By LYDIA BERGLAR
A joint work session on Dec. 28 between the Dade County Board of Commissioners and the City of Trenton Board of Commissioners resulted in overall agreement to build a city-county animal control shelter and pet adoption center.
The commissioners agreed that the best location is just behind the Dade County Recycling Center. The city currently runs a shelter, but commissioners have been searching for a better location with improvements and room to share with the county. The county has never had an animal shelter.
Alex Case (City of Trenton mayor) reported that the city has leash laws, two animal control officers, and the small shelter. “We had a lot of questions hit us over this weather. Our animals were warm. We had one animal, and it was adopted the Friday before Christmas. The only thing we had down there were our house cats to keep critters away, and they were in a 60 degree environment.”
He continued, “We need better facilities for the public and volunteers. These volunteer groups are really helping us, especially with our puppies. Monda’s been working on this on her personal side. We’ve looked at several facilities. We really liked Cherokee County’s but it’s bigger than what we need. We’ve got $62,000 and we’ve committed more with the SPLOST.”
Monda Wooten (Trenton street commissioner), who has personally been working on this project for a long while, said, “The humanity of a community is measured by the way they treat their animals.”
She also explained that she chooses to volunteer and believes that much of the rescue work should not be paid for by the government. “There are a lot of people out there like me who will do that, but I think what the government should do is look out for public safety. It is a safety matter when you’ve got animals running loose. That’s why we need an animal shelter. The extra stuff, that’s where the volunteers will help. All you have to do is be volunteer friendly.”
Melissa Bradford (District 4 commissioner) believes that the county needs to catch up on animal control laws. “Nobody wants any of those laws, but if we don’t do that and build a shelter, we’re gonna have problems. I had to put up a fence around my property to keep dogs from attacking my dogs.”
Bradford, Wooten, and Ted Rumley (county executive) confirmed that the public has voted for the shelter three times, but they have not voted for animal control laws. Toward the end of the meeting, Wooten said, “If we could just enforce the state laws, we’d be far ahead of where we are.”
Phillip Hartline (District 2 commissioner) explained his views. “I’m personally not for the animal shelter. It was not told what it would cost us to run it, but it has been on SPLOST three times, so I will support building a new shelter.”
He also discussed animal control laws and issues. “I do know there are people who take animals out of other people’s yards because they’re tied up on a leash law. I think that ought to be a felony. That’s stealing an animal. I think there need to be some parameters. We’re going to have some issues. If you build it they will come, and they will not come from Dade County either. They’ll come from all over.”
He later added, “Y’all [the city] have a shelter and animal control and we don’t. We’re fixing to have to answer to the public. That’s why I’m asking these questions.”
Lamar Lowery (District 1 commissioner) said, “We don’t have a choice since it was voted for. Some people are 100% for it and some are 100% against it. We’re going to be getting animals from Alabama and everywhere else.”
Rumley later addressed this, saying, “We get a lot of animals from Tennessee and Alabama,” and Wooten replied, “Tennessee gets a lot of animals from here. My goal is to get an animal out of Dade County. If it’s going to a good reputable place, I know I won’t have to deal with it again. We have a long way to go on educating people how to treat animals.”
Wooten added, “The key is having a good director who can make those hard decisions. Y’all know how I feel about animals. Just because those animals come, doesn’t mean we have to house them and support them forever. Animals are better euthanized than running wild. The people are safer.”
Robert Goff (District 3 commissioner), Lucretia Houts (fire and utility commissioner), Terry Powell (parks and animal control commissioner) and Mike Norris (police commissioner) all agreed that the shelter has been coming for a long time.
Powell, Norris, Hartline have concerns about the cost of running it. Powell said, “The hard part’s going to be running it. It’s going to take a lot of manpower and it’s going to be costly.”
Goff added, “It’s going to grow government; I don’t care what anybody says. I hate to see animals mistreated. Building the building isn’t the problem,” and Case added, “The problem is it’s forever a government cost to our tax payers.” Goff continued, “You don’t know what cases you’re going to have coming in. You’re going to have to have a vet, you’re going to have to euthanize. There are so many unknowns.”
Ronnie Page (parks and recreation director) said, “You’re going to have to have someone who knows the laws. You’re going to have to have a director. Out there in the county, you have some different folks. You’re going to have to have certified police officers who are animal control officers.”
Case said that he is thinking of a metal building with some block walls, but the animal shelter would have a lot of plumbing needs.
The commissioners agreed that they need to figure out the cost split between the city and the county. They agreed that they need to learn more about animal control laws. As with the elections building, the commissioners agreed to form a subcommittee of two city commissioners and two county commissioners (who will be selected at the next county and city meetings) to lead the project.
The commissioners agreed to break ground within 90 days.