Rabid dogs will not run wild and dead opossums will be picked up from Fulton County roads after Dec. 31 after all.
Fulton’s Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to extend a contract for animal control services for up to six months as the county decides how to handle those services in the long run.
The vote means a private vendor will continue to provide those services beyond Dec. 31, when the existing contract was set to expire. Without the extension, the county could have been without animal control services at the beginning of the new year.
Fulton officials still must decide whether to stick with a private vendor or launch their own animal control service with county employees. They also must resolve a dispute with the city of Atlanta that threatens to raise the cost of animal control for the other jurisdictions served by the county.
The contract extension gives the county time to work through those issues, which remain contentious.
Fulton provides animal control services to the county’s 14 cities and the unincorporated area. The cities pay the county for their share of the service, with Atlanta — the largest recipient of services — paying about 60 percent of the bill.
The county contracts with the nonprofit Barking Hound Village Foundation to provide animal control services. But critics say the foundation has endangered animals.
Among other things, they say Barking Hound has put down animals even with adoptions pending. Barking Hound’s owner, David York, has dismissed the claims as the allegations of a “terminated volunteer.” County officials are investigating.
York’s spending on out-of-town hotels and restaurants also drew attention last year, though a county audit was inconclusive.
Barking Hound likely won’t provide animal control services to Fulton County for much longer. The foundation says it’s losing money on the contract, and it did not respond to a recent county request for bids to provide animal control services in the future.
Two other groups have submitted proposals. If neither is found to be suitable, the county could opt to launch its own animal control service.
Commissioners on Wednesday renewed Barking Hound’s contract on a month-to-month basis for up to six months to buy time to make long-term plans. A six-month contract would cost $1.2 million.
The extension disappointed some animal lovers who want to put an end to Barking Hound’s services sooner.
“I’m disappointed,” shelter reform advocate Alison Hector said. “They don’t need six months.”
Commissioners also voted 5-2 to provide animal control services to the city of Atlanta for six more months.
Fulton and Atlanta have been at odds over the county’s 2011 decision to ban the use of bullhooks, a sharp-tipped tool used to train elephants. Critics say bullhooks inflict pain on the animals.
Atlanta, which hosts the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, declined to adopt a similar ban last summer. That irritated some Fulton commissioners, who suggested that the county stop providing animal control services to Atlanta.
“I want Atlanta’s dogs to be picked up,” Commissioner Bill Edwards said. “But I don’t want no one across that street strong-arming me.”
But the county estimates that dropping Atlanta would increase the costs for the remaining cities by 28 percent because of fixed costs.
Along with the extension, commissioners approved language that would require the city to pay to monitor elephants around the clock while a circus is in town.
David Bennett, a senior policy adviser to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said the mayor will review the new language. Bennett said the city ultimately hopes to reach a long-term agreement with the county on animal control services.