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Pike hears animal shelter ultimatum

At their Feb. 28 meeting, commissioners heard from Ruth Chandler, a representative from the CLC Foundation. She gave the county three options regarding a $225,000 grant accepted by the county in October 2019 for the construction and operation of an animal shelter in Pike. She said the grant was given so the county would have an animal shelter and that has not happened despite efforts by the Pike Animal Shelter board which drafted an ordinance for the operation of the shelter that was not enacted by commissioners. She gave commissioners three options regarding the grant (1) for the county to open the animal shelter this year, (2) to return the exact amount to the CLC Foundation or (3) to give the funds to Coco’s Cupboard, an animal rescue group that was started in Pike County.

“Quickly pass the new, much-reduced and streamlined ordinances that chairman David Allen put together with the board, consult with the state agriculture department to get the minimal standards and allocate – this year – the resources to make it a legal shelter and by that is absolutely meant a place to take in at least dogs found or surrendered by Pike citizens and hold them for adoption in a manner consistent with standard statewide practices. Yes, this is expensive. However, when you accepted the check, you committed to this,” she said.

Commissioners have been addressed by Pike Animal Shelter board chairman David Allen several times over the past three years about the need for funding to operate the shelter and in their Aug. 31, 2021 meeting, he proposed that the county have citizens vote on the 2022 SPLOST with 85% going to roads and 15% going to the animal shelter.

“It is not too late to do this. With the SPLOST, there would still be a lot of money for roads and up to a million dollars of operational costs for Animal Control and the shelter over the next six years. Let us not lose our hard-gained momentum. We have not won this race just because we now have a building. We have just finally been given a sponsor to get us to the starting line,” he said.

At a June 28, 2022 meeting, David Allen also suggested the county increase impact fee allocations to help the shelter.

Ground was broken on the animal shelter building on Sept. 9, 2020 and despite setbacks due to a global pandemic, the approximately $300,000 project was completed in late 2021. In documentation provided to commissioners prior to the acceptance of the $225,000 grant, Walker Chandler asked the county to agree to several stipulations, including the creation of an animal control board, the drafting of an initial comprehensive plan with operations and control details and that the shelter be one where adoptions are facilitated.

A letter from Walker dated April 2, 2019 stated the shelter “will in all probability need to be one that allows euthanasia and therefore will not set that it be a designated ‘no-kill’ shelter.”

At the Feb. 28, 2023 meeting, Ruth Chandler said the county’s two options other than opening the shelter to offer animal adoptions this year are to return the quarter of a million dollar grant to the CLC Foundation by June and it would be considered an interest-free loan or – the option she preferred – to transfer the funds to Coco’s Cupboard, a rescue organization that was founded in Pike.

“The heart of this organization is Suzanne Aaron who is a Pike resident. She is supported by her excellent husband, Mike, and many other kind-hearted Pike residents. This charity is now a multi-county organization with a new headquarters in Meriwether County. Last year, this charity found homes for 589 cats and dogs. They trained 63 dogs as service dogs for veterans. They donated 12,000 pounds of pet food to families in need and assisted with numerous neutering and spaying operations. This charity is doing the work I envisioned this money doing,” said Ruth.

“This trust has been perfectly run since its inception and the money does not go to Ruth and Walker. We take our custodianship of this money very seriously. This donation to Pike County is a failed donation. This is the only failed donation in the history of the trust. I argued for this donation because I believed that there was great consensus in Pike County to have a shelter and that the county needed help to accomplish this goal. If it is the considered opinion of Pike’s leaders that this is not a good option for Pike at this time then return the money by June of this year. Again, I prefer the money to go straight to work at Coco’s Cupboard.”

The county’s website has a note on the Animal Control Department’s page that says, “Pike County does not currently operate a full Animal Shelter. It only provides a facility for temporary impoundment of dogs classified as ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious’ per state and local government definitions.”

The Animal Control Department has a $99,050 budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. According to Animal Control officer Tanya Perkins, in the six months between July 2022 and January, 2023, the department answered 337 calls for service; issued 18 nuisance warnings; issued 75 nuisance animal citations; issued four dangerous dog citations; worked on 15 cruelty to animals cases, including four that are open cases in the city of Zebulon; and issued seven no rabies vaccination citations and two tethering citations.

“Citations involve a substantial amount of paperwork and photographic evidence,” said animal control officer Tanya Perkins. “We provide copies of the citations to Magistrate Court. Reports and photographic evidence are also turned in to the County’s Attorney’s office.”

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