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Couple who fosters animals says they'll fight Perry's limit on number of pets

PERRY — Middle Georgia’s version of “John & Kate Plus 8” doesn’t involve a big family with children born in multiples. John and Kate Schell’s brood consists of animals they own or foster before adoption.

Sometimes, it’s more than eight.

Perry city officials say it should be no more than six, which the Schells say is nearly impossible.

“We simply cannot return all of these animals to the pound,” Kate Schell said. “They’d all be euthanized in no time, and we’re here trying to get them rehabilitated and ready to be adopted out.”

As a former Perry animal control officer, Kate Schell hated driving up to the landfill, dropping off plastic bags filled with carcasses of dogs and cats that could have been treated and made ready for loving homes. So she and her husband, John, opened their home to many animals — mostly dogs — that had been abused, starved or abandoned by their owners.

They take care of the animals, then take them to the local PetSmart, which helps find them homes. Any expense is covered through a local animal advocacy group, Animal Lovers’ Rescue of Middle Georgia.

John Schell, who works in the city’s public works department, estimated that hundreds of animals have been in and out of the couple’s home since 2004.

Then county officials mandated a limit on the number of animals allowed in a home — three.

The Schells were grandfathered into the old policy that allowed six animals per home. Even that wasn’t enough, Kate Schell said. She sought an exception from the city, giving her authority to have up to 10 animals on her property.

“None of this work gets done in a shelter environment,” Kate Schell said. “You put them in a pound and they develop bad habits. These are good animals ... that could go great in a loving home.”

NO EXCEPTIONS

Schell stood before the Perry City Council on Sept. 15 and was told she could not add more than six animals to her burgeoning brood.

Nothing personal, she was told. But she took it that way.

“We had two years to get that countywide ordinance in place,” Mayor Jim Worrall said. “The city attorney’s thing was that you can’t violate that ordinance.”

The Perry Animal Shelter, at 1000 Tucker Road, has found itself overrun with animals retrieved from owners who were either abusive to the pets or simply could no longer care for them. Plans had been started on a new building to go on the shelter’s current site, but officials were told the ground was unstable and may contain methane gas. Other properties are being examined.

Worrall said he applauds what the Schells are doing, but said he hoped they would understand the city’s position.

“We didn’t want to start bending the rules,” he said, adding that the city has received requests from other residents seeking similar exceptions on animal limits.

“FIGHT ON THEIR HANDS”

Last week, three small dogs circled Kate Schell as she made her way to the spacious yard behind her Perry home. Two puppies — recently picked up by the Schells — were fenced in along the yard boundaries. Another three dogs owned by the couple were in a larger enclosure at the back of the yard. Nearby, John Schell sprayed down enclosures to keep them clean for their current inhabitants. They stay on standby, he said, for the next animal that loses a home, whatever the reason. The only other option, besides another foster home, is death.

“If the city has its way, euthanasia statistics are going to skyrocket,” John Schell said. “They don’t think about the consequences before they do something like this.”

Kate Schell said they have plans to continue to help. It’s what they love doing, she said.

“The reward,” Kate Schell said, “is in the ones that you do help. Plus, it’s a benefit to the city. Why would they turn that down?

“If they try to restrict us, they’re gonna have a hell of a fight on their hands.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.

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