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Public Animal Welfare Services at 99 North Ave. is opening its doors to the public Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

It's a compromise schedule -- to increase the chances of a pet adoption but to lower the risk of coronavirus exposure. Director Jeff Mitchell said they have been sanitizing each cage in the facility as often as possible to prevent any spread of COVID-19 among the animals and employees.

While the public can visit the facility to look at the adoptable pets, everyone will have their temperature taken before entering and be asked a series of questions relating to their potential COVID-19 exposure.

People can drop by during the afternoon window, but if the facility reaches a certain limit, they will have to wait outside until someone leaves. So far, it hasn't come to that, Mitchell said.

Recently, a dog in Georgia tested positive for COVID-19, according to the director the Georgia Department of Public Health. While this is only the second dog in the United States to test positive, the director and the rest of the employees don't want to take any risks.

"They're doing more studies and research on that ... There are a few instances, like the lady in New York, where they're not the same strand humans get," Mitchell said. "It is something that is possible, so the CDC recommends that for anybody who tests positive that owns a pet, to isolate yourself from your pet and isolate your pet from others."

Right now, none of the animals have exhibited symptoms at the shelter, but staff continues to take every necessary precaution to prevent a spread. The shelter doesn't have the resources to test each animal, but if one begins to show symptoms of any kind, it is taken to the vet.

"The problem with a lot of animal diseases is they have a lot of the same symptoms," he said.

Mitchell urges everyone to take their animals to a veterinarian after they're adopted from the facility, whether they seem sick or healthy. There are many in the area that will do a free check up for animals from PAWS. A list is given to the new owner after they adopt the dog or cat. 

Kennels that were touched during visits are sanitized and cleaned after people leave. Mitchell and staff also ask visitors to remain six feet away from the animals when possible, to help limit any exposure.

"I know it's tempting to want to reach out and touch the animals, but not unless you're truly interested in adopting it," Mitchell said.

In those cases, a staff member would get the cat or dog out of its enclosure so that the visitor can interact with it.

PAWS continues to transport their animals to rescues, both in state and out of state, for the time being, to help keep their occupancy numbers low. For questions regarding adoption and visitation, contact PAWS at 706-236-4537.

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