it will take time to achieve results, Bricker focuses on solutions. He has already taken decisive moves to implement improvements: the Duval Dog Adoption Squad visiting 8-10 events every weekend; an increased frequency at PetSmart and Subaru dealership pet showcases; Space Force volunteers holding space for high-priority fosters; and animal control officers providing more free, donated supplies to citizens. 

Anyone wishing to get involved through adoption, donation, fostering or volunteering can visit the ACPS Facebook community page or, call (904) 630-2489 or email [email protected].

The shelter is closed on Mondays. ACPS provides all veterinary care for foster pets free of charge at the shelter by appointment.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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