Originally created 11/05/99

Winter housing sought for stray animals



The CSRA Humane Society's plan to turn the old city stockade into an animal shelter has been brought to heel by city commissioners at the request of the Augusta Canal Authority.

And that could leave some abandoned animals out in the cold this winter, said Raynette Mayer, humane society president.

The Augusta Commission has voted to delay action for a month on leasing the stockade at Lake Olmstead to the Humane Society.

The commission's Public Services Committee had approved the 10-year lease a week ago, and when Canal Authority members found out about it, they were both surprised and a little put out, said member Jeanie Allen.

"We've had in the back of our minds what would be the best use for that property, but we haven't been active about it," Mrs. Allen said. "Then we read in the paper where the committee had decided to let the Humane Society have it. We said, `Wait a minute now. We thought we were supposed to be in the loop."'

Go back and vote!

Canal Authority members began lobbying commissioners, and many came to Tuesday's meeting to request a delay.

Executive Director Dayton Sherrouse said authority members just want to know more about the humane society's plans because the stockade borders the national heritage district along the canal.

The area around Lake Olmstead is a natural entryway into the canal system, and the authority is about to begin $6 million projects along the canal and wants to see how the shelter would affect them, Mr. Sherrouse said.

"We just had the bridge dedication there Monday, and we're putting the bike-way right by it and a lot of improvements.

"We're not against the Humane Society or maybe not against what they want to do, but we just wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and meet with them and find out exactly what they've got in mind."

Mr. Sherrouse wanted longer than a 30-day delay, but Mayor Bob Young objected.

Members of each group will meet Monday to go over the Humane Society's plans.

Mr. Sherrouse said the authority had talked at one time about using the stockade for a visitors' center and possibly could get federal grants to help pay for renovating it.

Lake Olmstead resident Nick Blanos spoke against leasing the stockade to the Humane Society at Tuesday's meeting. He said there was an animal shelter next to the stockade 20 years ago, and people just dropped off stray animals when the shelter was closed.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mayer said the commission's action was "quite a big blow."

"We're really between a rock and hard place, so this couldn't come at a worse time," she said.

The Humane Society is paying $1,240 a month to board the animals they're trying to find homes for, she said.

"Pushing it back a month just puts us that much farther behind in getting the facility, renovating it and ready to start helping the community with pets," she said.

"Of course, in the wintertime as it gets colder, any pets that are abandoned outside are more at risk of suffering from the environment. It's just that many more that are going to be killed out at (Richmond County) animal control."

Mrs. Mayer said the CSRA Humane Society was very concerned about Mr. Blanos' comments.

"We are not the Augusta Humane Society," she said. "We have nothing to do with them. We are not responsible for whatever problems they had 20 years ago with the facility they had over there."

After Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Young said leasing the stockade to the Humane Society would be a good use for the old jail.

"It would be good for the community," he said. "It would help take the pressure off the animal shelter in south Richmond County."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.