Lori Cagle wants Bartow County to give her group and other rescue organizations easier access to surrendered pets which otherwise could face euthanization.
Cagle recently helped organize an effort called No Kill Bartow, which seeks to greatly reduce the animal euthanization rate in Bartow.
She said she is asking the county government to consider changing its longtime system for handling stray animals to give animal rescue groups easier access to surrendered animals before they are placed in the shelter with other animals, including strays.
Unlike some other neighboring counties like Paulding, Bartow County Animal Control Department does not allow adoptions from its shelter facility.
The county contracts with a 23-year-old nonprofit called Etowah Valley Humane Society to pick up animals from the shelter, serve as its adoption agency and operate a separate shelter where the public can meet and adopt pets.
Bartow County pays Etowah Valley to provide adoption services. It also leases to the humane society the property where its offices and shelter building operate near the Animal Control shelter on Ladd’s Mountain Road in western Cartersville.
The only other members of the public allowed in the county facility are those who have lost animals and can prove they are the owners, county officials said.
As a result, rescue groups must go through Etowah Valley Humane Society to gain access to surrendered animals in Bartow County — drawing complaints in recent years from some in the area’s animal rescue community.
Cagle said her group wants to work with the county government and Etowah Valley to reduce the number of animals euthanized, which she said has totaled more than 19,000 in nine years.
Longtime Paulding County no-kill shelter advocate Mandie Brauer helped Cagle lead an informational event May 21 at a downtown Cartersville coffee house that sought to bring attention to recent efforts by area rescue groups to reduce the kill rate.
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor, Animal Control director Tommy Gentry and Etowah Valley director Bryan Canty were among the attendees.
Cagle said Bartow is heavily dependent on outside rescue groups to help reduce the euthanasia rate because Etowah Valley cannot do it alone — evidenced by a 28% euthanasia rate in 2018.
She estimated Bartow County Animal Control’s shelter is currently receiving about six of every 10 animals from owners surrendering their pets, in part because of an annual summertime surge from families moving.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture, which regulates how rescue groups operate, has told her group organizations can accept pets directly if they are licensed and up to date on required paperwork, Cagle said.
She said two area rescues have said they were willing to try to find homes for more surrendered animals from Bartow County.
EUTHANASIA RATE DROPPINGThough rates on what is considered “no kill” vary, many national animal rescue agencies, such as Best Friends, give it such a designation if the euthanasia rate is 10% or less.
Gentry said his shelter is essentially at “no kill” status because of combined efforts of Etowah Valley and animal rescue groups in recent months to reduce the number of animals it is holding.
He said only 25 animals were euthanized out of 437 it received in May for a rate of about 6%.
Its euthanization rate was 10% in the first five months of this year — less than half the rate of 25% through 2018’s first five months, according to department statistics. The rate for all 12 months of 2018 was 28%.
The shelter was built in 1990 and later was rebuilt and added a quarantine room to segregate sick animals, he said.
It was housing a below-capacity total of 75 animals on a recent day, Gentry said.
The Animal Control Department’s 12-member staff performs a variety of functions, including picking up and housing animals considered strays or victims of neglect or cruelty, as well as those surrendered to them.
According to the Bartow County government website, the Animal Control department holds stray animals for five working days, which are Monday through Friday and does not include weekends and holidays.
“After that, they are determined to be property of Bartow County – by County Ordinance Section X.
“The animals are then held for an indefinite period of time. If space is available and the animal is healthy and not aggressive.”
Owners also can surrender their pets to the animal control shelter on Ladd’s Mountain Road, the website stated.
“Animals turned into the shelter by their owner will remain as long as we have space and the animal remains healthy and non-aggressive.
“Because space must be available for strays who are brought to the shelter, some animals are unfortunately pulled to provide space even if healthy and non-aggressive.”
Cagle said the decrease could be attributed in part to area rescue group members putting extra effort in recent months to help No Kill Bartow find homes for the county’s needy animals through the use of social media and other forms of networking .
However, she said a more permanent solution is needed. The unusually low euthanization rate is “not sustainable” because rescue groups typically include volunteers who cannot sustain an initial burst of energy for a campaign, she said.
“UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS”Canty said Animal Control and Etowah Valley “basically” function as a single entity in which one intakes animals and the other facilitates adoptions and rescues.
He said euthanasia rates have fallen in the last nine years from 82% in 2010 to the current rate. Adoption and rescue numbers also have increased from 69 per month to 220 per month, Canty said.
“The relationship has been an unqualified success,” he said.
Canty said the county shelter’s May rate placed it well below the 10% threshold for a “no kill” designation.
“Statistically speaking, only five healthy adoptable animals have been euthanized in 2019. The rest were put down due to behavioral and/or infectious disease,” he said.
Any rescue organization that complies with Georgia Department of Agriculture requirements for documentation may go through Etowah Valley Humane to pull animals from the county’s Animal Control shelter, he said.
Etowah Valley “performs due diligence” by verifying a group’s operating license or nonprofit status in the state in which they operate, he said.
It also archives an Agriculture Department agency transfer form “notating everyone who is authorized to pull under the rescue’s license.”
It then “follows up” with a state-required 30-day proof of vetting to “assure positive outcomes,” and records the date and organization receiving animals, Canty said.
He also said his organization has banned two rescue groups from taking animals from the Bartow shelter “because of slanderous personal attacks against individual staff,” without naming the groups or other details.
“Folks should get out of the notion that rescue is a ‘one size fits all’ endeavor and that every area must use the same methods,” Canty said. “Simply put, this system works very well in our county.”