Lifeline Animal Project's five-year contract to operate the shelter in Chamblee was set to expire in June, but the Board of Commissioners approved an extension through November. At the same time, county staff began drafting a Request for Proposals to seek out companies interested in running the animal shelter and related services for the next few years.
The Animal Services Advisory Board got an early look at the draft, and its contents eventually leaked out to the larger community of animal advocates. Several portions were panned.
"Initial reviews of the proposed RFP indicate cause for concern on several fronts related to adoptions, transfer to rescues, and euthanasia policy," the group Advocates for DeKalb Animals wrote on its Facebook page.
Among the concerns is a provision extending the amount of time animals must be held at the shelter before they are released to rescue groups from three days to six. The county said that will give the public more time to adopt animals before they are scooped up by rescue organizations, but animal advocates say it could increase shelter population and is an unproven remedy.
Another new stipulation requires the shelter to collect more information from rescue groups about where the dogs or cats the take from the shelter ultimately end up. Critics said this data collection could be considered an invasion of privacy and cause rescue groups to avoid working with DeKalb’s shelter.
A third complaint centered around the county’s decision to appoint an employee, likely from its Code Enforcement division, as program manager over the shelter. That change, opponents said, could undermine Lifeline’s autonomy and progress made over the past few years.
Sisters Ella, 7, and Arrington Boggs 5, interact with Seth, a shorthair mixed kitty at the DeKalb County animal shelter in this 2017 file photo. KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC
Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC
Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC
DeKalb County released a statement saying that Lifeline’s contract was extended for five months to allow ample time to receive community feedback and finalize the necessary documents.
“The Animal Services RFP process will continue to be one of inclusion and transparency for citizens and stakeholders in the animal community as the draft is finalized,” the county said.
A spokeswoman for Lifeline said the organization plans to submit a proposal to continue operating the shelter. Until then, the company has declined to speak publicly about the RFP process or any issues that have been raised.
The advisory board vocalized its concerns about the RFP during a presentation to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. That included an overview of progress made since 2012 and discussion about where more work is needed to reduce the number of pets that end up at the shelter.
For example, although adoptions are increasing and fewer animals are being killed at the shelter, there are still too many pet owners who are deciding to surrender their dogs and cats. Advisory board members also outlined their concerns about the RFP and suggested fixes.
Saindane said she feels confident that commissioners and CEO Mike Thurmond’s staff are listening and open to changes before the document is finalized in the coming weeks. Eventually, companies will be asked to submit proposals that will be evaluated by the county to determine which one will operate the shelter starting on December 1.
“I think that over time they trust our judgment,” she said. “So, I’m really hopeful.”
DeKalb Animal Services
Since 2013, the nonprofit Lifeline Animal Project has operated the shelter in DeKalb County. Here are some statistics from February provided to the Animal Services Advisory Board:
- Total animals at the beginning of month: 726
- Number of animals taken in: 500 (363 or 72 percent were strays)
- Number of animals adopted directly from the shelter: 191
- Number of animals euthanized: 51
- Number of animals reclaimed: 60
- Total animals in foster homes: 133 (65 dogs, 63 cats, 1 rabbit, 4 reptiles)
- Total animals at the end of the month: 658