Bibb’s new animal shelter director takes the reins

rmanley@macon.comOctober 1, 2012 

Sarah Tenon began her first day on the job working with people, not animals.

Tenon was introduced as the new director of Bibb County’s Animal Welfare Department at a Monday morning meet-and-greet at the county courthouse. The Hawkinsville native, who turns 49 Tuesday, takes over the reins of the animal shelter after a sometimes stormy search for a new director.

“All I want is someone to come and adopt and give these animals a forever home,” she said.

Tenon, who most recently was director/supervisor of the county animal shelter in Mobile, Ala., met Monday with mostly animal rescue volunteers, veterinarians and other county employees. She was selected from 32 candidates who applied to be the first full-time director since the county took over the near-dilapidated shelter from the city of Macon July 1.

Veterinarian Edsel Davis, who was on the search committee that picked Tenon, said at Monday’s gathering that the department “was in good hands.”

“I encourage the public to give her some time,” Davis said.

That committee also is looking for a site for a new shelter, which animal advocates say is long overdue. The county commission has allocated $3 million in sales tax funds for the new building.

“The old one needs to be bulldozed down,” said Linda Smyth, a board member for Central Georgia CARES, an animal advocacy group. The old shelter is near the county landfill and is “roach- and rodent-infested,” which is not good for the health of the animals there.

“They can’t keep the pests out,” said Smyth.

She said she’s optimistic there will be improvements with the new director and shelter.

“Things can only improve from here. They can’t get any worse. We’re looking forward to the new leadership that gets us back on the right track.”

Janet Battcher, another CARES and shelter volunteer, said Tenon is taking on a challenging job.

“I think the position for anyone is a difficult one,” Battcher said. “She seems to be a caring and compassionate person, which is the kind of person we’re looking for to lead our shelter. I’m really looking forward to working with her.”

Tenon, who worked as Macon animal control officer in 2008, views the old shelter as a “temporary situation” where she hopes to “maintain the best atmosphere for the animals, the employees and the public, as it is.”

Tenon said she has one dog at home, her granddaughter’s, but would have more if not for the demands of her job.

“These are all my pets,” she said of the shelter’s animals.

Tenon said outbreaks of the often deadly parvovirus, as seen recently at the shelter, are not uncommon at shelters across the country. She’s hopeful the new shelter will allow for more isolation areas to prevent mass euthanasia.

“The design of it will be critical,” Tenon said.

During the search for the new director, many in the animal rescue committee supported former Macon Animal Control interim director Van VanDeWalker as the new director. VanDeWalker, who was an animal control officer when the county took over the shelter, had submitted his name for consideration, then resigned after he was asked to take charge of euthanasias. He resubmitted his name as a candidate, but he later learned it was too late.

Monday, his wife, Tracie VanDeWalker, greeted Tenon with a big hug. She knew her from Tenon’s stint in Macon as an animal control officer.

“I think it’s going to be great,” VanDeWalker said. “I think it’s going to be wonderful. She’s a nice lady. She’s very knowledgeable. Van and I wish her all the best. We will support her.”

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.

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