CONYERS — In response to an animal advocacy group’s request for Rockdale County to develop a no-kill animal shelter, Recreation and Maintenance Director Sue Sanders made a presentation to the Board of Commissioners on what is being done at Rockdale Animal Control. The presentation was added to the agenda of the BOC’s Jan. 28 meeting.
At the county work session on Jan. 21, Dr. Jim Daugherty, representing the newly-formed Rockdale Animal Advocacy group, presented the board with a petition signed by 500 Rockdale citizens. The petition requested that the BOC appoint an animal shelter task force to assess shelter needs and practices with a view toward taking steps necessary to have a no-kill or life-saving shelter in Rockdale County.
BOC Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. thanked Daughterty and others present for the positive and collaborative manner in which they presented their request and said the county is already working on improvements at the shelter.
In her presentation at the Jan. 28 voting session, Sanders reminded the board that the animal control ordinance was updated in October and the changes took effect Jan. 1.
“We really made clear the tethering (restrictions), we’ve required signs for dogs and invisible fences, we have a leash law now instead of a restraint law,” Sanders said. “Also, if their dog has gotten out and has a second impoundment, they are now required to micro-chip that dog. On the third impoundment, they will be required to spay and neuter that animal. So we’re trying to have people come into compliance more than we are enforcing. We really want people to take care of their pets, take ownership and be accountable for them.”
Sanders said the responses they’ve received from residents have been generally positive.
“We’ve had some really good conversations that have been positive and collaborative,” she said. “Everyone has the best interests of the animals at heart. The concern is we’re not doing enough to get the word out.”
Sanders noted that last year Animal Control had only three officers, with two vacancies, and it took its toll on the department.
“With those three officers rotating on call, they did 2,118 routine calls and 102 after-hour emergency calls,” she said. “On average that’s about 739 calls per officer last year. They had to be in court for cases 297 times. They had 729 hours of overtime and didn’t want anymore.”
Sanders said Animal Control worked with 47 different rescue groups last year and had great relationships with them.
“In April, we had a case with 162 dogs,” she said. “Those dogs were gone within 48 hours, so that just shows the relationships that we have with the local rescue groups.
“They also attended 20 outreach events at homeowner associations, in the schools, day cares, adoption events, and the Halloween Fest.”
Sanders said they are working to fill the vacant positions. Last year the starting pay was $10.99 per hour. Following the market study approved by the BOC, starting pay has increased to $14.84 per hour, and Sanders said they have already filled one vacancy and hope to have the last one filled soon.
Animal Control is also increasing its Facebook outreach and looking at other social media sites. The officers are also using the Quicket software and wrote their first E-citation this week. Quicket is software where E-citations can be written in conjunction with the Magistrate Court.
“We are also working on community events,” Sanders continued. “This year we are going to go out and have events planned for north, south and central Rockdale. We’re looking at locations now. We are looking for people to donate time and services — local veterinarians, etc.
“We are also planning an open house adoption event at the shelter itself. We took some citizens through and gave them a tour a few weeks ago. We want to be able to open it to the public one day.”
There are also plans to expand the current Animal Shelter located at 1506 Rockbridge Road NW in Conyers.
“We have an expansion in planning right now,” Sanders said. “It will be 2,556 square feet of kennel area and 300 square feet of office space. It will be almost double what we have. This is going to be a huge deal. We’ve been working on it and expect to send that out for bid this year.”
Sanders said Animal Control has a lot going on this year and asked for patience from the public.
“This is not an us-versus-them situation,” she said. “I think we all want what is best for our animals. Sixty percent of homes in Rockdale have animals. We all care and we are engaging in collaborative discussions and want to protect their best interests. When you hear about animal control, it is protecting the public, but we also need to protect the animals. So we need to decide what that looks like for Rockdale in the future.”