During the public hearing on the Gordon County budget for 2020, a resident expressed complaints regarding Animal Control funds and asked why spay/neuter services were not offered at the facility.

As a native of Calhoun, Laura Dobson’s family has lived here for a long time and one of her biggest passions is fighting for animal rights and health, she said. Dobson has been a spay/neuter advocate since 2001, and she thinks that Gordon County Animal Control should sterilize animals before they are adopted, especially with the facility’s rising budget.

On Tuesday night, during the Board of Commissioners meeting, a public hearing was hosted as a chance for locals to express their concerns and opinions about the proposed budget for the next year, which would start in July.

Dobson was the only one who signed up to talk, and she specifically addressed the budget for the Animal Control facility. She expressed concerns that the budget for animal control was increasing, however, fewer services are being offered at the new facility as compared to the old one, she said.

In April 2017, the Gordon County Animal Control facility was burned in an electrical fire, completely destroying the entire structure of the building. Since then, the county has rebuilt a facility at the same location, 790 Harris Beamer Road, which was opened for business in November.

Dobson expressed worry that the proposed budget for the next fiscal year allocates $340,149 to the Animal Control Department. The budget for the past 12 months has been $336,655, with the budget before that being $235,656.69.

In response to Dobson incorrectly saying the budget for animal control was increasing by 50 percent, County Administrator Jim Ledbetter said the budget for animal control was only increasing by about $4,000 from last year’s budget, referencing the document that is publicly posted on the county’s website. Ledbetter’s recommended increases in funding are for equipment rental, supplies and facility services.

Before the 2017 fire, Dobson said Animal Control was spaying and neutering animals before they were adopted, though now the responsibility of sterilizing the animal falls upon the shoulders of the adopters. Dobson quoted the 2010 Georgia Sterilization Act when she said it should be the county that is sterilizing their animals.

“The board knows putting the responsibility on the adopter does not work, and in the past, only around 40 percent of adopters actually complied with the law,” Dobson said. “You know it doesn’t work.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, the act says the sterilization may happen one of two ways. First, the service may be provided before the adoption of the animal from a public shelter. The other option is that the shelter may enter into a “written agreement with the person acquiring such animal” to spay/neuter it within 30 days of the adoption (or within 30 days of the sexual maturity of the animal).

Dobson said Mark Murrah, an employee for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, has sent emails and told Dobson that the responsibility for a county to spay and neuter their animals, according to the law, is on the county.

The administrator also said the county was complying with the Georgia Sterilization Act to his knowledge. Ledbetter said that per the most recent adoptions, 97 percent of adopters have complied with the requirement to get their pet fixed within a certain time frame.

“If it can be done in a small modest building with $235,000 a year, why can it not be done with a gorgeous new facility for $340,000 a year?” Dobson asked commissioners. “It makes no sense.”

Dobson noted that the center used to post adoptable animals on petfinder.com and on the county website, but currently, she said the county only posts on Facebook.

In response to online posting, Ledbetter said Facebook postings were more effective.

“We’re really splitting hairs here,” Ledbetter said in defense of Dobson’s complaints. “On the county website there’s a link to Facebook, and we post our animals there.”

Also, Dobson expressed frustration at how the old facility was open on Saturdays and yet it was an uphill battle for the new building to have even temporary Saturday hours. Ledbetter said Sue Henson, director of animal control, was struggling to find weekend volunteers for Saturdays.

Ledbetter also said the county would be reducing adoption fees, and on Wednesday, the county released a notice saying the $85 fee was reduced to $25 for a limited time, with the help of the Animal Rescue League of Northwest Georgia.

Glad to clear the air, Ledbetter said he was thankful for the opportunity to present the facts about the facility, as he’s been aware of a lot of false statements regarding the department circling online, such as the rumor that the county refused free spay/neuter services offered by a nonprofit, which he said never happened.