Van VanDeWalker, who is in charge of the Macon animal shelter’s daily operations, pointed to a small hole the size of a golf ball Tuesday in the ceiling in his office.
On top of a bookcase directly below the hole is a large bucket -- designed to trap the mice that had been crawling into his office.
“The cockroaches and mice -- they own the building,” VanDeWalker said. “They’re just allowing us to use it.”
The Macon Animal Control shelter is facing a crisis after a team from the state’s Department of Agriculture found it overrun with mice and roaches Monday.
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“The thing they agreed upon is that it was the worst infestation they had ever seen,” VanDeWalker said.
Given the building’s age and location next to the city’s landfill, VanDeWalker said even with a team from Orkin set to bomb the building for pests June 7, it will only provide temporary relief until a new shelter is built by Bibb County with $3 million from the special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters last November.
But Animal Control has a more immediate problem -- finding homes for the 78 dogs and 11 cats currently in the facility. Those animals have to be evacuated for at least three days and perhaps as many as five while the facility is bombed for roaches and rodents and then cleaned.
“It puts us in a tough situation,” he said. “We’re appealing to the public and to other shelters. ... It’s very challenging. There’s always a possibility that the animals may be put down. We’re looking for anybody who can help us out.”
VanDeWalker said he’s looking primarily at getting as many dogs and cats adopted as possible before the shelter is closed. For those that aren’t adopted or taken in by other shelters, VanDeWalker said the state is allowing for people to foster a dog or cat for the time period the shelter is closed, then return the animal when it reopens. That process requires an inspection of the person’s home and other paperwork in order to be cleared with the Department of Agriculture.
Patti Jones, director of Central Georgia CARES, said her organization is networking with other animal rescue groups in Middle Georgia and from other places to try to get as many of the animals placed as possible.
“It’s so sad,” she said. “CARES is working really hard to get the word out. We’re using (shelter mascot) AC Pup to let everyone know we have animals that have to be re-homed. We don’t want any other outcome for these animals.”
The Bibb County Commission, which is set to take over Animal Control operations July 1 from the city, has talked about making the new animal shelter a high priority among SPLOST projects.
Commissioner Lonzy Edwards talked about the need for urgency at the last commission meeting, and he said Tuesday he plans to put the shelter project on the agenda for next week’s meeting.
“We’ve had some discussion about moving it up,” he said. “In terms of making it a priority, I’ll be pushing it. Two years is too long to wait (for the new shelter).”
In the meantime, Edwards said, the county will look at improving ventilation and other short-term fixes at the shelter.
VanDeWalker personally has toured shelters in Houston County and Savannah which have been built within the past couple of years. He said neither facility has any infestation problems since they opened.
“They are immaculate,” he said.
VanDeWalker said the city will still be enforcing Animal Control laws while the shelter is closed. Though the city can’t pick up stray animals during that time, officers can still write citations to pet owners who let their animals run loose.
Anyone interested in adopting a dog or cat from the shelter should call (478) 751-9200 or visit the facility at 1010 11th St. in Macon. The cost is $75 per adoption, which covers spaying/neutering costs and rabies vaccinations. People also can visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/OnBorrowedTimeGA to view the animals currently in the shelter.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.