Atlanta City Council OK’s animal service contract with Fulton County

The city has been locked in a contentious feud with Fulton County over the ballooning price tag for animal control services
Fulton County Animal Services Field Service Supervisor Ladream Taylor leads an injured stray dog away from a person’s porch Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 in Northwest Atlanta.   (Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Fulton County Animal Services Field Service Supervisor Ladream Taylor leads an injured stray dog away from a person’s porch Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 in Northwest Atlanta.   (Ben Gray /

Atlanta City Council passed legislation on Monday outlining the terms of a new intergovernmental agreement with Fulton County to continue animal control services in the city.

It is the most recent development in weeks of feuding between the two municipalities over the increased price tag that, as a result, caused the county to stop providing services within the city completely.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts announced earlier this month that the county was suspending service to the city of Atlanta after city officials refused to pay nearly double what the previous annual fee had been.

Pitt’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday that they expect Atlanta’s annual bill would be around $6.5 million.

The county provides 24-7 animal control services to the cities that fall within its boundaries, all of which agreed to a cost increase of varying degrees, based on the volume of calls from each. But Fulton commissioners and Atlanta officials have been battling back and forth over the dollar amount.

Since April 5, calls for animal services within Atlanta have gone unanswered — everything from from rabies cases to animal cruelty complaints to removing carcasses from city roadways.

In an effort to expedite the resumption of services by the county, City Council passed a resolution on the first meeting back after a two-week recess that outlines details of a new agreement stipulated to run through December 2028.

The legislation stipulates that Atlanta’s costs for animal services will be based on the city’s share of calls per month as part of the total annual shared costs across the municipalities Fulton serves. It doesn’t list an expected total cost for the city.

According to the new intergovernmental agreement, the county estimates the total cost of serving all the municipalities within its boundaries at just over $12.1 million per year.

In response to the county’s decision to cut off services, the mayor’s office released a scathing statement on April 5, accusing the county of “political maneuvering” over the issue and hit back with the claim that Fulton owes the city millions in unpaid water bills — a claim which the county denied.

On Monday, council members lamented about the city’s poor working relationship with the county and confirmed that Fulton still owes Atlanta about $4 million in unpaid water bills.

“The city of Atlanta — given the delinquency of such severe water bills — never once considered making a show of it by discontinuing services, to go to the press and allowing politics to intervene with vital services,” said Council member Liliana Bakhtiari.

The squabble has made headlines after Dickens’ administration accused the county of suspending services in retaliation to comments the mayor made about the constant string of inmate deaths in the Fulton County jail.

A shouting match even broke out at the last county commission meeting between two members who disagreed on whether services should resume in the absence of a signed intergovernmental agreement.

But the fight isn’t over yet.

Another bill that has to go through the committee process will cement the contract and is expected to be voted on by council at the May 6 meeting.

After previous objections from the Fulton commission to a written agreement that Atlanta will reenter into the partnership, some council members wondered if the resolution passed Monday was enough for the county to restart services.

“I just don’t want us to go through this action and then find out that it’s not enough for them and then we’re no better off for our constituents,” said Council member Alex Wan, who noted the resolution passing is just the first step.

City Attorney Amber Robinson told council that Fulton County’s legal advisors said that the commission would vote on the agreement as an emergency item during their April 17 meeting, but did not give confirmation that services would be restored immediately after.

Pitts, with the county commission, said Fulton will resume animal control services once they see the detailed intergovernmental agreement.

“We haven’t seen it yet,” Pitts said at midday Tuesday. “I’m waiting with bated breath.”

Joe Barasoane, director of emergency management — which oversees animal services — said despite the disagreement between the county and the city, shelters aren’t turning away animals. Since April 5 when services froze, the county shelter has taken in 93 cats and dogs from Atlanta.

Pitts pushed back against the barbs thrown by Atlanta City council members Monday and said that the sperate issue of outstanding water bills would be solved.

”There was never, from my perspective, any animosity between the city and the county,” Pitts said

Staff reporter Jim Gaines contributed to this report.