Shelter deal draws fire from animal supporters

by Sharon Hall  Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A motion to approve a contract allowing the Lumpkin County Animal Shelter to take in dogs from neighboring Dawsonville died for lack of a second last week when the Board of Commissioners met in regular session.

Animal Shelter Director Eddy Harris proposed the contract at the Sept. 1 work session. Harris told the board Dawsonville requested the county’s help after its contract with the Dawson County shelter was not renewed.

“We had an intergovernmental agreement with White County for approximately three years,” Harris said. “We’d be helping out a neighbor.”

Under the agreement all animals surrendered by Dawsonville would be subject to Lumpkin’s policies and guidelines. The shelter would receive $45 per animal to provide shelter/time and euthanasia services.

“It should not negatively impact the budget,” Harris said. “And we can turn animals away.”

“We checked the number of animals their animal control was picking up,” said County Manager Stan Kelley. “Based on the numbers we felt we could hep them out. I recommend we proceed.”

During the public comment portion at the regular meeting, Emily Lewy, President of PAWS, spoke out against the initiative. She said she was surprised Harris suggested it and Kelley approved the move.

“PAWS has worked hard to reduce the number of animals it has been necessary to pick up with our spay/neuter program, and it has been a successful program. Our goal is to have our shelter be able to keep animals until their owner can come get them. We need our shelter to have the space to hold animals longer. They are put down too quickly,” she said. “We shouldn’t be performing a service for out of county animals. Our shelter needs to be helping people in our county. Our shelter is supported by our tax dollars, and it needs to be a good and wonderful place for our own animals.”

A second woman, Carol Pelts, also spoke at the meeting, telling the tale of her experience at the shelter after losing her puppy. The Pelts were away on vacation and their puppy escaped from the pet sitter they had hired.

“I called the shelter and described my puppy and asked if it was there. They told me no. But I wanted to see for myself. I went there and asked again and was told there was no dog like that. I had to insist they let me look,” she said.

Pelts was delighted that she found the dog among the shelter’s animals. She was told by the person at the front desk that she was “lucky,” she said. “My puppy was scheduled to be put to sleep because it had a urinary tract infection.”

When she took her puppy to the vet, she was told that the infection was not severe and that the vet had told the shelter not to euthanize the dog.

“I didn’t experience a lot of compassion from the people at the shelter,” Pelts told the board. “I don’t think there is enough effort being made to adopt and care for our pets at the shelter. What about what happened to Todd Thompson, the man who wanted to adopt a dog and it was already euthanized when he was able to get to the shelter last year?”

Thompson saw a Pet of the Week in The Nugget last November. He visited Roza, the the two-year-old boxer mix, in the shelter and said he told the woman at the front desk he would be back to get the dog. When he returned, Roza had already been put down.

At that time Harris told The Nugget every dog, puppy, kitten and cat at the shelter is in danger of being put down at any time.

“It’s unfortunate, and it’s not something we like to do. We hate it, but it’s a necessary evil. When we are 100 percent full and we get new animals brought in by animal control, by policy we decrease our population to 75 percent,” Harris said.

Harris said shelter records show, however, that over the last two years, of the hundreds of animals euthanized at the facility, “five were put down for time or space.” (The shelter policy is to keep an animal for 30 days before considering them unadoptable and eligible to be euthanized.)

The rest, he said, were for health reasons.

After the motion died for lack of a second, Lewy spoke again during the public comment time at the end of the meeting. She urged commissioners to consider taking photos of all dogs brought in or turned in and posting it on a county website.

“These animals need to be made very public so people can reclaim their pets when they are lost,” she said.

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