Bibb animal group reopens search for animal shelter site

Bibb County is struggling to find a location for a planned $3 million animal shelter.

The county had considered a half-dozen potential sites it already owns, but the Citizens Committee on Animal Welfare Site Selection & Director Screening agreed Monday that even the best county-owned site, located in a back corner of Central City Park, isn’t visible enough for a new shelter.

The current shelter’s location is next to Macon’s landfill in a difficult-to-find location.

A committee member, veterinarian Jeff Davis, suggested a higher-visibility location such as near the front of Central City Park might work better. The committee soon went behind closed doors to discuss personnel and real estate.

After Monday’s meeting, Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said he wants to see if other publicly owned sites might be suitable.

“That $3 million will go a whole lot further if we can find a site that we currently own,” Edwards said.

The governments of Bibb County, Macon and Payne City are set to merge in less than a year and a half, and assets of the current governments will be combined.

On other fronts, committee members said they think they can find a new director for the Animal Welfare Department without reopening the search process. Six applications were received, and committee members said they liked several of the applicants. The committee will soon begin setting up interviews for a screening process, which would prepare it to make a recommendation to Commission Chairman Sam Hart.

Tuesday, commissioners may consider proposed revisions to the Animal Welfare Department’s mission statement. Priorities including public health and safety would be placed before shelter needs, which are secondary, Edwards said.But Edwards said a comprehensive approach is the only true answer: Combining effective enforcement efforts with adoptions, spaying and neutering, and education.

Edwards said he worries the current animal shelter had been so crowded that some dogs were quarantined inside homes.“Adoptions are important,” Edwards said. “We don’t want to kill any animals we don’t have to kill. But at the same time, we have to keep the community safe. You get dog-bite cases, they need to have a certain amount of space to quarantine animals.”

On July 1, Bibb County took over the animal shelter from Macon and was soon accused of euthanizing too many animals. A state official said the current shelter had had too many animals to be a healthy environment. Animal rescue organizations have also clashed with the county’s interim director, Deborah Biggs, while former interim Animal Control Director Van VanDeWalker resigned in protest of the euthanasia practices.

Separately, after a suggestion from committee member Edwina Barnes, the group agreed to ask Hart to appoint someone from the Bibb County Health Department to the panel.

In Tuesday committee meetings, commissioners are slated to discuss the animal shelter’s hours of operation, vacancies in the department and pet food purchases. They’re also slated to schedule a meeting for other animal shelter decisions including policies on euthanasia; long-term treatment of animals with mange or ringworm; parvo treatments; and the length of time to hold aggressive dogs. Those discussions will be held in three different committee meetings.

The meetings begin with the Human Resources committee at 8:30 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Bibb County Courthouse.To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.