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Animals now sheltered from old site’s harmful diseases

If you haven’t visited the new animal shelter, you should.
However, before you do, go a few feet past the recently opened shelter just off Rocky Ford Road to get a look at the shelter of old.
You need not be an architect or even an animal lover to fully understand the vast difference between the two shelters.
The elder site is overridden with infectious disease, held together with damaged wiring and weather-beaten lumber, and had the notoriety – until Feb. 23 -- of being the last county-run shelter in the 17-county region of our Georgia Department of Agriculture inspector’s coverage area not to have an indoor facility for the holding animals.
When Thomas Lariscy, the county animal control officer, steps out on the back porch of the SPLOST-financed $180,000 new structure, he can easily see the previous location he supervised.
The old structure still houses some friendly dogs and cats who seek adoption. Those canines and felines will not be making the trip to the new facility because of possibility of them having the parvo virus.
The future of old site hasn’t been decreed yet, but Lariscy says he would like it to stay – at least for a while – so he can again step outside the new shelter and receive a gentle reminder of how much better the animals’ situation is now.
“Personally, I was ashamed of what we had, but now I am proud of what we have,” Lariscy said.
The old shelter had a gloomy presence to it.
“A lot of people wouldn’t go over there because of what it looked like,” Lariscy said. “Now with this shelter there are no excuses. This is a very nice facility. We took the time to build it right.”
The price tag on the 52-pen structure was kept lower by the use of inmate labor, under the direction of construction detail officer J.D. Meadows, who logged in countless hours of his own manual labor to make the shelter a reality.
“This is a facility we can be proud of and one that will last for many years to come,” Lariscy said.
Lariscy and others traveled all over the state noting what worked in other shelters and what did not to package together a concept of the shelter our community has today.
The dirt surrounding the former 18-pen shelter made it virtually impossible to keep the area sanitized. All the bleach in the world isn’t going to keep dirt clean.
The new in-door facility, however, has concrete floors that can be washed to rid feces, urine and any animal-bowl spillages.
“It is going to be kept clean,” said Lariscy of the shelter that has a large water hose mounted on the wall above the cages to make it easier for rinsing.
“I am just overwhelmed with excitement of where they will be housed,” said Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans, a pet lover and owner of multiple dogs. “It finally came to fruition. It gives our animals a better place to live.”
Evans said she was impressed with the planning that went into the project – notably the area designated for quarantined animals, the spacious adoption room for prospective new pet owners, and the animal cleaning area outside the building that is to be used before the dogs and cats come inside.
“I don’t know of anything they didn’t include,” Evans said. “Everybody had to work together for that to happen.”
The shelter also has a reception area, a waterproofed storage area for the animals’ food, new cages outside for dropoffs, a room with “cat condos,” and a bathroom for personal use.
She said the animal shelter and Friends of Screven County Animals, or FoSCA, have worked in close tandem on this project.
“Together they have saved a lot of animals that wouldn’t have made it,” she said.
With all the accolades tossed around at the new animal shelter, in reality we wish that a facility for dogs and cats in need of a home did not have to exist at all. We wish a home was available for every animal and we wish people would exercise their right to have dogs and cats spayed or neutered to control the growing numbers.
Like communities across the nation, excessive counts of dogs and cats are visible in Screven County.
“We would rather not have to have this shelter, but it is always good when you have to have it,” Lariscy said. “I think we are rather fortunate to have our rescue groups and citizens working to get these animals adopted.”
If you haven’t seen the new shelter up close, do so and at least take a peek around the corner at the old one. If you have been to the new, go again to visit the latest variety of dogs and cats, who, assuredly, would like to see you.
The caged dogs and cats gazing back at you did not ask for their – all be it fancier – living quarters. You have the power to help stop more animals from becoming residents at the shelter through spaying and neutering and also by joining a local rescue effort like that of FoSCA, who would love to have you as an advocate of their worthy cause.
Let’s take pride in our county’s new shelter, but let’s take even more pride in doing our part to control the pet population.