Animal control board's actions raise concerns

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The actions of some members of the Columbia County Animal Care and Control Advisory Board have so disturbed the county commission that one commissioner this week suggested the group be disbanded.

"My gut reaction is to get rid of the advisory board and just take volunteers," said Commissioner Scott Dean, whose mother, Erica, is the board's chairwoman.

Mr. Dean said his mother also favors eliminating the advisory board.

In recent weeks, members of the advisory board have approached potential patrons of Animal Control in its parking lot and told them not to leave their animals there.

Animal Control Manager Linda Fulmer said one woman entered her office off Columbia Road crying. She told commissioners that the woman recently had a baby and wanted to give Animal Control her cat. The woman said that an advisory board member told her it would be better if she "put a bullet into the cat's head."

In another incident, Mrs. Fulmer said a board member who was touring the kennels asked a kennel technician, "When is this one going to be killed?"

Advisory board member Bonnie Whittle, wife of Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, said she has talked with patrons in the parking lot of Animal Control but has never dissuaded anyone from seeking its services.

"I address people on a daily basis, but nobody has ever discouraged anyone from leaving an animal at the shelter," said Mrs. Whittle, who operates an animal-rescue operation. "If anything, we'll offer help to someone. Never has it ever been a discouraging move."

Board members have also been accused of launching personal attacks and criticisms against Animal Control staff, which Mr. Dean said is outside their purview.

Mrs. Whittle was surprised by that accusation.

"I have no clue what they're talking about," she said.

County officials might be reacting to a more determined advisory board, Mrs. Whittle said.

"In the past, things were kind of stale and you had to be a 'yes' person," she said. "But if you don't agree with something, and it doesn't sit right with certain people, then it becomes an issue."

Commissioners said that only some advisory board members are to blame for the discord, but they would not name them.

Board members include Ms. Dean, Mrs. Whittle, Donna Evans, Barbara Key, Karen Gross, Jeanne Harrison and Mary Ellen Franklin.

Though she called it a "useless committee" with no real authority, Mrs. Harrison, an Augusta lawyer and Grovetown resident, said the advisory board is needed.

"It's a watchdog for what's going on at the shelter and it makes the county deal with it," she said.

Phone messages left Thursday for Ms. Evans, Ms. Gross and Ms. Franklin were not immediately returned.

Ms. Key said she would not discuss the issue without first speaking with Ms. Dean.

The board is a citizen advisory committee chosen by county commissioners. It is authorized to make recommendations on fees and the impounding and disposal of animals and to conduct hearings pertaining to dangerous dogs, according to county Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker, who oversees Animal Control.

Mrs. Tucker told commissioners that many members of the advisory board work well with staff but that "others are only there to nitpick." She said she also favors disbanding the group.

In a committee meeting Tuesday commissioners stopped short of disbanding the board but authorized Mrs. Tucker and Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson to pen a letter to each member of the advisory board clearly stating their duties and reminding them that continued interference with operations at Animal Control will have consequences, which might include a member's removal from the board.

"I'd like to believe this is one more chance to come up with an understanding," Commissioner Trey Allen said of the letter.

The commission will review the letter during a meeting Tuesday.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (25) Add comment
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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/17/09 - 01:56 am
0
0
Pam, traffic with Mrs.

Pam, traffic with Mrs. Whittle and Mrs. Evans at your own peril.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 07/17/09 - 04:28 am
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I guess in Columbia County

I guess in Columbia County they don't want any citizen telling them how to run the public services! I mean the AUDACITY!

pet person
0
Points
pet person 07/17/09 - 05:04 am
0
0
If everyone would spay or

If everyone would spay or neuter their pets none of this would be needed.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 07/17/09 - 06:06 am
0
0
They probably need to form a

They probably need to form a committee to evaluate the advisory board. More layers of bureaucracy is always the best policy.

msgret92
121
Points
msgret92 07/17/09 - 06:14 am
0
0
The commission is what needs

The commission is what needs disbanding and replacing. All they know is tax and spend while trying to make CC a little Hilton Head or Gwinette County.

jwarden710
6
Points
jwarden710 07/17/09 - 06:32 am
0
0
I know build another strip

I know build another strip mall to house the commision in on Columbia or Washington road and put Ron Cross in it and seal the doors.

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 07/17/09 - 06:34 am
0
0
What a bunch of fools. If

What a bunch of fools. If Columbia county knew how to take care of the shelter in the first place then you wouldnt need a watchdog. In Columbia County if you disagree with them they label you an outsider or a troublemaker. Why in the world would we want a watchdog group that wont speak out when they think something is wrong. Give me a break!

wise ole man
79
Points
wise ole man 07/17/09 - 07:29 am
0
0
Looks like Dean and company

Looks like Dean and company have picked the wrong one to rub wrong. Bonnie Whittle is a spit fire- messing with her is like being in a bed of rattle snakes. Not a smart move- but smart and Dean don't go together!

DEVGRU
0
Points
DEVGRU 07/17/09 - 08:21 am
0
0
Looks like PETA has

Looks like PETA has infiltrated Columbia County.

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 07/17/09 - 08:54 am
0
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I guess we're supposed to

I guess we're supposed to feel sympathy for the lady who was crying about her cat? I'm sorry, sending your pet to be gassed to death shouldn't be a painless experience for you. Yes, sometimes people have no choice, but when you take on an animal, you take on a responsibility that comes with it, and if it comes down to making a hard decision about that animal then it SHOULD hurt.

aunox
0
Points
aunox 07/17/09 - 08:58 am
0
0
Wow, a lot of criticism for

Wow, a lot of criticism for Columbia County. Listed in Money magazine for three years running as one of the best places to live, one of the top places for affordable living and just this month in Family Circle as a top 10 place to raise a family. Not to mention balancing a budget with no tax hikes or layoffs in a bankrupt state. Yep, they must really be doing things completely wrong.
And as for the shelter, my understanding is that an advisory board is there to make recommendations to the director of Animal Control, not to be directly interfering with the day to day operation. If a board member is actually insulting staff or reprimanding citizens using the service, that is uncalled for.

Brad Owens
4715
Points
Brad Owens 07/17/09 - 09:00 am
0
0
The Board should be respected

The Board should be respected and any county employee that doesn't like it should voice their opinions to the Commission in writing.

up2nogood
0
Points
up2nogood 07/17/09 - 09:57 am
0
0
First of all, you can't

First of all, you can't "voice" anything in "writing." Secondly, the proper venue for addressing issues with advisory boards is in committee meetings, which is what they did. However, I do think it gutless that the commission would not name who they were talking about and that that person wasn't given an opportunity to address those accusations in the same meeting.

up2nogood
0
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up2nogood 07/17/09 - 09:58 am
0
0
BTW, very good points aunox.

BTW, very good points aunox.

Riverman1
86668
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 10:41 am
0
0
Is this the same Animal

Is this the same Animal Control Department that's out rounding up nekkid sunbathers at the church cemetery?

scottdean
0
Points
scottdean 07/17/09 - 12:32 pm
0
0
At least I sign my own name

At least I sign my own name to make "wise" cracks. This animal control issue is not an easy one. It has been going on for several years. It is essential that the Advisory Board support, assist, and promote the Animal Control Department and its mission. Recommendations for improvment are welcomed and encouraged but board members should never be derogatory or demeaning to county taxpayers or employees. We should all be striving to make things better in Columbia County. Naming names and pointing fingers doesn't work. Cooperation and positive, constructive criticism is a much better way to keep moving forward.

gnx
7
Points
gnx 07/17/09 - 01:14 pm
0
0
Board members need to tend to

Board members need to tend to business instead of harassing residents in the animal control parking lot. The folks at Animal Control are professional, caring and provide a needed service for the county. If one of the board members approached me in the parking lot and said anything derogatory about the shelter I'd probably tell them off.

jaschild
5
Points
jaschild 07/17/09 - 01:43 pm
0
0
could this be a power

could this be a power struggle amongst "power" women?!?!

Brad Owens
4715
Points
Brad Owens 07/17/09 - 01:44 pm
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up2nogood, I guess you have

up2nogood, I guess you have never heard a 'figure of speech' (look it up proofreader). First, the Animal Control Board is made up of citizens. The Animal Control Office is paid for by those citizens tax dollars. If there are problems with the way Animal Control is being run, these board members are CHARGED with addressing it. How they chose to do that is up for debate and unless it is written down EXACTLY what they are to do and NOT do it is a free country right? It is funny to me that Columbia County folks are oh so 'conservative' but yet they side with the government against a 'citizens' committee. I was on the Animal Control Board for Richmond County and we had to change EVERYTHING to make it right but now we have the best in Georgia so says Tommy Irvin and the Dept Of Agriculture (they voiced that in a report). I do agree that all names involved should be made public otherwise it kinda seems like a non-issue. But I will warn you Cpounty Commissioners right now, if you screw up the Animal Control, PEOPLE LOVE ANIMALS and it is a fight that will make you look bad and you will lose. Pet owners and animal lovers are a LOUD group.

Riverman1
86668
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 01:52 pm
0
0
ScottDean...relax...when

ScottDean...relax...when things get silly, it's best to make a joke or two.

Mr. Thackeray
953
Points
Mr. Thackeray 07/17/09 - 02:54 pm
0
0
"Naming names and pointing

"Naming names and pointing fingers doesn't work. Cooperation and positive, constructive criticism is a much better way to keep moving forward."

Mr. Dean, it seems in CC that you must be a squeaky wheel or the good old boys simply ignore you, hoping you will go away and most do. Naming names puts people on the spot and, in many cases, they need it! The problem with CC is that it is all driven by real estate values and suburban vs. rural issues. YOU are supposed to represent the "rural" side of the county yet those living there are constantly neglected and viewed as the other side of the tracks, or I-20 in this case. Where it be the Commissioners or the CCBOE 20 divides the haves from the have nots!

scottdean
0
Points
scottdean 07/17/09 - 03:09 pm
0
0
Riverman1, thank you the

Riverman1, thank you the advice. You are correct, Sir.

Lumbarsupport
0
Points
Lumbarsupport 07/17/09 - 07:38 pm
0
0
I would suggest that you

I would suggest that you people lay off the Mrs. Whittle, she has arrest powers by proxy.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 07/17/09 - 08:34 pm
0
0
Mrs Whittle is, well how do

Mrs Whittle is, well how do you put this mildly, starts with a b and rhymes with stitch.

ColCo
819
Points
ColCo 07/17/09 - 08:41 pm
0
0
Too much estrogen!

Too much estrogen!

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