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Animal shelter: Officials look into council

LAWRENCEVILLE - With euthanasia rates on the rise at the local animal control shelter, commissioners are reconsidering the role of the Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council.

Last week, the board tabled a decision on appointing members to the board, instead hoping to begin a dialogue on animal issues.

"How do we address this, under the confines of respecting the taxpayer's dollars?" said Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who, along with his wife Tegwen, has rescued six cats. "Obviously, there's more to do, and it's a passion of mine. How do we figure out how to make the situation better?"

The advisory board was created to be a sounding board on animal issues, and the members helped with changes to the county's animal control ordinance, but Beaudreau said some people have felt disenfranchised and want to get involved.

In a story printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post earlier this month, statistics from June 2008 and June 2007 reveal that adoptions have decreased and euthanizations have increased, even though the county opened the state-of-the-art Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center on Winder Highway a year ago. Officials have attributed the rates to the poor economy.

To try to increase adoptions, the shelter has listed animals on Web sites, waived adoption fees for seniors and even offered a two-for-one special for kittens. Animal welfare officials now require an animal be spayed or neutered before adoption from the shelter.

"It's a shame that this is happening," Marian Morris, a local animal activist, said of the euthanization rate to commissioners last week. "As a citizen of Gwinnett County, I do not believe citizens meant to spend $7 million on an animal control facility" to see these results.

Beaudreau agreed.

"We've got entirely too many pets being euthanized," he said.

The animal advisory board will be reconsidered in December. Beaudreau said the current board will be allowed to continue to meet, while officials consider the board's role and make-up.