What's Luck Got to Do with It?

by Sherrie Hines, AthensPets

 Wilma is hoping for some luck of her own at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. Photo: Susan Hawkins

Wilma is hoping for some luck of her own at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. Photo: Susan Hawkins

Volunteers and staff at shelters everywhere are often asked why a certain animal has been at the shelter so long. "Is there something wrong with them?" we'll often hear potential adopters ask. Many people assume that if a dog or cat has been at the shelter for a number of months, it means that the animal isn't desirable for some reason, but the reality is that luck often has more to do with it than much of anything else. Many times otherwise-wonderful animals get stuck at the shelter for a long time because they had the bad luck to come down with an illness. Dogs who are positive for heartworms may stay with us for two to three months while they receive heartworm treatment. Since they aren't allowed to exercise much while they're undergoing treatment, it can make it hard for them to interact with potential adopters. Cats, and even young kittens, can come to the shelter with ringworm, which is easily-treatable except that it takes a long time. A friendly six-week-old kitten who ends up with an upper respiratory infection or ringworm may spend one to three months just trying to recover, through no fault of their own. 

But outside of illness, luck still plays a huge role in the outcomes for our animals, even in something as simple as where they are housed during their stay at the shelter. A dog in a kennel on the front side of the shelter will likely have more exposure than a dog placed in a back kennel. We've noticed that cats in the bottom kennels seem to be overlooked more often than those at eye-level. It's one of the reasons that we move cats around sometimes, to give the public a better chance to view them. This is especially a problem for our black cats; they all but disappear in the darker bottom kennels, so we always try to place them higher if possible. 

The most important element of luck, though, comes down to who happens to come in the door on any given day. When we have that one special person come in looking for a bonded pair of cats, that's when our long-term kitties like Meatball and Oprah finally find their perfect home. When we have a family looking for a devoted pup to join their family as an only pet, that's when our more selective dogs find a home. Sometimes our pets get adopted because they were lucky enough to go to an outreach event, and that one special someone was there to meet them, too. Even more of our pets find their homes because one of our Facebook followers happened to share their profile, and one of their friends has a friend who was looking for a new furry family member. Networking makes such a difference for our pets.

At the end of the day, we know that all of our shelter animals have the potential to thrive in the right home. They just need a little luck to help their perfect family find them. Still think that there's something wrong with an animal who's been at the shelter for a long time? Well, we also hear stories time and again from our rescue partners where they've rescued some of our long-term pets, taken them straight to an adoption event and had them adopted into good homes within a day or two of leaving the shelter. It's one of the many reminders that no matter how long our animals have been at the shelter, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. 

So take a moment to help our shelter animals improve their odds. Share their information with your friends, stop by and see all of the animals (not just the cutest ones at the front), and take time with the ones that may not catch your eye immediately. With a little luck and a lot of love, we know that our shelter animals have a bright future ahead of them, and we know that while they may not be able to make their own luck, you absolutely can. 

New Animal Control Ordinance Effective September 1, 2017

1465_Honor.JPG

Athens-Clarke County approved a new ordinance this summer after being approved during the July 2017 commission meeting. This ordinance will be effective beginning September 1, 2017 and will be updated to include cats as part of the ordinance once approved in future commission meetings.

AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND THE CODE OF ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY, GEORGIA WITH RESPECT TO ANIMAL CONTROL; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

The Commission of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia hereby ordains as follows:

SECTION 1. Subsection (a) of section 4-1-18 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Disposition of impounded animals” is hereby amended by adding thereto the words “to offer the animal for adoption in accordance with Sec. 4-1-22”, so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-18 is: 

“Sec. 4-1-18. - Disposition of impounded animals. 

“(a) If an animal remains unclaimed within the prescribed amount of time, then the superintendent of the animal control division, or his designees, shall be authorized to dispose of such animal in as humane and painless a manner as possible, to offer the animal for adoption in accordance with Sec. 4-1-22, or to donate such animal to a non-profit institution or agency for the purpose of humane placement or rescue.”  SECTION 2. Section 4-1-21 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled 

“Redemption of impounded animals” is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following new section 4-1-21 is inserted in lieu thereof:

“Sec. 4-1-21. - Redemption of impounded animals. 

“(a) It shall be the responsibility of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division to attempt to notify the owner or feral cat colony caretaker, if known, or can be reasonably ascertained, of every animal impounded, by telephone if possible, or by mail or by written notice at the residence of the owner within two working days of the impoundment. 

“(b) The owner or feral cat colony caretaker of the animal may claim and take custody of the animal within five days of such impoundment by the payment of required fees and the cost of inoculations and veterinary services, including microchipping if provided pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. After five days, the animal shall be deemed abandoned and shall be the property of Athens-Clarke County, and disposed of only pursuant to section 4-1-18 or section 4-1-22, as applicable. 

“(c) From and after September 1, 2017, all dogs or cats other than feral cats reclaimed under this section shall be microchipped before leaving impoundment at the animal control division, with the identification number from the animal’s microchip recorded in Animal Control Division records. 

“(d) From and after September 1, 2017, no dog shall be released from impound by the Animal Control Division, more than once unless, prior to release, it is spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense, unless the reclaiming owner:

“(l) shows proof of a breeding license issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and all local business permits or ce1tificates applicable to a commercial dog breeding business, or 

“(2) provides written certification from a licensed veterinarian citing a high likelihood that the dog will suffer serious bodily harm or death due to age or specified infirmity if the dog is spayed or neutered and the date, if any, on which such restriction shall end, in which case the owner shall, in writing, agree that such animal will be sterilized within 30 days from such date with proof provided promptly to the animal control superintendent. If timely proof of spay or neuter is not received, the dog shall be subject to confiscation unless prior to the expiration of the agreed period the owner provides an updated veterinary certification as set forth above and the owner enters into a new sterilization agreement under the same terms.

“( e) Any person reclaiming a dog that, after September 1, 2017, has been impounded for the first time, shall acknowledge in writing prior to taking custody of the dog the requirements of this ordinance that upon any subsequent impound, the animal shall not be released unless it is spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.” 

SECTION 3. Subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Adoption of animals” is hereby amended by deleting the words “unclaimed after five days following impoundment” and substituting the words “deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b)”, so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 is:

“Sec. 4-1-22. - Adoption of animals. 

“(a) The Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Superintendent may offer for adoption any animal deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b) or any animal that has been donated to the division by the owner.” 

SECTION 4. Subsection (b) of section 4-1-22 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Adoption of animals” is hereby amended by adding thereto the words “In the event that the owner of an animal at the time of impound desires to reclaim an animal remaining in the custody of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division after the animal has been deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b ), the director of the Animal Control Division may, in his or her discretion, permit such prior owner to adopt the dog in accordance with this section, provided however, that no dog shall be adopted by the prior owner unless the dog has been spayed or neutered and microchipped at the owner’s expense” so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 is: 

“Sec. 4-1-22. - Adoption of animals.  “(b) An animal may be donated for adoption only by a resident of Athens-Clarke County and may be made available for adoption upon the determination by the animal control superintendent that the animal is of reasonably good health and temperament. In the event that the owner of an animal at the time of impound desires to reclaim an animal remaining in the custody of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division after the animal has been deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b), the director of the Animal Control Division may, in his or her discretion, permit such prior owner to adopt the dog in accordance with this section, provided however, that no dog shall be adopted by the prior owner unless the dog has been spayed or neutered and microchipped at the owner’s expense.”

SECTION 5. Section 4-1-25 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Regulation of dangerous, vicious and potentially dangerous dogs” is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following new section 4-1-25 is inserted in lieu thereof: 

“Sec. 4-1-25. -Regulation of dangerous, vicious and potentially dangerous dogs. 

“(a) The animal control superintendent shall be the designated authority to carry out the duties of dog control officer as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 4-8-22(b) and as provided for in this chapter. 

“(b) It shall be the duty of Judge of the Probate Court to conduct hearings and make determinations concerning the regulation and disposition of potentially dangerous dogs as required in this Chapter and dangerous and vicious dogs as required by O.C.G.A. Chapter 8, Title 4 and as required by this chapter. 

“( c) During the period while classification is pending and during the amount of time that such classification is eligible for or under appeal by the owner, the dog will be impounded at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control unless the animal control superintendent confirms after inspection that all of the applicable enclosure requirements of O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 and this section have been met. 

“(d) Whenever a dog that has been classified as dangerous or vicious under O.C.G.A. § 4-8-21 et seq. or potentially dangerous pursuant to the provisions of this chapter (together, “classified dogs” and each a “classified dog”) is present in Athens-Clarke County, the following apply:

“(I) Before the dog may be housed anywhere within Athens-Clarke County other than at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control or at veterinarian facility for the purpose of satisfying the procedures required in this section the owner must meet all of the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 and of this section and be issued a certificate of registration.

“(2) All classified dogs must be spayed or neutered and microchipped. The owner must provide written proof of the spay or neuter and the identification number from the dog’s microchip to the animal control superintendent before a certificate of registration may be issued or updated. The animal control superintendent shall be authorized to administer the microchip and, in any event, shall confirm the microchip placement and number by scanning the dog to the extent that such administration or confirmation can be accomplished without risk of physical harm to animal control personnel. The microchip number shall be included on the certificate of registration, and it shall be unlawful for any person to tamper with or remove such identification. 

“(3) The owner of a classified dog shall confine the dog only in a proper enclosure, as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 or this section, that has been inspected and approved by the animal control superintendent. Such inspection shall occur prior to issuance or renewal of a certificate of registration and must be updated if the location at which the animal is being kept is changed at any time, including if a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County. The animal control superintendent or his designee is authorized to update it at other times in his discretion.

“(4) If the owner has not already met the requirements for issuance of a certificate of registration at the time the dog is classified or at the time a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County, the dog shall be impounded at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. The owner must meet the requirements for keeping a potentially dangerous, dangerous or vicious dog, as applicable, no later than five days after the date the classification becomes effective or after a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County. If the requirements are not met or the dog is not retrieved from Athens-Clarke County Animal Control within such time, then the dog shall be deemed unclaimed and subject to the provisions of section 4-1-18. 

“(5) The owner of a classified dog must renew the certificate of registration annually. The animal control superintendent or his designee shall inspect and approve the proper enclosure for the dog prior to renewing a certificate of registration, re-scan and verify the dog’s microchip identification number, and confirm that the dog has been spayed or neutered to the extent that such confirmation can be accomplished without risk of physical harm to animal control personnel. 

“(6) The owner of a classified dog shall immediately orally notify the animal control division if the dog is not confined in the approved location or by the approved method, if the dog is stolen or missing, or if the dog is otherwise loose, if the dog is transferred, or if the dog is deceased. The owner thereafter must submit within two business days a notarized, sworn statement describing the circumstances of the dog’s death or disappearance, or the name, address and telephone number of the person to whom the dog was transferred. 

“(7) Whenever a classified dog is subject to confiscation, the owner of the dog must submit the dog to Athens-Clarke County Animal Control without delay. A classified dog is subject to confiscation under this chapter if it is not validly registered, not maintained in a proper enclosure, or is outside the proper enclosure in violation of this chapter. 

“(8) No classified dog in the custody of Athens-Clarke County Animal Control may be offered for the purpose of adoption; provided, however, that dogs classified as potentially dangerous may be transferred to an animal shelter licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture if authorized by the animal control superintendent.

“(e) In addition to the requirements set forth above, whenever a dog that has been classified as potentially dangerous pursuant to the provisions of this chapter is present in Athens-Clarke County, the following apply:

“(I) A “proper enclosure” shall mean an enclosure designed to securely confine the potentially dangerous dog on the owner’s property, indoors, or in a securely locked and enclosed pen, fence, or structure suitable to prevent the potentially dangerous dog from leaving such property. 

“(2) The owner of the dog shall post on the premises where the dog is kept a clearly visible sign warning that there is a potentially dangerous dog on the property. 

“(3) Whenever outside the proper enclosure, the potentially dangerous dog must be restrained by a leash not to exceed six feet in length and under the immediate physical control of a person capable of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal when necessary.

“(f) Investigations by animal control superintendent; notice to owner; hearings; determinations by hearing authority.

“(I) Upon receiving a report of a dog believed to be subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog as defined in this Chapter, the animal control superintendent shall make such investigations as necessary to determine whether such dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog.  “(2) When the animal control superintendent determines that a dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog, the animal control superintendent shall send by certified mail to the owner’s last known address a dated notice to the dog’s owner. Such notice shall include a summary of the dog control officer’s determination and shall state that the owner has a right to request a hearing from the Judge of the Probate Court on the animal control superintendent’s determination within seven days after the date shown on the notice. The notice shall provide a form for requesting the hearing and shall state that if a hearing is not requested within the allotted time, the animal control superintendent’s determination shall become effective for all purposes under this Chapter. If an owner cannot be located within ten days of a dog control officer’s determination that a dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog, the dog shall be deemed unclaimed and subject to the provisions of section 4-1-18. 

“(3) When a hearing is requested by a dog owner in accordance with this section, such hearing shall be scheduled within 30 days after the request is received; provided, however, that such hearing may be continued by the Judge of the Probate Court for good cause shown. At least ten days prior to the hearing, the Judge of the Probate Court shall mail to the dog owner written notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing. At the hearing, the dog owner shall be given the opportunity to testify and present evidence, and the Judge of the Probate Court shall receive other evidence and testimony as may be reasonably necessary to sustain, modify, or overrule the superintendent’s determination. 

“(4) Within ten days after the hearing, Judge of the Probate Court shall mail written notice to the dog owner of its determination on the matter. If such determination is that the dog is a potentially dangerous dog, the notice of classification shall specify the date upon which that determination shall be effective.

“(g) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary, any dog that causes a fatality to a human will not be released to the owner until the end of any appeals process.”

SECTION 6. All ordinances or parties of ordinances in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.

Advocate for Athens Pets: Your Favorite Volunteer Activity for This Fall (We Hope!)

by Amanda Newsom

 Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

AthensPets, the volunteer-run nonprofit organization that supports the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, has recently started a new volunteer program to promote adoptions for long-term residents or animals that have special needs. The AthensPets Advocate program came about during a discussion started by volunteer Lisa Milot about ways to gain more exposure for these hard-to-adopt dogs and cats, and the other volunteers and staff loved the idea. The dogs and cats included in the program are chosen based on their length of time at the shelter as well as potential medical issues or other reasons the animal may be harder to find a home for.

Lindsay Baker, an ACC Animal Control employee, shared a study by Rebecca Davis at Marquette University entitled Understanding Volunteerism in an Animal Shelter Environment: Improving Volunteer Retention to show that there is scientific support to these kinds of programs. The study demonstrates that “human interaction with shelter dogs is essential for the animals’ well-being. The volunteer task of interacting with the animals can and does assist with the increase of adoptions and the decrease of euthanizing healthy adoptable animals.” 

AthensPets volunteer Ashley Short took on the task of coordinating the program where volunteers can choose one or more pets on order to be their “personal cheerleader.” The advocate is expected to visit with their chosen dog or cat at least once a week and to share public photos on their social media, which are then reposted to the AthensPets social media pages. This not only gives the animal a wider audience through the volunteer’s followers, but it also gives a more personal perspective about the animal’s personality and needs. 

The bond between dedicated volunteers and the animals they’re advocating for is a key component of the program. Volunteers are encouraged to teach dogs new tricks, figure out which toy is a cat’s favorite and generally learn what makes the animals happy to know what kinds of homes would be the best fit for a successful adoption.

When I learned about this program, I jumped on board. I know from personal experience the power of social media in finding a new home for a stray or unwanted pet, so I decided I wanted to advocate for one cat and one dog since I consider myself to be a cat person and a dog person. 

Lil Man stuck out to me because he is such a cute boy and he seems to really have his life together—he’s housebroken, good with kids, good with other dogs, doesn’t make a mess of things or jump fences. He’s essentially a perfect dog for adoption and only ended up at animal control because his owner couldn’t take care of him or his housemate pup, Beauty (also available for adoption). In my first interaction with him, I learned that he is a fan of rope toys and likes to run after balls (but not so much the bringing-it-back-to-you part). It was a hot day, so he would play for a minute and then run back under the picnic table to lay in the shade. I could totally relate—I was hot, too! When we back to his run, he was very attentive as I gave him treats to sit and coaxed him to work on the command “down.” He’s a fast learner, and when he looks up at you with his big eyes, your heart melts instantly.

Penelope was the cat I chose, and she is also the cover model for this issue! She was a bit more difficult for me to make friends with—it wasn’t that usual instant connection that I have with cats. I took her to an interaction room where she sniffed every inch of everything, and although she was interested in playing with the mousie and ball I brought in, I was not on her radar. But I think she’s a perfect reminder that it is a shelter environment, which is really stressful, particularly for cats. Her owner also surrendered her, so she went from living in a home to being in this scary place and not knowing why or what will happen next. She is the kind of cat who needs a home that much faster so she can be comfortable and be herself. She also has made it clear that she wants to be an only pet—the Queen B—in her next home, and who can blame her? 

If you are interested in becoming an animal advocate for AthensPets, you can email Ashley Short at ashleyeshort@gmail.com for more information and to be you paired with a dog or cat of your choosing!

Commission Meeting

by Lisa Milot

At the Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting this February, some residents raised concerns about unaltered dogs in our community. Under state law, dogs that have been classified as “dangerous” or “vicious” based on attacks on people or pets are not required to be altered (spayed or neutered). Moreover, 79 percent of stray dogs impounded at the shelter are unaltered at the time of impound. 

Research shows that unaltered dogs have greater problems with aggression than altered dogs, and they are more apt to stray and become a nuisance in the community, interfering with traffic and entering on private property. Additionally, dogs that wander loose intact add to pet overpopulation in our area, as they are likely to produce one or more litters of puppies outside of a licensed breeding program.

After discussing the concerns, the commissioners decided to have their Legislative Review Committee review the existing county statutes. In the committee’s meetings since that date, they have developed policies and proposed changes to the ordinance to improve safety in the community and unanimously voted to send the proposed ordinance changes to the full commission. These proposals should be on the agenda for the June 6 meeting and will be open for public comment at that time.

Athenspets (www.athenspets.net), the volunteer group for Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, has assisted in this process by providing requested information on the available free and low-cost spay/neuter options in the area. University of Georgia Law Professor Lisa Milot assisted in drafting proposed language and providing an analysis of the current statutes at issue.

You can show your support by attending the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 6:00pm in the Commission Chamber on the second floor of City Hall at 301 College Avenue, Athens, GA 30601. More information about these meetings can be found online at www.athensclarkecounty.com/176/Mayor-Commission-Meetings.