Although the new, more spacious Douglas County Animal Shelter just opened on May 20, the facility is already currently housing 50 percent more animals than the previous antiquated shelter off Cedar Mountain Road within the same time period as last year.

According to Animal Control Manager Frances McMillan, the new shelter has taken in 143 more animals from May 20 to Aug. 8, 2017 than within the same time period in 2016.

Earlier this year, Bill Peacock, director of purchasing and animal services, said that the new facility would be able to accommodate about twice as many dogs and cats as the county’s previous shelter adjacent to the landfill, which had the capacity for 40 dogs and 30 cats.

McMillan said that as of Tuesday, the new shelter was housing 84 dogs — some of which are puppies — and 139 cats, which now puts the feline population at capacity. She said that some of the numbers include kittens still with their mothers.

Fifteen of the cats were scheduled to be going to a rescue facility in Tennessee, she said.

“We’ve been coordinating with the volunteers and rescues to get them out the door,” McMillan said.

The new shelter was designed with 80 large dog runs and 15 puppy kennels, accommodating 110 dogs in full capacity. But because of the way the dog runs were designed – in two sections where the dogs can be moved during cleaning – each run could hold two animals in “extreme circumstances,” she said.

“The cats have put a strain on us,” McMillan said. “We are holding 62 more than last year. There is a long breeding season for cats this year and they are reproducing more. We’ve been picking up 10 to 15 cats at a time. People are more apt to feed (stray) cats when they come up – which they should – but they don’t call us until the cat has a litter of kittens.”

McMillan said that female cats that have not been altered can have two to three litters in a season with six to eight kittens on average. Non-spayed female cats can reproduce at six months and can become pregnant again while still nursing the first litter.

Pet adoptions are pretty much on track from last year, she said. During July 2017, 82 dogs were adopted and 67 cats were adopted. The 149 pet adoptions last month compare with 150 adoptions in July 2016.

McMillan said that in the last eight days, there were 44 adoptions – 32 cats and 12 dogs; during the same period last year, 40 animals were adopted.

“We’re running neck in neck this year, but have more cats, which has changed the dynamics,” she said.

With an increase of animals brought into the shelter, animal control officer calls to date have already surpassed calls from 2016, McMillan said.

“We’re getting a lot of welfare checks involving a lot of cats,” she said. "Animal control is working on three big cat cases right now within Douglas County involving inhumane living conditions and neglect."

Right now, the shelter’s greatest need is more donations of dry cat food and cat litter, due to the large influx of cats coming into the shelter, according to McMillan.

“The Pet Pantry with the humane society and local businesses have fed the animals in the shelter this year,” she said. “We have been able to share with other counties and we have helped 60 to 70 animals every two weeks through the pantry.”

The Pet Pantry is open at the animal shelter on the first and third Saturdays each month, where pet owners in need can come and apply for assistance.

“We have a great group of volunteers who do most of the pickups from local businesses, stock the pantry and keep up with the paperwork,” McMillan said.

She said that donations of pet food frees up funds for the shelter’s spay and neuter program and for pet vaccinations. In addition to providing pet food, the shelter appreciates donations of small fleece blankets which work well for small dogs and puppies and cats and kittens.

The animal shelter is also accepting funds for the spay and neuter program and medical care for the animals.

“It costs a lot to spay and neuter all of these animals,” she said.

A number of changes have taken place with the opening of the new shelter. All animals that leave the shelter are spayed and neutered, given the necessary vaccinations, such as for rabies, and are microchipped.

Currently, the shelter uses a local clinic to perform the procedures before an adopted animal leaves the shelter. Adopters do have the option of using their own veterinarian to perform the surgery, with the animal shelter providing a voucher and transportation to clinics located within the county.

McMillan said that the shelter is close to having its surgical suite up and operational within 30 days and is looking for veterinarian to perform the procedures in-house.

There is no longer a waiting list to adopt an animal. According to McMillan, they now do an “adoption pending” notice after the required 72-hour hold period to give owners time to reclaim their pet.

“Adoptions are now on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said. “This keeps people from being disappointed and will encourage them to keep looking for a pet.”

The cost to adopt a cat is $35, while adopting a dog is $100, which is all inclusive. Adopters pay a portion of the cost of neutering their new-found pet, which is rolled back into the spay and neuter fund.

“The pets are ready to go home, except for a health exam when needed,” McMillan explained.

McMillan stressed that taxpayers do not pay for spaying and neutering the cats and dogs that are adopted from the shelter. The program is funded through grants, donors and individuals who adopt a pet.

The Douglas County Animal Shelter received a grant from the Georgia Department of Agriculture funded by the sale of spay and neuter license plates, according to McMillan.

Funds for the program have also been generated over the last two years from a fundraiser gala held in the spring hosted by Mike and Peggy Mulcare and the Douglas County Humane Society.

“We try to do as much with donations as we can,” she said. “When we pick up an animal off the street, it is our responsibility to care for it.”

The new facility sports a huge reception area with double doors, high-ceilings and wide-open spaces where rows of glass walls and windows bring in a great deal of natural light.

The multitude of windows in the new animal shelter allows the animals to look out and visitors to look in, said McMillan, providing transparency of the shelter’s operations.

The ADA-facility features a large play-area for “free-roaming” cats to enjoy play space and glass-lined walls of spacious cat condos. There is a six-dog quarantine room and a 15-cat quarantine room, each with its own ventilation system to keep disease from spreading and a separate door in which to bring in contagious animals.

There are six office spaces for animal shelter staff and an employee break room and kitchenette. The aesthetically-pleasing facility has been professionally landscaped in keeping with its park surroundings. A fenced in area alongside the shelter will allow dogs to get fresh air and exercise during their stay at the shelter.

In February 2016, the construction contract was awarded to John W. Spratlin and Son LLC for construction of the new 19,000-square-foot animal shelter for a total cost of $4.5 million.

Members of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, the Douglas County Animal Control Advisory Board and staff broke ground on the project in March 2016.

The facility was designed by Carter, Watkins and Associates Architects of Monroe, Georgia, who had designed new shelters in Columbia County, Walton County and Barrow County and had also designed the Animal Sciences Center at the University of Georgia.

Peacock said the new shelter “will allow us to have more interaction with the animals and will be more efficient due to the overall design. Everything is stainless steel, which is easier to clean and reduce the spread of disease among the animals.”

The new shelter was designed for creature comfort, health and safety during their stay.

“It is safer for everyone involved with the set up,” McMillan said. “The animals are a lot cleaner and happier. The ventilation system pulls fresh air from the outside and pulls the inside air out. The animals don’t share the same air, so if we get a case of kennel cough in one area, it doesn’t spread to the other.”

She said that the shelter always has needs for additional volunteers for enrichment and to be adoption counselors. The shelter also needs volunteers for Dogs Day Out, where volunteers take the dogs out for a walk in the park or to an event.

“We have more traffic in the building,” McMillan said. “It is more convenient and when people come, they stay longer and we have more return business. People tell other people about the facility, there is adequate seating and people can walk around.”

She said that "everything is better" from the industrial-sized washer and dryer, to the dishwasher, the salley port to the grooming room.

"We really enjoy the cat condos, which keeps the cats happy," she said.

She stresses that pet owners have their pets spayed and neutered to help decrease pet overpopulation and to keep pets current on their pet's rabies vaccination.

"We (currently) have 224 animals not running the streets and not creating a health and safety hazard," McMillan said.

The Douglas County Animal Shelter is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The shelter is closed on Monday. The shelter is located adjacent to Deer Lick Park at 2171 Mack Rd. in Douglasville. The phone number is 770-942-5961.

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