State inspectors say Richmond County Animal Control is too hot and have recommended the facility stop picking up and accepting animals until it can get a temperature-controlled building.
Georgia Department of Agriculture inspectors cited the facility for inhumane treatment of animals July 10. During a reinspection Thursday, they recorded temperatures ranging from 94 degrees to 100 degrees in buildings housing animals.
The inspectors recommended that Director Bonnie Bragdon contact other shelters in the area about housing the animals until the heat problem is corrected.
Dr. Bragdon said she does not plan to implement the recommendations but will monitor the situation more carefully and try to move more animals out of the shelter through a "Dog Days of Summer" sale this weekend.
"My concern about closing the shelter is that it is simply going to continue to get hotter, so I don't think it's fair to the citizens of Richmond County to provide no animal control services for the next two months until we get back to decent weather," she said Monday.
She said she has to balance animal welfare against public safety, and her job is to protect public safety.
"If we determine animals are unduly stressed, then we will destroy them," she said.
Dr. Bragdon said she will not try to farm out animals to other shelters.
On July 10, inspectors cited the Richmond County facility for four violations of the state animal protection act, including no temperature control and no water in puppy cages kept in sweltering heat.
Inspectors visiting the facility on another matter found fans not turned on, feces piled up outside, and four of nine puppy cages with no water.
"At 5:25 p.m. the sun was shining directly from west side and directly on the animals which some were the puppies without water," a report of the inspection states.
When all fans were turned on, the temperature dropped 10 degrees, to 86 degrees, the inspectors stated.
The inspectors recommended some type of shade or curtains be placed on the buildings to help ward off the heat.
"Several areas had broken thermometers, and all fans had hair or dust on covers," the report stated.
Many of the problems at Richmond County Animal Control are created by the inadequacy of the shelter, Dr. Bragdon said.
"If people really want to do something about it, they can donate money toward purchasing special fans," she said. "And if they really want a shelter built, they can call their commissioner and make sure their commissioner still sees it as something important to the community."
The shelter in south Augusta, where employees spend 12 1/2 hours a week killing unwanted animals by lethal injection, is a hodgepodge of old buildings. Plans for a new shelter have been in the works for at least five years, but construction has been delayed, most recently by cost. Construction bids came in higher than expected. The design was modified, and the project has been rebid, Dr. Bragdon said.
Augusta-Richmond County Animal Control will sponsor a "Dog Days of Summer" sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the shelter at 4164 Mack Lane. As the temperature rises, prices on adult dogs will fall. When it reaches 90 degrees, adoption fees fall by $5 and continue dropping by $5 for each 5 degrees the temperature rises. If it reaches 105 degrees, the dog is free.
The public also can help by donating money to buy special misting fans for the shelter. Each fan costs about $2,000.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.