County tackles animal shelter improvements

Animal Control Director Jerry Collins (Photo by Michael Clifton / www.kombatkamera.com)

The Fayette County Board of Commissioners is continuing its focus on improving the Fayette County Animal Shelter, voting on three key items at Thursday’s meeting.

Animal Control Director Jerry Collins asked the board to adjust the shelter’s policy to update the capacity limit in regards to euthanasia. At a July meeting, a policy was instituted that said an animal could be put down when the shelter is at 75 percent capacity and the animal has been there at least 30 days. Collins asked that the capacity limit be bumped to 85 percent, allowing for two extra cages to be used for adoptable dogs.

“I have listened to concerns from the citizens, and I have looked at my staff and our ability,” said Collins. “I can operate with this change, and I can operate efficiently.”

Commissioner Randy Ognio disagreed with Collins’s assessment. He harkened back to his reluctance to even approve the 75 percent capacity when he pushed for 50 percent. He pointed to the need to use cages in the isolation area, typically used for housing sick or aggressive dogs, to expand the capacity.

“I have a lot of faith in Jerry, but I’m just not wanting to be housing animals in those seven cages in the isolation room,” said Ognio. “If our facility was designed differently, I would say yes, but we’re having to work with what we’ve got. It’s just not something I want to see happen.”

Commissioner Charles Oddo did point out that if staff finds the new capacity limit too limiting, they can come back and request a change.

Collins expressed his confidence in getting the job done in the current facility. With his knowledge of the dogs at the shelter, he knows them well enough that, were a potential adopter be looking for an animal housed in the isolation room, he would bring them outside to meet.

“Honestly, we’re talking about two kennels,” he said. “The way it is now, I can control who can go back there and that is my intention.”

The Board approved the staff recommendation 4-1, Ognio in opposition.

Spay and neuter policy at the shelter was broached, with approval given to direct staff and the Fayette County Attorney to examine the best way to handle updating ordinances and policies to accommodate spay and neutering becoming a requirement for an animal to leave the shelter.

Currently, non-county residents cannot take an animal home until it is fixed, but Fayette residents can, provided they show proof within 30 days. The shelter also provides a voucher good for 50 percent of the cost of the procedure.
Under a concept proposal presented by Collins, adoptable cats and dogs would be spayed or neutered after their five-day stray hold is up. He has reached out to local veterinarians about getting a reduced rate.

Citing a consistent suggestion from the Fayette Humane Society, Commissioner Steve Brown applauded the County listening and responding.

“That’s an example of good strategic thinking and listening to your citizens when they bring up great ideas and implementing what your citizens give you,” said Brown. “I’m behind it 100 percent.”

Collins also proposed raising the adoption fees (from $30 to $120 for dogs and from $20 to $60 to cats) to help fund the spay and neuter program going forward after an initial startup cost. Of the dog fees, $110 would go back into the fund, and $50 of the cat fees would go back into the fund.

“It would be a perpetual thing,” he said. “I should not have to come back to you for more money.”

Though the fees might scare adopters at first, they would actually be saving money compared to what they would pay getting the pets fixed at their own expense.

Updated policies and ordinances, along with adoption fee feedback, will be brought back later for Board approval, likely at the October 26 meeting.

The Board also voted unanimously to connect the shelter to the Peachtree City Water & Sewer Authority’s sewer system network at a cost of $130,000.

Currently, the shelter, which is within Peachtree City city limits, is on a septic system that Collins says consistently has issues.

“And it stinks,” said Brown. “Which is not very conducive to getting people out there and getting them in the mood to adopt an animal. It helps just for that alone.”

Commissioner Charles Rousseau hinted that it might be time that the municipalities help the County out in return for their animal control services they provide. While the county provides those services to the municipalities, none assist the county financially in their work.

“If we are partners in this equation of service delivery, has anybody asked WASA to wave the fee in interest of contributing to the service called animal control?” he asked. “Consider asking our partners to be partners.”

Noting that, in years past, the shelter had only come up in times of dire needs, Brown said he was proud that the voices of residents had spurred change.

“It’s a positive that we really put this on the radar,” he said.

Brown would on to caution against getting stuck in a worst-case scenario mentality in regards to the shelter, noting that firefighters know they can’t handle eight fires in a day and power companies simply couldn’t prepare for the number of outages from a hurricane.

“We do what we have to do, and we get it done,” said Brown. “What we need is an injection of optimism, forward thinking, and strategic thinking around that system, and we need to make sure that what we’re doing is the most effective, efficient way we can do it.”

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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