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New animal shelter to be built

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, members of the Screven County Commission unanimously agreed Tuesday to begin building a new animal shelter on Rocky Ford Road.
“This is long overdue,” said Commissioner Gregg Ellison. “The conditions are such that we cannot put this off any longer.”
About 25 people waited through two hours of other business at the commission’s regular meeting to show their support for the new shelter, filling all the vacant seats in the meeting room at the courthouse. A few stood the whole time.
The part of the meeting concerning the shelter took about two minutes, with commissioners voting to move forward with the project with no debate.
Inmate labor will be used to build the facility, said County Manager Rick Jordan. The construction crew is finishing work on the tax assessor’s office next to the courthouse and should be free to start on the animal shelter soon.
But don’t expect shovels to go in the ground right away. “They gave authority to start planning how to build this thing,” Jordan said of the vote by commissioners Tuesday. He said once construction starts, it probably will take at least six months to complete.
Voters agreed five years ago to pay for the shelter with special-purpose local-option sales tax money. At the time, the estimated cost was $75,000 but that price likely has increased to $100,000 to $125,000 because of higher costs for materials, Jordan said. He said enough SPLOST money is available to complete the shelter.
The new shelter will be built near the old one, beside the helipad at the prison on Rocky Ford Road. It will replace the current facility, which consists of 18 outdoor cages on a dirt floor, with shelters made out of drums turned on their sides.
The new facility will be a 6,000-square-foot heated and cooled building with three times as many cages. Concrete floors will help in keeping the animals clean and combating disease such as parvovirus, which is nearly impossible to battle with the current dirt floors.
The new shelter has been a priority for a newly formed group, Friends of Screven County Animals. The group had 65 people attend its second meeting, which was held at the Cail Recreation Center Monday night.
The group is charging $5 for annual membership. It is working to improve conditions at the shelter, help more animals from the shelter be adopted, find cheaper ways for animals to be spayed and neutered, search for grants to help animals in the county and find and encourage alternatives to people dumping animals at county dumpsters.
Of 1,500 dogs and cats that went through the county animal shelter last year, a handful were reclaimed by their owners, about 35 were adopted and the rest were euthanized.
The chairman of the county commission, Stan Sheppard, told the group at its meeting Monday night that the county welcomes any help it might get from volunteers.
“The best avenue is to work together and use the resources the county does have and what you as volunteers are willing to do to make this a whole lot more humane,” Sheppard said.
County Commissioner Roland Stubbs also attended the meeting. Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans has been spearheading formation of the group.
The group also is investigating what it takes to become a non-profit, ways to advertise pets for adoption, how to help at the shelter and requirements to make sure that pets go to good homes.
The group also wants to address prosecution for abandoned animals, with member Vickie Riley mentioning a dog that was left behind recently when someone moved from Westview Apartments. And it wants to address the issues of dog fighting and people who shoot animals for sport.
“There are people out there in our county that are shooting and killing dogs because they think it’s funny,” said Riley, a dog breeder and owner of the Pink Poodle grooming business.
Dr. Pat Dyar, the county’s only veterinarian, attended the meeting Monday night and the commission meeting Tuesday, answering questions about such issues as the cost of spaying and neutering and how parvovirus spreads.
The group’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at the Cail Recreation Center. Volunteers are invited to bring supplies to the meeting to help people in the county who are sheltering animals, such as Riley, and to help the animals at the shelter. Needed supplies include: dog and cat food, bedding, towels, blankets, bleach and dog shampoo.