Animal Control Starving for Funds, Commission Denies Extra Money - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Animal Control Starving for Funds, Commission Denies Extra Money

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CHATHAM COUNTY, GA -

It's a News 3 Special Report. Overworked and understaffed, Savannah Chatham Animal Control made a desperate plea to the Chatham County Commission, asking for additional funding.

On Friday they struck down the request, a major blow for the shelter.

I got an in depth look as to why that money was so urgently needed.

We spent all day at Animal Control, and I can tell you it all comes down to personnel.

A few years ago, the shelter nearly tripled in size, but was never assigned more officers.

The additional 400 thousand dollars requested, would have allowed for nine extra employees, but now they will have to continue to struggle.

The time: 8:30 A.M.

The phone at Animal Control is already ringing off the hook.

The day begins bright and early for Animal Control officer Christina Sutherlin. And by the looks of it, the day is already busy.

"These are the calls waiting as of 8:42 this morning for Animal Control," as she shows us her computer screen.

"We have about 20 calls holding, and we have two Animal Control officers on the street."

But this day, is just like any other. The volume of calls far exceeds the number of officers available.

"There may be a priority call on the island, and then the next priority call may be in Bloomingdale or Port Wentworth. We have to get to aggressive animals, the sick animals, the injured animals, the confined animals and anything else we need to handle in between."

Our first stop with officer Sutherlin is an aggressive dog at large over on the east side. When we arrive we find two dogs that appear to be anything but aggressive. Sutherlin speaks to them like they were her own.

"Hi kids! Were you scaring someone? Hi sweet heart, what happened? Come on, let's go see if you live here."

No answer. But then, something else.

"I just want to check over here...hi sweet heart!"

Sutherlin says it happens all the time; they come for a complaint and find something else going on. She found a dog in the back yard of the home the others are believed to have come from. He has food and shelter, but he is tethered and that is illegal.

"We will leave a note and let them know about the violations we have found and we will add it to the list to check on. These are follow-ups that we so desperately need to do. We can't always get to in 24 hours because we have so many."

The first call of the day resulted in 3 dogs impounded, and they continued one right after another.

For all the work officers do out in the field, Lieutenant Cary Hill says it's multiplied when the animals are brought in to Animal Control.

"Are we doing the best job we can do with the staff that we have? That's the goal."

The shelter nearly tripled in size a few years ago but didn't gain any extra employees.

Coming off quarantine for kennel cough, the man power is more important now than ever.

Here's the breakdown:

The Savannah Chatham facilities have 234 dog cages and 80 for the cats. Under Department of Agriculture Standards, each kennel should be cleaned for 15 minutes every day.

That equals nearly 80 hours of cleaning a day for 5 Animal Control officers.

That means each officer would spend about 15 hours a day cleaning. Lieutenant Hill says the only way to get it done is to hire more people.

"We have 234 cages, more or less and in and out runs, for just the kennels alone---just the kennels for the dogs; not the cats. So say we are full occupancy. We are giving 15 minutes per cage, for 5 people? Can't do it."

Not receiving additional funding comes as a major blow to Lieutenant Hill.

"What we do on the street, directly impacts what we do in the shelter. What we bring in, they are going to have to handle here. We want to hold on to that dog as long as we can, especially if we believe it's adoptable."

With the extra money, Lieutenant Hill was hoping to open earlier, allowing more time for the animals to find a forever home. After a while, if an animal is not adopted out, euthanasia is an unfortunate reality.

We reached out to Police Chief Willie Lovett for comment and were told that It will take time to plan the next steps for the shelter given the denial of additional funds from the county.

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