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Work Session on Legislation related to Animal Control and Regulation

ATLANTA – On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, Atlanta City Council Public Safety & Legal Administration Chair Andre Dickens convened a work session related to Animal Control and Regulation. It was attended by 11 councilmembers.

Recently there has been a disturbing increase in attacks by dogs in the City of Atlanta, including a recent incident where one child was killed and two others were injured in an attack involving three dogs.

Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms, District 11, has proposed legislation to provide more restrictive control and regulation of vicious and dangerous dogs within the city of Atlanta and to ensure that the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances is consistent with state law regarding such animals.

This work session provided the Atlanta City Council an opportunity to hear from and exchange perspectives with a variety of partners including representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the Fulton County Manager, Dick Anderson, Fulton County COO Todd Long, Fulton County Animal Services Executive Director, Lara Hudson, Rebecca Guinn of LifeLine, City of Atlanta Solicitor’s Office, the City Law Department, Dr. Gloria Dorsey of Atlanta Humane Society, DeKalb Animal Services representatives and State Rep. Keisha Waites among others. Many members from the public also lent their insights during the public comment period of the meeting.

Subject matter experts discussed an array of topics including:

• Costs and current limitations of enforcement and sheltering of animals; and
• Statistics and other data on dog/animal attacks in the city;
• Public awareness, education, and prevention strategies regarding dog/animal attacks; and
• Potential approaches to better enforcement of current laws regarding dog/animal attacks.

Fulton County proposed providing three additional animal control officers within the city for an additional $150,000 per year. In the coming weeks, the city’s administration intends to submit a proposal to City Council as to potential next steps for improving animal control services in the City of Atlanta. In addition, Councilmember Carla Smith is putting together a task force to create inter-organizational collaborations and opportunities.

Some key points mentioned were:
• The city accounts for 61% of calls to Fulton County Animal Control. The city pays the county on a formula where call volume is a large factor.
• Fulton County’s 40-year old shelter is a problem because it’s severely under capacity. DeKalb is building a new $8-10 million facility to house three times as many animals.
• The Fulton County spends less than half the national average on animal control.
• Loose, stray, biting dog claims are highest in Atlanta and concentrated in communities lacking a number of amenities and having other code enforcement concerns.
• Education, awareness, responsible pet ownership, spay/neuter, resource assistance and culture change recommendations are also needed.

Chairman Dickens states that the 3.5 hour meeting was impactful and he looks forward to legislative and operational actions to develop over the next 30-60 days within the Public Safety & Legal Administration Committee.

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