LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Gwinnett County Animal Task Force -- a group charged with examining the operations of the county's animal control services and offering suggestions for its betterment -- held its first meeting Tuesday night, many of its members meeting each other for the first time and familiarizing themselves with their mission's details.
The committee will have until March 31 to develop recommendations that will, to summarize, "identify short and long-term strategies that can be implemented in difficult economic times that will increase adoption rates, improve animal welfare and protect human safety."
Task force member Tati Romeo, who has spent several years working with the Humane Society and feral cat programs throughout the region, was optimistic about the group's potential impact.
"I'm hopeful," she said. "I think that it's definitely a vehicle to really take a long, hard look at the procedures here and we have a group that's from all walks of animal rescue and doctors ... I think we can all bring our different perspectives."
The original resolution passed by the Board of Commissioners called for the task force to consist of 17 members, including: three that represent nonprofit rescue groups (one each from cat, dog and large animal rescue), one veterinarian, one member "engaged in agricultural activities," one from an animal-related business and another from the Gwinnett Municipal Association.
The remaining 10 members were designated as private citizens appointed by county commissioners.
At Tuesday's meeting, three local veterinarians were present, as well as Sugar Hill City Councilman Curtis Northrup and Georgia SPCA executive director Jane Stewart. The remaining members all had significant backgrounds in animal rescue.
Joel Taylor, a former school board member with a history of training dogs in the military, was appointed chairman of the task force.
The group was given a tour of the facilities at Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement and shown a brief presentation about the department's operations. They will reconvene next week to get down to business and divide themselves into subcommittees.
Before their time working together ends, the task force is charged with the following: developing "existing conditions" and "best practices" reports, creating a public relations campaign and offering recommendations regarding management, organizational structure and policies at the shelter.
"I know we're all here to make things better," task force member Kelly Adler said, "but I'm pretty proud of Gwinnett County Animal Control ... With the resources that Gwinnett County has, we do so much better than a lot of places."