PERRY -- The city’s animal shelter is in disrepair and despite several failed attempts to improve it over the past decade, a real solution may soon be on the horizon.
The current shelter is located inside a fenced-in area next to Perry’s Fleet Maintenance Department on Ball Street. The shelter, which can hold 24 dogs and 24 cats, includes a small green shack that was built in the 1970s for storage and serves as the quarantine area for sick dogs. Other dogs are kept in cages beneath a pavilion-like structure, and cats are housed in a trailer that was donated by a resident.
Rust, cobwebs and air ducts held in place with tape are commonplace at the facility, which is manned by the city’s one full-time animal control officer, a part-time officer and two volunteers.
Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said improving animal control has risen as a priority for the City Council, and he expects the issue will be discussed within the next two months.
“The shelter that we currently have is very inadequate and needs to be replaced,” Faircloth said. “It is a hodgepodge, and our city engineer has told us that we’re basically wasting money continuing to repair it. ... What we have is too expensive to continue.”
The city spent more than $5,000 on repairs in the last fiscal year. That’s about 12 percent of what was budgeted for the facility, said City Manager Lee Gilmour.
About eight years ago, the former mayor and City Council authorized an architect to draw up plans for a new shelter, but Faircloth said the design would cost $900,000 to build and, “we don’t have that kind of money for almost anything.”
About a year ago, Faircloth appointed a new task force to explore the city’s animal control options.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” Faircloth said. “Getting out of animal control altogether isn’t a viable option because it’s something that’s necessary and needed, and the citizens want it.”
In June, the task force told the council that building a new shelter would be the city’s best course of action. However, building a facility that meets just the minimum requirements is estimated to cost $650,000, according to the task force’s report.
Perry is also considering a partnership with Warner Robins, which handles animal control for Houston County and the city of Centerville, Faircloth said. However, the Warner Robins shelter is regularly at full capacity, he said.
“If we were to contract with the city of Warner Robins, they would have to build a new wing on to their facility ... that we would have to pay for,” Faircloth said. “(But) they would take over that operation.”
It’s also possible for Perry to partner with a private company or organization, such as Friends of Perry Animal Shelter, to build and operate a new animal shelter, Faircloth said.
“At some point soon, the council is going to revisit all of this and try to make a determination as to which route to go,” Faircloth said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to get through this, what I call a transition, but what we’re transitioning to is obviously the question.”
ASKING FOR THE SKY
Volunteer Cathy Shaw, 61, appeared before the council Monday and requested permission to apply on behalf of the city for a $650,000 grant from Petco. That would be enough to cover the cost of building a new shelter.
“I asked for the sky,” said Shaw, a retired Perdue Elementary School librarian who has been helping with paperwork at the shelter for two years. “I’m still working on submitting pictures that will have the most impact to the people, hopefully, who are reading this grant so they’ll vote yes for us.”
Shaw appeared before the council in March to ask permission to set up The New Perry Animal Shelter Building Fund for people to donate money to build a new shelter. The fund had a balance of more than $3,000 at the end of July, Shaw said.
“I see a need, and it needs to be fixed,” Shaw said. “So, this is what I’m trying to do to help the city. Hopefully the City Council will pursue the need. ... I’m by myself, I feel like, sometimes.”
Shaw said being at the shelter daily motivates her to make change.
“It’s in the worst shape,” Shaw said. “The animals are exposed to the rain, the heat, the cold.”
A scrapbook Shaw made for the council highlights the poor conditions, which include drainage issues that leave dogs standing paw-deep in rain water; rotted eaves; a leaking roof; a crumbling ceiling and poor ventilation. Shaw said she’s also concerned about rust.
“A lot of our gates are rusted, (and) when they rust, you cannot properly clean them with Clorox,” Shaw said. “When you can’t properly clean them, that leads to the spread of diseases, especially parvo.”
Animal Control Officer Angie Reed said the staff does what it can to keep the shelter clean and disease-free.
“We haven’t had any (disease outbreaks) in a couple of years,” Reed said. “Sometimes we have outbreaks of parvo, but we try real real hard to use the bleach and just do all we can to keep it clean.”
Shaw said a new shelter is needed not only to provide basic and adequate shelter for stray animals in Perry, but also to recruit more volunteers and people looking to adopt pets.
“If we had a nicer, newer facility, more people would be coming down here to visit the animals and, in turn, adopt the animals,” Shaw said.
“Who wants to come down here?” she asked, referencing the shelter’s poor condition. “Nobody.”
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 or follow her on Twitter@Lauraecor.
Donations to the The New Perry Animal Shelter Building Fund are tax deductible. Checks may be mailed to the city of Perry at P.O. Box 2030 Perry, GA 31069. Specify the money is for PAS Building Account-Code #207. Donations also can be made online.