WINDER - Each month, more than 150 animals - dogs, cats and more exotic fare - make their way through the Barrow County Animal Control Facility.
Some are rescued. Some are adopted. Some are returned to their original owners. And others, with no owner to be found, are put to sleep.
With only 21 dog runs, indoor-outdoor cages that can hold two dogs at a time, the facility could use more space for the animals that come through. The county facility is scheduled to get a new building with funds from a penny sales tax, but the space - not set to be constructed until 2008 - is too far off for Director Stephen Eades. He's collecting drywall, lumber and paint from the community.
Sure, some of the materials are for the doghouses a local Boy Scout troop is building. But Eades is quick to point out that if he gets enough materials, he'll start construction on the current facility himself.
"We're going to have a new building, but I want to make the current building more friendly," he said. "I want to have a nice facility here."
Eades already has a plan for using some of the dead space in the building's break room to make more offices. And he hopes the county will collect enough money through the sales tax that the new Animal Control building will be started by 2008.
In the meantime, Eades is making the most out of what he has. He's rearranged the space in the building and promoted some programs more heavily. At a rabies clinic last week, 156 pets got shots to protect them from the disease. Last time, fewer than 50 pets showed up to receive vaccinations.
In 2005, nearly 2,000 animals were euthanized, while 728 left the building with owners. Eades said he hopes the new facility will have as many as 150 dog runs and 200 cat and puppy pens that will allow the department to hold onto more animals longer. The county's growth will also mean more animals to deal with over the years.
Already, Eades is imagining what the building will be like - indoor dog runs, so the canines don't get as excited at every thunderstorm, a room where veterinarians can sterilize the animals, a place where visitors can walk the dogs, play with them or give them massages.
"It'll be a lot better than what we have," he said. "I want to make sure that when we get the new building under way, we're doing it right."
Eades says rescues are best part of job By Arielle Kass
WINDER - Stephen Eades likes to talk about the night he caught a Burmese python.
The thing - you wouldn't believe how big it is - had its own bedroom. And one night, it went to the window, knocked out the screen and slithered out of its owner's house and into a neighbor's yard.
Someone called Eades about the big snake in the yard. The python is in several of the pictures that flash across the screen saver on Eades' computer.
There's also the bobcat that one of his supervisors kept as a pet for two years. The groundhog he caught outside County Line Elementary School. A snapping turtle. And a squashed armadillo - he's seen a lot of them, but never alive.
For 10 years, Eades dealt with the python and a menagerie of other animals in Oconee County. In December, he came to Barrow County to direct the Animal Control Facility.
So far, the County Line groundhog was the most exciting animal he's captured across the county line. Except, perhaps, for the herds of animals in the road or the dog that led him on a five-mile chase through downtown Winder.
"It gives you a little variety to deal with during the day," he said.
Before going into animal control, Eades thought about being a ranger for the Department of Natural Resources. He spent five years doing taxidermy. But in the end, he decided that he'd have more contact with wildlife if he got into animal control.
In fact, there are some pretty exotic animals in the county. Eades rattled them off - bison, emus, ostriches, llamas, wallabies.
But Eades said the best part of his job is rescuing cats who fall into drains or pulling dogs from culverts.
"I like knowing that I've actually rescued animals, found them good homes," he said. "I want to get the dogcatcher image out of everybody's mind. I'm here to help the