Citing the recent contentious animal ordinance talks as the impetus, Chairman Eric Maxwell asked County Administrator Steve Rapson to give an extensive update at Thursday’s County Board of Commissioners meeting on a number of topics related to the animal shelter.
In an effort to increase adoptions, Rapson vowed that shelter staff is making posting animals online in a timely manner a high priority.
“I think we’re starting to get that right,” he said. “We’ve not done a great job before.”
Staff has been instructed to take a photo of the animal the first day it comes in and post it to their intake Facebook page to help reunite lost pets.
“That’s very critical to the owners that are looking for the animal, and it also gives you a heads up on the animals that will become adoptable on day six.”
After their five-day stray hold ends, they would then be adoptable to the public. On day six, local rescue groups will be notified, and the animal’s adoption profile can be posted online. They are also looking into how best incorporate video of adoptable animals.
Staff is implementing a behavioral assessment process that will be ongoing as each animal is in the shelter.
“We’re trying to figure out, in essence, some type of classification or rating system for adoptability,” he said.
Adoptability would then play a role in determining what animal be put down if it came to it when they have been there 30 days or more and the shelter is at capacity.
The county will be applying for a $25,000 and a $10,000 grant to help implement a spay-neuter program for animals in the shelter. Currently, if an adopter resides outside the county, it is mandated that the animal be fixed before leaving the shelter, but, if the adopter lives in the county, they can take them home intact and are given 30 days to get the animal fixed. Rapson said that a look at their stats showed very few did not comply with the 30-day window.
“One of the things that we’re evaluating is how we implement spay-neuter throughout the county,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is evaluate the best option to try to take that and kick start that program in our shelter.”
The shelter building itself and what changes could be made was a surprising topic to some.
Rapson reached out to Reeves & Young Construction, who built the recently-opened DeKalb County animal shelter to get a general idea on what an improved or new facility could cost Fayette. They came back with three concepts: Updating the current building, expand the current building, or build an entirely new building.
The renovation option would see the current 16 dog runs replaced by a reconfigured 40 runs as the bulk of the changes with an estimated price tag of $346,800. Option two would add a wing onto the facility with 24 additional dog runs at a cost of $1,012,400. Option three would be to tear down and start anew for roughly $1.5 million. It could possibly be moved to somewhere in the City of Fayetteville given the high property value of its current Peachtree City location. Any option would likely require a new sewer system.
Data analysis has them shooting for 40 dog runs as an optimal number, up from their current 26. A reconfigured shelter would also ease the burden on staff in terms of capacity and make operations more efficient.
Staff expressed a willingness to raise the capacity mark for the shelter to 85 percent, up from 75, or adding two cages. Currently under the new policy, if the dog runs are at 75 percent full, that is considered capacity and dogs that have been there 30 dogs or longer could be euthanized.
Animal Control Director Jerry Collins noted that, while he wants the flexibility of some open cages should a rush of dogs come in, he is open to 85 percent.
“I can manage 85. I don’t have a problem with 85. My staff can manage 85.”
Commissioner Steve Brown was surprised that talk jumped so quickly to a new building after the ordinance revisions were killed.
“You’re totally negating the option that I’ve been working on with the Humane Society, which is to do the revisions and work on creating an advisory council,” said Brown, noting that it was the advisory council who helped get the new DeKalb shelter built. “We may not need a massive structure. We may be able to reprogram and reinvigorate the volunteer base.”
The cost of having the county attorney review the ordinances was cited as one reason for stopping the revisions, and that left a bad taste in Brown’s mouth.
“The previous discussion was we don’t have a couple grand to pay an attorney to help us finish some ordinances, and now we’re looking at $1.5 million (for a new building),” said Brown, pointing out that a new shelter was never part of the animal advocates’ plan previously. “I’ve got whiplash here.”