The recommendation to place animal services under the health department umbrella came from County Manager Derek Roland, who told commissioners back in October that the move would increase efficiency by eliminating the extra step of communications between animal services and the health department.
“Much of what Animal Control does is related specifically to the care and management of domestic animals and rabies control which are related not to just animal health, but also human health,” said Jimmy Villiard, animal services section administrator. “These functions are and have been for a very long time functions of the local public health department.”
The reorganization will include several key changes for animal control services. First of all, the name changed from Macon County Animal Control to Macon County Public Health Animal Services. Villiard said the animal shelter would also be undergoing massive cleaning and repair projects — patching, painting and new lighting in the kennel areas.
One of the primary goals is to respond quickly and resolve animal issues and to prevent rabies exposure for residents of Macon County, which is why Macon Health will improve the intake area and flow process at the shelter and updating policies and procedures for handling of animal bite cases.
“We are looking forward to being able to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of animal services provided to the citizens of Macon County,” said Jim Bruckner, Macon County Health director.
Animal control currently has three officers and one shelter attendant on staff, and Villiard said there are no plans to hire any additional employees at this time. However, there is an immediate need for volunteers at the shelter.
“As we restructure our volunteer program, we need volunteers to help answer the phones, to interact with the animals and help socialize them and to greet the public when they come to the shelter,” he said.
Other changes will include implementing a morning huddle with animal control officers to discuss daily assignments, open bite cases and ongoing complaints received from the public.
Macon Health will also set up a veterinarian of record for the shelter to be available for emergencies and consultation. To improve safety, Villiard said there would be limited access to the kennel area.
“Visitors will be escorted by animal services personnel when looking at and/or when handling animals,” he said. “This improves safety for the animals and protects the public from opening cages without knowing the temperament of the animal.”
Initially, the health department is not looking to change the hours of operations or the current call system for animal control. Fees at animal services will also remain the same. The adoption fee for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens is $65 and includes any current vaccinations that the animal needs, including rabies if the animal is old enough to receive it; spay or neuter; and heartworm testing for adult dogs. Macon Health is also hoping to start providing micro-chipping service in 2016.
The current animal services budget is $265,020. Villiard does not anticipate any major changes to the budget at this time.
Macon Health will be evaluating and gathering input from its partners — like Appalachian Animal Rescue Center and the Macon County Sheriff’s Department — and will implement improvement suggestions in the near future.
“We will also look at what types of animal issues animal control officers are currently responding to. We hope to eliminate unnecessary call responses, such as wildlife and varmint or snake infestation calls, and be able to redirect residents to the appropriate agency for dealing with those issues,” Villiard said. “This will allow animal control officers to respond more effectively to situations involving domesticated animals, which is our primary focus.”
Contact animal control at 828.349.2106. For questions regarding the transition of Macon County Animal Services, call Villiard at 828.349.2458.
Macon Public Health Animal Services
The county animal shelter, located at 1377 Lakeside Drive, Franklin, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and from 9 a.m. noon on Saturday.
To volunteer at the shelter or for more information about adoption, call 828.349.2106.
Adopt a cat or dog for $65.
See adoptable pets at www.petfinder.com.