Van VanDeWalker, who twice served as interim Macon Animal Control director during the past year, said Monday afternoon he has resigned from his job as animal control officer.
VanDeWalker said a recent change to his job description, in which he would have to choose which animals were to be euthanized, helped push him to the decision. He also said his wife, Tracie, was banned Monday from the shelter while doing volunteer work there.
Today was kind of the icing on the cake, but Ive been thinking about (resigning) for quite a while, he said Monday afternoon.
Bibb County recently took control of the shelter from the city of Macon and hired Deborah Biggs, from Florida, as interim director of the shelter. After the county took over the shelter, county commissioners changed the name of the department to Bibb County Animal Welfare and raised the adoption fees, drawing the ire of some animal rescue groups.
VanDeWalker on Monday cited philosophical differences with Biggs as one of the reasons he decided to leave.
When Bibb County took over the operation of the shelter, Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said it would be a low-kill shelter, VanDeWalker said. But Biggs policy that allows anyone to drop off an animal at the shelter makes it impossible for the shelter to be low-kill because there are too many animals there now, he said. Under city management, the shelter limited the number of animals that could be dropped off, he said.
Considering the shelters limitations, I dont see any way out except by being a high-kill shelter, he said, noting the shelter has raised its fees to adopt a dog or cat. The rescue groups are doing all they can do ... but its more difficult to get the animals out.
Biggs declined to comment Monday, except to say she had not yet seen VanDeWalkers letter of resignation. She referred all questions to Kevin Barrere, Bibb Countys public affairs officer, who did not return telephone calls Monday evening.
Edwards said commissioners agreed to implement a low-kill policy after Commissioner Joe Allen originally lobbied for a no-kill policy.
I stand by that, Edwards said. We dont need to be putting down animals when they are adoptable.
VanDeWalker said he was given new job duties Friday by Biggs and Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson. In addition to his job of animal control officer, he also would be the shelters population coordinator.
Some of the job description was great, he said. Id be dealing with the public, working with volunteers, developing programs. But Id also have to select the animals for euthanization and participate in it. I dont have a problem with euthanization, but I do have a problem with killing. If you have a sick or injured dog, when you euthanize it, youre ending its suffering. But this is also taking adoptable animals and killing them. Everyone knows shelters have to (euthanize), but in my humble opinion, you have to give the animals time to be adopted.
VanDeWalker said he reached his breaking point Monday when Biggs banned his wife, Tracie, from the shelter, where she was a volunteer. Van VanDeWalker said Biggs called him, accusing his wife of taking photographs of conditions at the shelter to put on Facebook. VanDeWalker denies his wife took any pictures.
VanDeWalker said he had applied for the permanent directors position that has not yet been filled. He said he assumes that his resignation from his current job means he is out of the running for that job.
Word of VanDeWalkers resignation spread quickly through those in Macon city government, where VanDeWalker worked until the county took over the shelter this month.
In e-mails, Macon City Council members Nancy White and Larry Schlesinger both expressed their disappointment that VanDeWalker has left.
Wow! I am just floored by this news, Schlesinger wrote. I would probably do the same thing if I was in his position.
In one e-mail, White called VanDeWalkers resignation simply unacceptable.
White also wrote to county officials, From a constituents perspective this is catastrophic. It seems during the interims brief tenure this type of major event would not have been permitted. AC Pup, of course, belongs to him and this mascot is a huge loss for Bibb County Animal Welfare.
AC Pup remains the mascot for the animal-rescue advocacy group Central Georgia CARES.
Patti Jones, chairwoman of the Central Georgia CARES board of directors, said AC Pup will no longer be going to the shelter.
He will continue to be an advocate for homeless animals everywhere, Jones said. This will expand his role beyond just Bibb County.
Jones said AC Pup will work with local rescue groups and other animal shelters in Middle Georgia. His weekly column will continue to appear in The Telegraphs Saturday edition.
Telegraph writer Andy M. Drury contributed to this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.