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DEKALB | Animal shelter has rats, bugs, high kill rate | News

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DEKALB | Animal shelter has rats, bugs, high kill rate

DECATUR, Ga. -- A pet impounded at the DeKalb County Animal Shelter has a 30 percent chance of getting out alive. It's part of a report released by the DeKalb Animal Services Task Force.

FULL REPORT | DeKalb Animal Services Task Force

That same report details terrible conditions: rats eating through stage space, insects covering surfaces in black, and a ventilation system barely working. The report, discussed at a DeKalb County Commissioner's meeting this week, comes after years of frustration from DeKalb County animal lovers.

"I wouldn't bring my daughter inside this building. It's so depressing," Sonali Saindman said. "There's standing water everywhere. There are roaches. There are rats."

Saindman won't even bring stray dogs to the DeKalb County Animal Shelter. It's why she adopted her two dogs, and probably saved their lives.

"I did not want them to end up here, knowing what little chance they have getting out of here, despite being young and healthy," she said.

Sixty percent of the 8,500 animals impounded at the DeKalb County Animal Shelter every year are euthanized. Three percent die of injuries or illness inside the shelter. Another seven percent are unaccounted for because they somehow got lost in the system.

"We can do better, and our citizens are demanding we do better," DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis told 11Alive News this week.

In 2011, after heavy pressure from animal rights groups, DeKalb County established an Animal Services Task Force. Their final report just came out. It calls the kennel area "an abomination" with "deafening" noise, "dirty, malodorous, dark, and wet." In the summer, they have "fruit flies to the extent that some of the dog run walls appear black.

It documents a euthanasia practice sometimes used (especially on stray cats) where a metal pole with a noose tightens around the animal's neck. Then, an officer immobilizes the animal by stepping on its back or legs. One staff member says they could hear bones breaking before the euthanasia took effect.

"It's not a new thing," Saindman said. "It's been going on for years and years and years."

But Ellis says there will be movement towards a solution: "The attitude has changed; the will to make a difference has changed."

The changes recommended by the task force include building a new facility, hiring more workers, and developing a better adoption program. The propositions will cost the county. Some of the changes (like more staff) are already in the budget, but many are not.

"We're going to have to set priorities," Ellis said. "We can't do everything in that report in one day. We're going to have to do it piecemeal. And we're going to have to set priorities." 

Some of the building's problems like poor location, aging infrastructure, and frequent flooding are best solved by leaving its current spot on Camp Road near the DeKalb County jail. Ellis said building a brand new facility would cost $6 million, and is unlikely to happen. Instead, the county is looking for standing buildings that could be renovated to house the animal shelter.

Not only does the DeKalb County Animal Shelter have the highest kill rate of surrounding counties, they're paying more per animal. The report put it this way: "DeKalb taxpayers spent more to kill animals than other counties spent to save them."


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