Sunday, February 14, 2016

Suggestions for improving Oconee County Animal Control

Having been an Oconee County governmental employee on at least two occasions, and a volunteer on many others, does not automatically give me some magical solutions and insight into improving what most residents consider a less than optimal situation that is much bigger than merely the Branch Road facility far south down a dead end dirt road not all that far from Heritage Park. However a lifetime of working for solutions and diagnosing problems does give me a little bit of perspective on how to solve a difficult situation. Yes, my recent brush with the Animal Control and my loose dog does not mean that I am merely complaining or proclaiming that the law does not apply to me. Quite the contrary, if anything, I should be more responsible and extra careful living with a loaded pistol of a pit bull that I recently fostered and adopted means I will admit wrong-doing and pay my fines and get my dog vaccinated  but therein starts my solution to the many layered difficulties at the entire Oconee County Animal Shelter and beyond.

So read, react, demand, consider, consult and at least let the conversation begin about what we can do together.

  1. WHEN ADOPTING ANIMALS, VACCINATE THEM AT THE FACILITY BEFORE ALLOWING THEM TO LEAVE THE PREMISES: this would be a fairly simple and easy to implement solution to making sure all the animals have their rabies shot before they are adopted at PetSmart or the Animal Shelter.
  2. INSTEAD OF AUTOMATICALLY CONFISCATING AND QUARANTINING THE ANIMALS FOR BITING OR BEING OUT OF DATE ON VACCINES, VACINE AT HOME INSTEAD OF KEEPING THEM FOR 10 DAYS: while I realize the public health risks of having any animal out of date on their vaccines, why not bring a  booster shot to the house or location and update them right away instead of punishing the family and the animal?
  3. KEEP AND MAINTAIN THE POSTED HOURS AT THE ANIMAL CONTROL FACILITY: having driven down to Branch Road south of Farmington for the fourth consecutive day, I was very sad to arrive as 12:30 Sunday Valentine's Day when the sign clearly states that they are open 11 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Perhaps there was an emergency or they could not get someone to work there at the time. I have worked at the Herman C. Michael Gym and Eagle Tavern and had situations arise where I had to close the facility during what would otherwise be open hours. The three previous visits I made Thursday through Saturday were brief but without incident.
  4. DO NOT PRESUME ANIMALS ARE GUILTY BEFORE BEING GIVEN SOME KIND OF DUE PROCESS CONSIDERATION OR AT LEAST AN APPEAL PROCESS: yes I know that the protections of the United States Constitution do not apply to animals, but they do to the owners of the animals, and absolute lack of any appeal process is simply inexcusable. I really don't think that a whole lot of good comes to the animal or the family of the animal by removing them for what is largely an arbitrary amount of days when there is no actual rabies present. 
  5. COMMUNICATION AND RECORD KEEPING HAS TO IMPROVE BETWEEN THE ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS, THE WATKINSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE: the lack of concurrent records, the lack of sharing arrest reports and incident reports, the seeming indifference to other agencies' authority or dominion is very galling and alarming and should be able to be solved in this information age. 
  6. IF THE ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS HAVE THE LEGAL AUTHORITY TO REMOVE ANIMALS WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT FROM YOUR HOME, THEY NEED TO BE EITHER DEPUTIZED OR HAVE ACCOMPANIMENT OF A SHERIFF'S DEPUTY OR MUNICIPAL POLICE OFFICER: I was made aware of the impending "arrest" and confiscation of my dog, so I cooperated but protested every step of the way, including not signing the order to appear in the Oconee County Magistrate Court.
  7. THE SIGNAGE NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED FOR THE ANIMAL CONTROL FACILITY: I would suggest something to the effect of "Oconee County Animal Shelter 1/4 a mile ahead to the (arrow sign right or left)" on both sides of 441. It really feels like we are embarrassed of the current location and facility.
  8. DIVERSITY ON THE ANIMAL CONTROL CITIZENS COMMITTEE: there needs to be  at least one or two people on this volunteer committee who are not connected with either agriculture or animal husbandry, i.e. there needs to be at least one pet owner, and they do not have to be some strident animal rights activist, although I think that would be fabulous, too.
  9. CONCRETE PLANS FOR A NEW FACILITY: no one on the current Oconee County Board of Commissioners has seemed particularly responding to the continued outcry for a newer, better and bigger facility for the animals of Oconee County. I hope that will change with the retirement of Melvin Davis, the apparent ascendancy of so far unrivaled Board of Commissioners member John Daniell to the chair, and the subsequent openings on the Board of Commissioners. 
  10. CHANGE THE WHOLE OUTLOOK OF ANIMAL CONTROL:  there is a palatable air of anger and contempt in the entire process, and I know it is not the most pleasant process, but again, how do you change the culture of confiscating someone's pet, no matter how justified the reason? If the Animal Control cannot fall under the purview of the Sheriff's Office, then perhaps recreation department? There are many other issues and I hope this is merely the catalyst for improvement of the Oconee County Animal Control.
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