Commissioners Discuss Animal Services as Concerns Grow

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By Christine Fonville

Officials with LifeLine Animal Project, the nonprofit in charge of both DeKalb and Fulton counties’ animal services, have been vocal on social media about their struggles with overcrowding as well as a lack of volunteers, fosters and adopters for the hundreds of dogs and cats in their care.

“The overwhelming intake numbers of pets at LifeLine’s multiple facilities has led to overcrowding and euthanasia,” said LifeLine officials in October. “Euthanizing dogs for space is not a solution our organization believes in. We’re heartsick over having to make these horrific decisions. We are pleading for the community’s support to help us save lives so animals don’t have to continue to die.”

Though commissioners and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond have acknowledged that LifeLine has faced numerous challenges in the last three years, including multiple breakouts of dog flu, malfunctioning equipment and flooding, officials also said they are hearing more concerns from the community about the conditions of the facilities that LifeLine manages and operates.

At a Feb. 6 county operations meeting, a resolution requesting an external audit of animal services, managed by the Lifeline Animal Project, was passed. According to the resolution, the audit “will ensure adequate animal services are being carried out, including its operations, policies, and practices. The auditor will also identify strategies and recommendations for the improved flow of operations, sheltering of animals, and quality of care for animals.”

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran Johnson requested the audit, telling The Atlanta Journal Constitution that she continues to receive an “enormous” number of calls and emails about problems at the DeKalb County shelters.

“I am proud to move along this resolution to assure the residents of DeKalb that decisive actions will be taken to remediate any adverse conditions and ensure best practices at LifeLine Animal Project,” Cochran Johnson said. “To achieve this goal, we cannot rely on LifeLine to provide an internal evaluation of their systems, policies, and current conditions. We must rely on external professionals with empirical knowledge of animal shelter operations.”

Last year in September, legislation was passed by the governing authority of DeKalb County to increase funding to the Lifeline Animal Project to support additional resources, shelter operations, and staffing for animal services; however, a formal audit has not yet been performed, specifically on operations efficiency and flow of operations, overcrowding, flow of operations for quicker animal adoptions, fostering and rescue transfers, as well as their related policies and procedures to provide transparency and formal recommendations for improvement, stated officials.

Then, on Feb. 13, Commissioner Michelle Long Spears announced an upcoming “series of events aiming to address, discuss and tackle the animal services challenges facing DeKalb County,” which will kick off with a State of DeKalb Animals address in April, featuring guest speakers like Dr. Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and New York Times bestselling author of What It’s Like to Be a Dog and How Dogs Love Us.

“These initiatives are crucial for promoting animal welfare and responsible pet ownership,” Berns said. “By educating the public, implementing practical solutions, and fostering collaboration, we can significantly improve the lives of animals in DeKalb County.”

“DeKalb County has a responsibility to ensure the well-being of all animals within our community,” said Spears. “Through the volunteer-led State of DeKalb Animals (SoDA) initiative, we are taking a collaborative, multifaceted approach to address our animal services challenges and ultimately create a future where no animal is a victim of violence or neglect.”

Officials with LifeLine Animal Project have stated they are in dire need of adopters or volunteers who can take care of a pet in their home. There is no cost to foster a dog or cat and all supplies, including food, medications, leashes, collars, crates, and more are provided by LifeLine for free to fosters.

“Anyone considering adopting or fostering can go to DeKalb County Animal Services and talk to staff about finding the right pet,” stated officials. “Our team is ready to help anyone find their match.”

LifeLine Animal Project has two DeKalb County locations; the LifeLine Community Animal Center is located at 3180 Presidential Drive in Atlanta and DeKalb County Animal Services is located at 3280 Chamblee Dunwoody Road in Chamblee.

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Read the article on The Champion Newspaper.