Animal Services Director Sharon Broady is proposing the city hire a full-time animal adoption coordinator who would work to place dogs and cats in homes to drive down the shelter’s 70 percent kill rate.
Broady pitched the idea to the animal services advisory board Wednesday. Next month, she will bring the proposal to Augusta commissioners, who will have to approve the position.
The adoption coordinator would also be responsible for marketing adoption events, spay and neuter education, coordinating volunteer outreach, grant writing, and networking with rescue groups, foster homes and interested families.
Interim Administrator Tameka Allen said she believes money is available in the budget, and if the commission approves the position, the coordinator could be hired immediately.
“Ms. Broady and I think the commission is more than willing to do what’s necessary to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our citizens,” Allen said, adding the salary and job description must still be finalized by the Human Resources Department. “Our goal is to try to get somebody in as soon as possible.”
To help facilitate adoptions, Broady said she will also ask commissioners to extend the shelter’s schedule by one hour on weekdays and begin opening on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m.
The department is also finalizing a marketing campaign that will place pro-adoption and pro-spay-and-neuter banners on city buses.
Broady said these proposals are two-fold – to help decrease the euthanasia rate at the shelter while also combating Augusta’s animal overpopulation problem with education and outreach.
These efforts follow a new arrangement implemented by the shelter on July 15, which facilitates the transfer of adoptable animals from the shelter into rescue homes.
Licensed rescue groups can now enter the facility to identify which animals they’d like to adopt, and then only Augusta Animal Services, not the rescues, are allowed to transport the unaltered animals to spay-and-neuter clinics for surgery.
The rescue organizations can then pick the sterilized animals up from the clinics and place them in foster homes, rescue shelters or permanent families.
Before this arrangement, Broady did not allow any rescue groups to remove unaltered animals from the shelter, which became a contentious issue in March after Animal Services lost its part-time veterinarian who was performing sterilizations.
Rescue groups requested they be allowed to adopt unaltered animals by entering into written contracts with the shelter, guaranteeing they would get the animal altered within 30 days, which is permitted by Georgia law.
Broady refused the partnership, citing low compliance in the past and the high risk of letting unaltered animals in the public to breed.
Some advisory board members feared that would only worsen the 70 percent euthanasia rate, which has resulted in the deaths of 13,000 dogs, cats and other animals over the past two years.
After fierce outcry from the public, Animal Services halted all euthanasias on July 10 – except for vicious or severely ill animals – until a solution was reached.
On Tuesday, Kennel Operations Manager Priscilla Crisler said that euthanasia freeze is still in place and the shelter is currently holding 475 animals, about 75 over capacity.
Dog Networking Agents of Georgia, the primary rescue group working with Animal Services, removed 22 dogs last week and is on schedule to remove 23 this week from the shelter, according to founder Hayley Zielinski.
Continuing at that pace, DNA is set to surpass all efforts by rescue groups last year. In 2013, rescue groups pulled 177 total animals from the shelter, while private citizens adopted 835 – 6,500 were killed by a lethal injection.
Zielinski has since placed the animals she pulled this month into homes locally and across the country and said she can continue to do so with help from the community.
“We need foster homes to take these animals out of the shelter, we need public support,” she said.