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Barrow animal control implements changes, improvements

POSTED: June 16, 2014 9:39 a.m.
Bonny Harper/Barrow County News

Gail adopted Rosie from BCAC at the end of last August.

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Barrow County Animal Control has seen several improvements over the past year, many of them due to an increase in volunteer efforts.

The Board of Commissioners recognized BCAC’s volunteers at its meeting this past Tuesday for these improvements, which include cleaner facilities, lower euthanization rates, increased publicity for the animals and better conditions for employees, animals and adopters, among other things.

Jimmy Terrell, Interim Director of BCAC, said in 2013, BCAC impounded 1,092 dogs. Of these, 219 were reclaimed by their owners, and 230 were euthanized. BCAC impounded 1,087 cats in 2013, 10 of which were reclaimed and 661 of which were euthanized.

Percentage-wise, 21 percent of impounded dogs and 60.8 percent of impounded cats were euthanized in 2013, Terrell said.

This year, these numbers have improved, with a 10.1 percent euthanization rate for dogs and a 35 percent rate for cats so far.

Terrell said most euthanized dogs are surrendered by their owners or "bite cases," the release of which dogs would place a liability on BCAC. He added that the only euthanized cats are sick, seriously injured or feral—and there are "a lot of" the latter. No stray or domestic cat has been euthanized since the beginning of the year, he said.

BCAC employs seven workers and services all of Barrow County’s displaced dogs, cats and occasionally other animals such as hamsters, fish or snakes, so volunteers were needed, Terrell said.

Terrell began meeting with two volunteers, Becky Parks and Tamela Boyd, in the spring of 2013 to get a volunteer program up and running, he said. They created volunteer applications, waivers, a training regimen and other necessary components for the volunteer program.

"(The process) wasn’t real smooth, but it wasn’t real rough," Terrell said. "From our point of view, we are an enforcement agency. From theirs, they’re rescuers. But it didn’t take too long to sort it all out."

Boyd, a dog trainer at Pawtropolis and a teacher, said she arranged for a previous Pawtropolis employee to write the protocol for volunteers last summer. Then Boyd, who knew she had to return to teaching in the fall and thus wouldn’t be able to put in as much time at BCAC, worked to train the new volunteers as much as possible so that they could handle things while Boyd was gone.

Terrell said the volunteers do much more than help with cleaning. For instance, many of the volunteers came with experience from other shelters, so they have helped with developing different cleaning procedures, addressing the medical needs and vaccinations of the younger animals, walking the dogs to allow them to exercise and simply being present in the building for when people come to see the animals and the employees are busy.

Not only that, but the volunteers have constructed a website for BCAC, barrowpets.org. The website is run completely by the volunteers, who Terrell said assess the animals’ temperaments and post photos and descriptions online in order to increase the animals’ chances of being adopted.

"The volunteers also have a lot of rescue contacts," Terrell said. "They know people, so more dogs and cats are being rescued than before."

In an effort to offer support for BCAC adopters, Boyd held free dog-training sessions these past two Thursdays for anyone who has adopted a dog from BCAC, and has decided to offer a third free session this Thursday because she "couldn’t possibly teach them all (she) wanted to teach them in two sessions."

Boyd said if there is enough interest from those who missed it, she will consider holding the free classes again. If anyone is interested, Boyd can be reached on BCAC’s Facebook page, "Saving Barrow County Animal Control Pets."

Boyd plans to offer continued training classes for a low rate, she said, the money for which will be used as a donation for vaccines for the animals. BCAC’s goal is to vaccinate dogs less than nine months old and all cats. Toward this end, Boyd said they have vaccinated more than 200 animals since March. All of these vaccines are paid for by donations, Boyd said.

Terrell said the public can do several things to decrease the number of strays and therefore the number of euthanized animals in the county, including microchipping; spaying or neutering; keeping pets within the residence, within a fence or on a leash if outside; not feeding feral cats; being wary of dog bites; and not only initially vaccinating pets, but continuing to update the vaccinations each year.

 

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