On the same day the Bibb County animal shelter reopened after two puppies were found to have parvo, county officials released the names of two finalists for the vacant Animal Welfare director’s position.
The two finalists are Sarah Tenon, supervisor of the animal shelter in Mobile, Ala.; and Richard Rice, former executive vice president of the Atlanta Humane Society, said Dwight Baker, director of human resources and risk management for Bibb County.
Baker said Commission Chairman Sam Hart met with Tenon this week and was scheduled to meet Thursday with Rice. The candidates must be advertised for two weeks before a final decision is made.
Both candidates, along with an unnamed third applicant, met last week with a citizens committee tasked by the county to advise commissioners on shelter issues. A fourth candidate invited to interview with the committee withdrew from the process, Baker said.
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Baker said 32 people initially submitted applications for the position. Former animal control officer Van VanDeWalker, who also served as interim Animal Control director twice when the shelter was run by the city, applied for the job but withdrew his name after quitting last month. Last week, VanDeWalker asked Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson to reinstate his application, but the other candidates had been brought in to interview by then.
Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, the chairman of the citizens committee, said Rice and Tenon are the two candidates the committee decided to refer to Hart.
“Of the people we had, they were the best in the judgment of the committee,” Edwards said. “Both are highly qualified. Either one would serve the community very well. It’s been a difficult process to get new leadership, but we’re grateful we had a lot of qualified people who applied.”
Rice has faced some controversy in Atlanta this year.
According to a website posting by the Atlanta Humane Society responding to a May 14 investigative story by the Atlanta Fox television affiliate, Rice was “no longer an active employee” of the humane society following an internal investigation. The investigation focused on the state Department of Agriculture not receiving contagious disease reports from the Atlanta Humane Society, which is required by law.
President William Shaheen wrote on the website in response to an April 30 story: “Inaccurately reporting contagious diseases to the Department of Agriculture was never the intention of Atlanta Humane Society. All missing reports from 2011 and 2012 were hand-delivered within 24 hours of learning they had not been received. We are taking the proper steps to evaluate operational policies and update all procedures to ensure we comply with the Department of Agriculture and Georgia’s State Veterinarian Office.”
Contact information for Rice was not immediately available Thursday.
Animal Welfare has come under scrutiny and criticism by various local animal rescue groups for the past couple of years, beginning when Macon still controlled the facility and continuing when the county took over the facility’s operation July 1.
Deborah Biggs, whom the county signed to a 60-day contract to manage the shelter and to develop new shelter policies, drew heavy criticism from local animal groups.
Edwards said it’s likely no candidate for the director’s job with the experience for which the county is looking has avoided controversy.
“With the mindset of some people, only Jesus would be qualified to run the shelter,” he said. “I don’t think you will find anyone who has never had a conflict in this field, except maybe someone who just graduated college. But they wouldn’t have the experience you want. You need somebody who has been through it. It goes with the territory.”
Hart is expected to submit the name of his choice for the director’s job to commissioners for approval at the commission’s Sept. 18 meeting. If commissioners don’t approve the candidate, the process would reopen, Baker said.
Also Thursday, the shelter reopened a day after it was shuttered due to concerns about two puppies that had been adopted Tuesday developing parvo.
Wendi Hilliard, an inspector with the state’s Department of Agriculture, examined the shelter Thursday and found no evidence of parvo. However, her inspection did turn up a case of hookworms and roundworms in one of the 34 kennels at the shelter, affecting a dog and four puppies. One of the puppies died, but the other three pups and the mother dog are receiving treatment.
Hilliard said both kennels will be closed for a three-day period, but the shelter should be operating normally by Monday. She said the shelter is again accepting animals and visitors now that it has reopened.
Hilliard urged people to get their pets spayed and neutered as a means of reducing the cases of parvo.
“With parvo, if you can get the animal to a vet real quick, you can save it,” she said. “But it’s deadly. It’s horrible. It makes me sick (to see an animal with it).”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.