About 1,500 pets pass through the Coweta County Animal Shelter in a typical year, and the county is looking at ways to improve the process, especially for animals.
The gears are moving forward on a major project that could alleviate chronic overcrowding issues that frequently interfere with the shelter’s compliance with Department of Agriculture animal occupancy guidelines.
Officially, the shelter was built to house 92 dogs and 92 cats. The original dog pens had indoor and outdoor sections separated by a swinging door, installed to allow a single dog to move freely between the sections.
Several years ago, the shelter increased its capacity by splitting the large runs into two runs, with one dog inside and one outside. Rolling doors have been installed in front of the tracks so that in winter the gates can be closed to keep the cold and wind out, and there are heaters for each outdoor track.
But the limit is 134 dogs and when the Department of Agriculture inspected the facility in mid-August, 151 dogs were housed there. New guidelines implemented in 2019 limit how long dogs are allowed to be housed in crates, and while the shelter manages to comply without euthanizing the animals, it’s an annual struggle.
Local rescue organizations are struggling to find enough people willing to take in pets and help ease overcrowding. They say the county outgrew its current setup years ago. They advocate for a separate, more family-friendly adoption center where potential adopters could visit adoptable animals with plenty of room to see, visit and bond.
The plans are now in the hands of an architect, but with the project at least a year or two away from completion, other back-up routes are now needed. Two large dog parks have been divided into four smaller parks so that more dogs can be exercised at the same time.
Rescue organizations are still urgently looking for foster homes for cats and dogs, and the county is still offering a flat $25 adoption fee for all animals, which includes spaying or neutering, vaccination and an identification chip.
To attract potential adoptees, shelter dogs and cats are frequently featured in local media, website galleries and social media – including a new Coweta County Animal Services Facebook page created and populated primarily by office manager LaKina Gay, who features adoptable pets, pets that have found their forever homes, and even the shelter office’s Pet of the Day.
Paintings of pets colored by local children, footprints on the ground, photos of adopted pets and their forever families and other welcoming touches are constantly added to encourage visitors and visitors. potential adopters.
It’s not an idea, county officials say, but it’s come a long way from where the shelter was located when Gay started working there.
“When I was there, someone would come and adopt a dog and we would give them a voucher to get the animal repaired, and they would bring the paperwork back to us,” said Gay, who is now based a few two feet away, in the office of Coweta County Jail Warden Larry Clifton. “That’s how we started. Now we are at the point where you get a fully controlled dog.
And he’ll probably have at least some training, thanks to the inmates assigned to animal care. Workers assess personalities, level of training (and work with them on further training while waiting to be adopted). They can help best match an animal to a potential adopter, and that adopter can expect their animal to be up-to-date on their vaccines, microchipped and neutered, clean, fed, and exercised.
“When a citizen walks in, they can say, ‘This is what I’m looking for,’ and (the inmates) know exactly which dog or which cat to go to,” Gay said.
Inmates’ work with shelter animals can also earn them a technical certificate, once they have put in a required number of hours and become proficient in certain tasks.
“We’ve had two or three stints at work jobs for vets,” Clifton said.
Administrative changes are also underway for animal services. Clifton said after numerous meetings with stakeholders, county officials and employees, there were plans to move adoptable animals to the new center when it was built, making the Selt Road shelter an animal-only facility. admission, and dividing supervisory duties between two positions: facilities supervisor and code enforcement supervisor.
“Right now they’re trying to do it all in one,” Clifton said. “That would make one person responsible for the shelter, surgery and hospitality sides, and then you can separate that from code enforcement. It will provide better service. »
Not all positions would require sworn officers either, allowing for an opportunity for career advancement that did not previously exist.
“In the past, there was nowhere to go. But now everyone doesn’t have to be a certified officer anymore, so everyone has a chance for advancement,” Clifton said.
Bringing everyone who cares about animals into the conversation has been hugely productive, said Clifton, who paid tribute to former manager Bill McKenzie – who retired last year and was recently elected to the board of commissioners of Coweta County – for improvements and innovation in animal services. over the past decades.
“It was his passion,” Clifton said. “And now everyone is aiming for the same common goal.”