Friday, October 29, 2010

Floyd County Animal Control to suspend volunteer animal rescue operations

Clashes between passion and policy led Floyd County Animal Control to suspend volunteer animal rescue operations at the shelter on Mathis Road.

County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to fund extra hours for a part-time employee to take over the Internet-based Petfinder adoption program from the volunteers.

The shelter also will continue to work with 52 certified rescue groups and accept new rescue organizations that qualify.

“The volunteers have done a tireless job, fielding calls from all over the world to find homes for these animals,” Assistant County Manager Blaine Williams said. “They’ve reversed our euthanasia numbers from 25 percent adopted to 75 percent adopted. But with all those people in the mix, there has been a loss of control over our standard operating procedures.”

The Rome News-Tribune has been talking to county officials and volunteers about the shelter’s operations for several days, in the wake of a flurry of e-mails and complaints about the shelter.

Animal Control Director Jason Broome said Monday some volunteers repeatedly violated Georgia Department of Agriculture policies in their zeal to place animals, even after he asked them to stop.

“You can’t ship dogs from one state to an organization in another without the proper paperwork,” he said. “You need a health certificate and to abide by

all the rules of the state they’re going to.”

Broome said he accepts full responsibility, and he doesn’t want to burn any

bridges with committed local volunteers. But he’s shaken by some of the vicious rumors, virulent e-mails and Internet videos that sprang up when he cracked down on the protocol violations.

County Commissioners also have been fielding numerous inflammatory calls and received forwarded e-mails saying the shelter is a hell hole that murders defenseless animals.

“My e-mail has been burning up, and I can imagine how the (animal control) staff feels,” Commissioner Chad Whitefield said. “It’s already heart-wrenching work.”

Elizabeth Ard, a longtime volunteer and Floyd County Humane Society member, was quick to defend the shelter operations.

“The staff is great. I can’t say enough good things about them. And the inmates who work there are caring and considerate,” she said. “This (fuss) was propelled by one or two people violating paperwork procedure and has nothing to do with harming animals.”

Ard said the “bogus” e-mails are the same she saw four years ago when she and a group of friends decided to start posting local animals to Petfinder.

“The Internet breeds these malicious people — who don’t even live here, but generate bizarre and misleading e-mails,” she said. “People see it, they think it’s true, and this ‘hive mind’ can be destructive.”

Commissioner John Mayes said all but a few of his contacts have been from people outside Georgia, spurred on by out-of-state rescue organizations that don’t qualify for Floyd County adoptions.

He said there are legitimate concerns about turning over animals to uncredentialed groups that choose to work outside their home states.

In other actions Tuesday, the board declared surplus a list of 74 properties acquired through nonpayment of taxes and approved a proposal from J.L. Todd Auction Co. to auction most of the sites before the end of the year.

Williams said the majority are small residential lots, vacant and overgrown. The auction will likely be “absolute,” meaning the county will accept whatever is offered in order to return the tracts to the tax rolls.

Click here to see a list of surplus property to be auctioned.

How to adopt

To adopt a pet from the Floyd County Animal Control shelter, visit the facility at 431 Mathis Road. Those adopting a pet must agree to have the animal sterilized and vaccinated, and adoption fees are $40 for dogs and $35 for cats. Residents who rent or lease must have written permission from their landlord. The shelter is closed on Wednesdays.

County Press Release:

Rome, Ga. – 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.


No comments: