MOULTRIE -- Does the county dog control ordinance need some teeth? The lack of a strong ordinance is hindering animal control service in the county, said a Humane Society of Moultrie and a former Colquitt County official.

"Our hands are tied. A lot of complaints come in, and we can't address them so they go to the commissioners," said Humane Society President Amy Sharon.

The issue of animal control came to the forefront earlier this week when County Commission was considering its budget. Commissioner Merle Hall said there was evidence that the animal control service out in the county was lacking.

Meanwhile, backing up Sharon's contention is former County Administrator Marion Hay, who is advising current Administrator J.D. Byrd to weigh changes to the county ordinance to address vicious dogs and enforcement.

"Right now they have no way to enforce it, except for diplomacy you might say," Hay said.

"There's no leash law, so if a dog is straying or anything it doesn't matter, because they're allowed to do that unless somebody calls in and says they're being a nuisance. There's nothing to be done about that whereas in the city we patrol and keep stray dogs and packs of dogs at bay," Sharon said. "No one wants ordinances, but they don't want to keep their dogs penned up, yet they don't want other people's dogs in their yard."

Also, the ordinance states that a resident must put their nuisance complaint in writing to the county, Hay said. That needs to be amended down to a telephone call, he said.

The city pays the Humane Society more than the county, but this year's numbers indicate that the Humane Society expends more energy in the county.

So far this year, the shelter has picked up 55 dogs per month out in the county (cats currently are not in the county's service agreement with the Humane Society) and 30 in Moultrie, Sharon said. Dogs dropped off average 64 from county residents and 22 from the city. County calls average 101 per month, while city calls average 70. All total from January to May, 1,304 animals have been euthanized -- a strong argument for spaying and neutering, she said.

The Humane Society hired a new director, Bria Andrew, three weeks ago. Andrew is working with five employees and supervises community services workers and the occasional volunteer.

When calls come in, animal control workers will deliver traps to complainants to set for nuisance dogs, Sharon said, but there are few to go around. The shelter needs five dog traps, but at several hundred dollars a pop, staff have been making do with three -- and those are battered, she said.

"I know they definitely get calls, and we don't have a trap available to give to somebody," she said.

The city has given animal control officers some authority to issue fines: $50 to pick up the dog the first time, $100 the next time and $300 for the third. All dogs not picked up after being impounded for more than five days may be euthanized.

"That's a problem too. We pick up these dogs and nobody comes to claim them, so we never get the money that is due, and so we have to euthanize them," Sharon said.

"We don't have that kind of authority in the county," Sharon said.

While the animal shelter has come a long way in the last few years, it still operates under continuing financial strain, Sharon said. Private contributions from the community still are needed to stay afloat.

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