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Ground broken for new county animal shelter

Screven County officials broke ground Wednesday on a new animal shelter on Rocky Ford Road that will be built by prisoners and paid for with sales tax money.
About 40 people attended the groundbreaking – something of a who’s who in the county, including several county commissioners and Sylvania city council members, the county fire and EMS chiefs, the sheriff, chamber leaders and volunteers from Friends of Screven County Animals.
The 5,000-square-foot, concrete block building will have concrete floors that can be sanitized to prevent disease, said Thomas Lariscy, the county’s animal control officer. That will be a big improvement over the current shelter, which has 18 outdoor cages and dirt runs that can’t be sanitized against diseases such as parvovirus.
“That’s why animals get so sick so quickly,” at the shelter, Lariscy said.
County Commission Chairman Stan Sheppard said the project has been in the works for many years and he’s glad to see it finally coming to fruition. “I think by design, government moves slowly,” he said, adding that isn’t all bad.  “That means we make fewer mistakes.”
County Commissioner Gregg Ellison said the county will get a shelter twice as nice by using inmate labor rather than paying a commercial builder. Prisoners should begin construction on the new shelter within the next month and work should take four to six months, “maybe longer,” to complete, said County Manager Rick Jordan.
The shelter will cost an estimated $125,000 in special-purpose, local-option sales tax money. The new building will be able to house three times as many animals. It will have 32 intake pens with a capacity of 64-plus dogs; 13 adoption pens with a capacity of up to 26 dogs; 13 “court case” pens, which can hold up to 13 dogs; and a room that will hold as many as 30 cats.
The building will have a lobby; an adoption room, where people can meet animals; office and storage closet; dog washing and dish room; shower and bath for the animal control officer; food storage room; and a 1,000-square-foot, covered area for loading and unloading animals and supplies. The lobby and office will be air conditioned and heated. The animal areas will be heated and will be cooled with large industrial fans, Lariscy said.
The new shelter will be built beside the old one on Rocky Ford Road, next to the prison and helicopter pad and across from county dumpsters.
Lariscy said the newly formed Friends of Screven County Animals has been a huge help in getting animals from the shelter adopted, updating its Web site daily with photos of animals at the shelter and sending mass e-mails as well as advertising on Craig’s List. Lariscy said about 100 animals have been adopted in the last couple of months, as compared with 29 dogs and cats adopted from the shelter in all of 2008. Another 14 animals were reclaimed by their owners in 2008 and the rest of the 1,500 animals that went through the shelter last year were euthanized.

“They have really been a really big help in the last two months,” Lariscy said of the Friends’ volunteers. “They’ve been wonderful folks to work with.”

Friends has obtained its license from the state Department of Agriculture to operate as a pet rescue organization, opening a “haven” at 632 W. Ogeechee St. in Sylvania, at the site of the former Pink Poodle pet grooming business. The Friends’ haven does not accept unwanted pets; most of its animals come from the county’s animal shelter.

The haven is “in great need” of volunteers, said Friends’ President Darryl DeGroat. Shifts are seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Duties include walking the pets, feeding them, spending quality time with them and cleaning their cages. People who want to volunteer should call Christy Campo at (912) 687-6448.

The haven is open for adoptions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, or by appointment. The fee to adopt a cat is $75, which includes a rabies shot, de-worming and spay or neuter. The fee to adopt a dog is $100 and includes a rabies shot, de-worming, a DHLPP shot and spay or neuter.

People who are looking for a particular type of dog or cat can be put on a waiting list. People who need to find a good home for an animal, or who have lost an animal can have their information posted on the Friends’ Web site for free.

The group has filed papers for non-profit status, so donations will be tax-exempt. That process should be finished “in the very near future,” DeGroat said.

The group is looking for donations, including a fenced area for the haven, a new refrigerator, pet food and cleaning supplies. “We welcome any and all donations and appreciate all of those who have donated to us in the past,” DeGroat said.

Friends also convinced a non-profit spay and neuter clinic in Ridgeland, S.C., to begin making monthly pickups in Sylvania. The clinic known as SNAC, for Spay/Neuter Alliance and Clinic, is a high-volume, low-cost facility. It has a set fee, no matter how big or small the animal or how rich or poor the owner: male cat, $50; female cat, $60; male dog $65; and female dog, $75.

The first pickup is Sept. 8. Call to make an appointment at (843) 645-2500 or visit them at www.snac1.com.

The county’s only veterinarian, Dr. Pat Dyar, matches SNAC’s prices for animals that come from the Screven County animal shelter. Customers are asked to bring paperwork showing that the animal was adopted from the shelter.

Friends’ Web site is www.friendsofscrevencountyanimals.org.