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Group asks commissioners to advance with animal shelter

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Posted: June 18, 2008 8:34 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    With more animals coming in than going out, the Statesboro-Bulloch County Animal Shelter is closed to incoming animals more than it is open, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
    He, along with Bulloch County Humane Enforcement officers, shelter employees and members of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Humane Society spoke during Tuesday’s Bulloch County Commission meeting, asking commissioners to consider moving ahead with plans for a new shelter, which are slated for funding by the 2007 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
    The current building, located on Mill Creek Road off U.S. 301 North, is “several decades old, in constant need of repair,”  and much too small, Wynn said. The shelter facility is overcrowded, noisy, and there is no “get-acquainted or counseling areas” for potential adoptive families to spend time with animals.
    The shelter experiences “weekly shut-downs” because there is no room for more incoming dogs and cats, and regulations concerning euthanasia and slow adoption rates make it hard to keep the shelter open for incoming animals, he said.
    The cramped areas are “difficult to work in, there is limited storage and poor air exchange, poor sewage disposal and porous housing materials,” he said.
    A “new, state of the art” facility will encourage citizens to visit and adopt, Wynn said.
    Showing photos of the current shelter as well as those from shelters in Jonesboro, N.C. and Vero Beach, Fla.,  Wynn said a “thrift shop” inside the  new facility would generate revenue. The new shelter he and others envision would “expand humane education and be a resource for the community,” a place where students could visit, he said.
    The county already has the property, adjacent to the current shelter, and Wynn said the future facility would be a “true and positive community center for animals and people.”
    Adoptable animals would be shown in a more homelike environment instead of wire cages where they can see — and bark at — other animals, he said.
    The new facility would have a clinic, exam and surgery areas and officials are considering future spay and neuter services, too, he said.
    With not much room at all currently, employees would have a better work environment in a new facility with a kitchen and conference room, he said.

Overcrowding, angry citizens
    Bulloch County Humane Enforcement Supervisor Joey Sanders told commissioners the new facility is an urgent need.
    “Every year the number of animals in the community grows ... including aggressive and stray animals,” he said. The shelter took in 445 dogs and cats in May, but the number adopted was far less. “We have to shuffle (the animals) around and stay overcrowded.”
    Almost 3,000 animals came through the shelter last year “and every year that number is growing,” he said. “We’re really needing a bigger facility for  the animals.”
    Some animals in the shelter aren’t strays. Dogs and cats that bite people must be quarantined at the shelter until the results of rabies testing are returned.
    “We have four to five bite cases as well, and (the animals) must be quarantined,” Sanders said.
    Animals brought in for bite cases must be safely contained. “It’s very important these animals don’t escape from us.” A new facility would include a sally port where employees could drive inside, and if an animal did escape the holding cage it would still be inside an enclosure, he said.
    Shelter Manager Wendy Joiner told commissioners “We’re open six days a week, but only two or three of  those days we take in animals. The other days we are shut down, full.” People bringing in animals for surrender get angry when they are turned away, she said.
    Sanders told commissioners most people turned away do not take their unwanted animals home, but drop them off somewhere in the county. That’s when other citizens call to complain, and the shelter is still full, so officers have nowhere to place animals they pick up.
    A full shelter, with noisy dogs, is overwhelming and affects adoptions. If a new shelter were built, dogs could be kept where they do not see each other, and in an environment where they would not be prompted to bark and whine, he said.
    As it is in the current shelter, people are overwhelmed by overcrowded pens and dogs barking for attention as well as challenging other dogs.  Children become scared and parents leave without adopting a pet, he said. “We see this just about every other day.”
    Local veterinarian Dr. Stan Lee, who works with the shelter, also spoke to commissioners, asking for consideration in moving ahead with the shelter plans.
    Leslie Sprando, humane society member and a member of  the shelter advisory committee, also spoke, mentioning the $500,000  in 2007 SPLOST money allotted for the shelter’s construction.
    She asked the county to hire an architect to design the shelter “so we can know how much money we need to have the shelter we need.” She also suggested using inmate labor for the project.
    Commission  Chairman Garrett Nevil suggested the committee seek other means of finding shelter blueprints that would be free, thus saving the cost of hiring an architect and reserving funds for the actual construction.
    After the SPLOST money is collected, the building construction should begin by 2009 or 2010, said Bulloch County Manger Tom Couch.

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