Hancock County does not have animal services

“We just need better laws and enforcement of those laws and people to start caring about it and realizing what a huge problem it is.”

SPARTA, Ga. — A pet lover’s nightmare — the ASPCA rescued 65 dogs from a Hancock County home where someone was keeping them. We spoke with a woman who wants community support to prevent this from happening again.

“Just because we’re a poor county doesn’t mean we can’t put a system in place,” says Martha Harris.

Harris grew up in Hancock County. She has been president of Hancock Animal Friends Inc. since 2010 because she says there is a problem.

“It was organized to provide some sort of structure in the county without animal care or control,” Harris says.

You read correctly. According to the 2021 Census Bureau, more than 6,000 people live in Hancock County, but they do not have animal shelters or animal control.

Harris says it’s easy for incidents of animal hoarding to happen, such as a recent case where a woman had 65 dogs on her property. The ASPCA reported that the dogs were living in poor conditions and many had mange or other health issues.

“She had an open heart, she didn’t look away. She was overwhelmed and didn’t know who to turn to for help,” she says.

Harris says she and the volunteers she works with help pick up stray animals and move them to shelters, but she says it’s hard to watch.

“Now in downtown Sparta you can walk down and see probably half a dozen dogs with horrible skin issues wandering around,” she explains.

Harris says one problem is that people don’t know how to take care of their dogs. She says she wants orders requiring spaying, neutering and registration of pets. She says the city has been working for three years to create an animal sanctuary.

“We just need better laws and enforcement of those laws and people to start caring about it and realizing what a huge problem it is,” Harris said.

Sparta Mayor Allen Haywood says the animal shelter has taken a long time because of money. He says Sparta is one of the poorest counties.

“What we serve people, water, sewer and natural gas. Those services come first. We have dilapidated systems here that have been neglected for over 20 years, and so now that’s what we try to direct the funds we have,” says Haywood.

He says he has been working with Hancock Animal Friends to create stricter orders and these should be completed this month.

“You have to educate the owners of your pets. They have to be responsible, but you can’t all of a sudden give someone a citation because they didn’t because they didn’t. didn’t get his dog vaccinated or anything,” he said.

Haywood says he knows there is an animal control problem. He says the Hancock Animal Friends have done an amazing job without government help.

“We are just taking the first steps. We are going to do what we can to make sure that the pets we have and the people who have them take care of their pets as they should,” he said.

Mayor Haywood says the animal shelter should be operational by early summer, if its employees are trained in time.

If you want to support Hancock Animal Friends, they are having a fundraiser in October at Mockingbird Hill Farm in Sparta. There will be a raffle, prizes, food, games and a “Cutest Dog” contest.

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Jennifer R. Strohm