Center expands hours while short staffed

LAWRENCEVILLE - Euthanization rates aren't the only issues facing the Gwinnett Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center.

Because of customer complaints, Lt. Mary Lou Respess, the center's manager, recently changed the center's hours.

The center now opens at 10 a.m. Saturdays and it is open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so people can come by after work.

Respess said she had to get permission from the police chief to get overtime pay for her employees to keep the doors open extra hours. She also arranged for extra help from prison inmates to keep the center clean.

"We have this much bigger building, but we did not increase the staff at all," she said of the approximately $2.1 million annual budget.

Despite the new building, the center still battles disease, although Respess says the situation is better than in the previous building.

As of the end of August, Respess said the center had not battled an outbreak of the deadly Parvo disease in two months.

"That's amazing in a place with this many animals," she said, noting that the disease is often introduced when infected puppies are brought to the shelter. "It's infinitely better, but you're never going to find a shelter that doesn't have Parvo."

Because of the incubation period of the disease, it sometimes spreads to other animals before the first dog gets sick, which is at times after it is adopted.

Respess said the disease is more contained in the new building, which has separate ventilation systems for each pod of kennels, which has kept the Department of Agriculture from ordering all the dogs in the shelter.

To cut down on the spread, animal control officers keep kennels empty in between each puppy, which are most susceptible to the disease.