Friday, October 29, 2010

County suspends volunteer services at animal shelter

The Rome News-Tribune has been talking to county officials and volunteers about the animal shelter's operation for the past couple of days in the wake of a flurry of e-mails and complaints to county officials that resulted in the suspension of volunteer services at the shelter this week.

Floyd County released the following statement Tuesday:

Due to unfortunate circumstances, the Floyd County Animal Control volunteer program has been suspended effective immediately. Animal Control will continue to facilitate the rescue of unwanted animals through the 52 pre-approved rescue groups currently registered at Animal Control as well as accept new rescue organizations who qualify.

For the past ten months, Floyd County has attempted to minimize the euthanizations of unwanted animals by working with volunteers at the Animal Shelter to facilitate more rescues. Volunteer tasks included posting pictures of animals on the PetFinder website, fielding inquiries, and arranging rescues for these animals. Floyd County has standard operating procedures and protocols for all involved to follow, both to ensure the safety of the animals, as well as to limit any legal or regulatory exposure of Floyd County.

“Because of the sheer volume of animals, the number of rescue organizations involved, and limited staff, a certain degree of trust is invested in the volunteers to follow these procedures,” said Blaine Williams, Assistant County Manager. “While many of the volunteers have performed a tireless job and are very well-intentioned, these procedures haven’t been carefully followed, despite repeated reminders from staff. Among others, reference-checking has been delegated to others outside of Floyd County, animal tags have been falsified, and licenses apparently used improperly in the rescue of animals. The failure to follow these procedures has ultimately resulted in animals from the Animal Shelter being transported to uncertified rescues and persons who are not legally compliant in their home cities/counties, as well as creating the potential of regulatory issues with the Georgia Department of Agriculture (DOA), the agency that inspects and gives Animal Control its license to operate.”

In addition, despite staff efforts to work closely with the volunteers and the locally unprecedented number of rescues accomplished through this partnership, the amount of negative rumors, e-mail, internet videos, press releases, phone calls and slanderous comments against the Animal Control operation and individual staff has dramatically increased.

“Primarily all of the complaints have been placed by persons who live out of the area/state and have never been to the Floyd County Animal Control Shelter,” said Williams. “The accusations cited in these complaints have come from unknown sources who have deliberately misrepresented the state of the Shelter, with the result of severely hampering the ability of Animal Control staff to continue with the day-to-day operations.”

“We are confident in the abilities of the staff to continue organizing rescues and they will now begin posting pictures, etc of animals up for adoption on these sites in efforts to keep the adoption/rescue numbers up,” said Williams.

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