Dade County, Georgia, residents help animals and demand better services

Some residents of Dade County, Georgia are calling for better animal control services in the county, pointing out that many animal lovers and advocates need to open their homes and wallets to fill the void.

County officials plan to improve services, they said, but no timetable has been set.

Dade County resident Barbara Havlin said she now has 14 dogs in her home, including five mostly black Labrador Retriever puppies. Several have white spots, so one with a white foot was named Twinkle — a creative name that will set her apart when she tries to be housed by a relief organization, Havlin said.

Her new dog has a massive neck injury from what Havlin thinks was a fight with another animal. She said the wound isn’t healing and it’s getting infected.

“He’s a good dog,” she said.

Havlin said she became involved when she saw a dog tied to a roadside guardrail shortly after leaving California in 2006.

“That’s when I realized there was a problem,” she said, beginning a long volunteer career helping foster dogs and providing spaying and neutering services. sterilization to his new community.

“Exhausted” and struggling with health issues, Havlin said she primarily retired from animal welfare in Dade County a year ago after about 15 years of community service.

“It never ends,” she said. “You can offer free neutering, that’s okay, people still don’t want it. Because they’re lazy and can’t be bothered early in the morning to drop their dog off. I don’t know. . .we do what we can.”

Much of the networking for fostering and rehoming animals is done online, using resources such as a Facebook group called Friends Of The Future Dade County Animal Shelter. Animal advocates also partner with rescue organizations and part-time foster volunteers like Havlin to foster and rehome animals.

At the Dade County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday night, Trenton Mayor Alex Case said he was researching a pre-designed metal building that would provide more services than the current animal shelter. At present, he said the shelter only houses a few animals that the city recovers. The shelter is not open to the public and does not accept animals found or returned by the public.

Case said staff like a full-time manager and a vet tech would also be needed. An intergovernmental agreement with the county would be needed to determine how the cost of the facility would be split, Case said.

Ted Rumley, chairman and director of the Dade County Board of Directors, said many people don’t think an animal shelter is needed in the county, but he said the county is getting a lot of calls about the subject and that it needed to be remedied. Deal agreed.

In a phone interview, Rober Goff, Dade County Commissioner, said county officials are aware of the problem, but a new facility is expensive — and will also require an ongoing budget. Currently, the county partners with the city of Trenton for animal services, he said.

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Animals of Dade County

Goff said animal care is a priority, but issues such as public safety and natural disaster preparedness have come first.

Havlin said she doesn’t think the local government is doing more to help solve the animal problem because people like her have volunteered to help.

“It’s like in our county, they resisted doing anything to build a shelter the longest,” Havlin said. “But people are asking for it more and more.”

A frequent complaint from Dade County animal advocates is that Trenton does not post photos of the dogs they house in its shelter. Georgia law states that if Havlin takes in a dog, she must post a photo so it can be reunited with its owner.

She expressed concern that the city does not have to follow the same rules.

Along with improvements to the shelter, Havlin thinks the county should require licensing for pets, but in some of the remote parts of the county, “you’re talking about very independent mountain people here.”

(READ MORE: Whitfield County to step up animal control with new building)

Trenton resident Erin Wallace said she got involved in Dade County animal husbandry when she saw puppies on the side of the road and had to assume someone one had “extinguished” them. She is fostering with Marion Animal Resource Connection but has taken a short break because her child is starting school.

“We need an animal shelter here, very bad,” Wallace said, adding that she had recently seen another litter of puppies posted on social media. “We can’t do everything.

Goff said sterilization and sterilization were necessary and important.

“If people have dogs or cats and get them neutered, that will solve a big percentage of the problem that they (animal advocates) want us to solve,” Goff said.

Dogs bred for hunting and birds aren’t the ones that have unwanted puppies because their owners don’t let them “run around,” Goff said. It’s the “porch dogs” of people allowed to roam the neighborhood who cause the puppies to be discarded carelessly, he said.

“It’s sad, I’d like to get my hands on people who do it (throwing dogs) because it’s wrong,” Goff said. “If you love this animal,” neuter it and avoid this problem, he said.

Retired military veteran John Huffman runs a social media page called Your Dade Helper. He moved to Dade County in 2011.

“That was 2,300 jobs ago,” he said, while taking a break from cutting trees for an 81-year-old man who needed help.

Huffman is also advocating for a new shelter and thinks an easy way to ease the burden on the small Trenton shelter would be to post photos of the dogs entrusted to the shelter. He said few people even knew the shelter was there, and he said he was concerned the animals housed there would not receive proper care.

(READ MORE: Due to increased volume, Walker County, Georgia is considering combining animal control and animal shelter)

Huffman also said Dade County commissioners are not acting because volunteers are filling the void.

“And they’re turning their homes into animal shelters,” Huffman said. “With their own money, everything. I spoke to a lady who spent $600 on an animal with a broken leg, she spent another $1,000 on another dog. Once in a while they (the commission ) say something like, ‘yeah we’re looking at that county shelter thing,’ but every time he shows up, he’s blown away.”

Other residents are networked to focus on animal care, but Huffman said his focus is the government’s responsibility. He said he wanted to see more documentation on finances related to the Trenton shelter and where dogs are sent by rescue organizations in partnership with the shelter.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at [email protected] or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.

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Jennifer R. Strohm