More regulation needed at animal shelters

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

By Jack Bernard

Some people like to use the term euthanasia for terminating the life of an unwanted former pet. I don’t. I call it what it is: killing an abandoned or lost pet.

Some counties are “no kill” with adoptions as their focus. This is humane and very costly for counties with limited budgets. Therefore, most Georgia counties have a policy that after a certain period of time, animals will be killed and cremated.

Unfortunately, most likely by design, no state agency keeps up with the number of pets killed in Georgia by county-run Animal Control Departments (as opposed to Humane Society shelters, which do not have a “kill’’ policy) each year, although they should. Instead, because the public outrage would be significant if the numbers were compiled and released statewide, each county supposedly keeps this data.

However, based on my experience as a county commissioner in a rural Georgia county near Atlanta, the accuracy of these numbers is questionable. At least one head of our Animal Control Center just told us what we wanted to hear, not the facts.

But county commissioners are also at fault. Centers are often (always?) understaffed. Three of our five commissioners refused to adequately staff our center. All said they were animal lovers but that the county could not afford the expense and “volunteers” should help out. So, the animals were left on their own a significant part of the time, especially on weekends. After all, the animals couldn’t write a letter of complaint, now could they?

Theoretically, the Georgia Department of Agriculture regulates these shelters. But rather than keeping up with the number of cats and dogs killed, GDOA has a listing of slots in centers by county. Simple to compile and administer and purposefully meaningless.

So, what should be done about this deplorable situation? For starters, our new governor should appoint a committee made up of prominent citizens, including politicians on both sides of the isle, to recommend specific ways to reduce the deplorable killing of our dogs and cats. Possible remedies would include: a. state funding for animal shelters; b. greater regulation by GDOA in general; c. mandated reports to GDOA regarding the number of animals in each shelter and the number put down annually; d. identifying shelter best practices, including mandates such as shelters must be manned at all times; and e. state laws regarding neutering/spaying.