County to provide limited animal control services in 2023

Jan. 3—THOMASVILLE- Animal control services will change as of December 31, due to the County and the Humane Society not being able to reach an agreement for the continuation of services. The new plans the County has outlined for animal control will have two phases.

Phase one will include limited animal control and last approximately six to twelve months.

During this phase, the services provided by Thomas County will be strictly limited to those covered in the interim 911 protocols for animal control, as approved by the Board of Commissioners during their December meeting.

These services include sheltering and quarantining dangerous dogs and rabies suspects, along with sheltering any domesticated animal that is being treated cruelly or has bitten a person.

According to County Manager, Mike Stephenson, the Department of Public Health will work closely with Thomas County to guide them in the event of a rabies case.

Stephenson explained that once 911 receives a call regarding any of the following complaints, they will respond to the scene and contact neighboring facilities to see if any spare space is available to place the animal. However, Stephenson does not expect a large number of animals at any time, as Public Health Manager Spenser Bowen has shared that often domesticated animals who are considered dangerous or may be suspected of rabies can often quarantine inside of the owner's home.

In addition to working with DPH, the County Commission has also constructed an animal control board, consisting of Captain Chuck McDonald, Bowen and another local law enforcement official. The main purpose of the control board is to hear appeals to dangerous dogs designations.

During this limited period, the board will not accept nor will 911 contact animal control for strays or animals at large.

Once the first phase has been completed and a full shelter capable of holding 100- 150 animals has been approved by the Department of Agriculture, Stephenson said they begin their second phase, known as "full service animal control."

This level of service will provide a shelter, animal control officers, shelter personnel and a veterinarian.

Additionally, this phase will house a special unit, overseen by Sheriff Carlton Powell, that supervises the field operations of picking up strays. However, the Sheriff's Office would not be responsible for operating or maintaining the shelter.

While this phase will include picking up and housing strays and animals at large, it may not be the full service some residents are accustomed to. It has not been decided yet if this phase would include owner surrenders of unwanted pets.

Stephenson knows this is not the outcome anyone hoped for and said situations in the field may require additional action or modifications to the interim protocols.

"It'll be difficult until the shelter is built," he said. "It's not what we wanted, but we have an obligation."

Stephenson said until the shelter is built negotiations with the Humane Society are not off the table, but once the shelter begins construction they will no longer accept an offer.

In the meantime, the County is looking for an individual who is familiar with working with animals to work directly under Powell to help in this new endeavor.

Those interested can contact Stephenson for further details.