Whitfield County Animal Shelter Director Diane Franklin says she may be the only county department head working to put her department out of business.
"I know it won't happen tomorrow, but I hope in 15 or 20 years we have enough responsible pet owners in this county that we won't need an animal shelter," she said.
On Monday, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a law that Franklin hopes will encourage more responsibility among some pet owners.
Board members voted to approve a law that increases the fee to reclaim an animal that has been picked up by animal control from the animal shelter to $150 from $25. But the law automatically reduces that fee to $25 if the animal has been previously spayed or neutered. And If the animal has not been spayed or neutered, the law says the fee will be waived entirely if the owner requests that Whitfield County Animal Control carry the animal to a licensed spay/neuter clinic of the owner’s choice and the clinic confirms it has spayed or neutered the animal at the owner’s expense.
The board's vote was greeted with applause from some 30 animal welfare activists who attended the meeting.
"This is super awesome," said Sheree Patton. "It's a great positive change."
"It's excellent," said Kaye Lipscomb. "It will reduce our unwanted puppies and stray dogs."
Robyn O'Kane, medical director of the National Spay and Neuter Alliance Foundation, called the new law "amazingly wonderful."
"It's a step in the right direction, and I applaud Diane," she said.
The alliance provides low-cost spay/neuter services as well as other pet health care. It has a clinic at 2518 Cleveland Highway in Dalton.
O'Kane said the alliance spays dogs for $70 and cats for $55 and it often receives grants to reduce those costs.
Franklin said she deliberately set the new fee higher than what it can cost to spay or neuter an animal in order to give people an incentive to have their animal sterilized.
Several people spoke to the commissioners about inadequate enforcement of a county law barring owners from chaining dogs in their yards.
"I want them to make sure that the laws we have are enforced and that all the deputies are knowledgeable about the law," said Patton.
Board Chairman Lynn Laughter said she will speak to Sheriff Scott Chitwood about enforcement of the law.
The commissioners also voted 4-0 to:
• Approve a $64,415 bid from TBM Roofing for new roofs at fire stations 4, 5 and 6. The stations were built in the late 1970s and still have the original roofs.
• Approve a $46,747 contract with Southeastern Engineering of Marietta for surveying, engineering and contract management for replacement of eight culverts located throughout the county. The contracts and the culvert replacement will be funded from the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
• Approve a resolution declaring that some manufacturers of opioid drugs persuaded "providers, regulators and patients that their products were safe and effective" but that those drugs are a "public nuisance," and threatening to pursue "such legal action as is available against such manufacturers, distributors and others as are necessary, either by itself or in concert with others, and to the full extent available under the law."