The county’s current main animal shelter, 45 years old, was designed to hold 150 animals but routinely houses many more. LifeLine Animal Project, which runs the shelters in Fulton and DeKalb counties, opened an overflow location in Midtown Atlanta; but it and other area shelters are chronically overfilled and animals are regularly euthanized due to lack of space.
About 80% of the animals in Fulton shelters are dogs.
Fulton County is spending $40 million on a new shelter, slated to open this fall. But with room for 367 dogs it’s likely to be overcrowded on its opening day.
Thorne said she’s been working on the ordinance since April, but growing shelter overcrowding gave it more urgency. Even if adopted by local cities it won’t fix the pet overpopulation program, but is one necessary part of several measures to deal with that, she said.
The ordinance bans the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from any “roadside, public right-of-way, parkway, median, park, other recreation area, fair, flea market, outdoor market, commercial or retail parking lot, or similar transient or outdoor location,” except for holders of a state animal shelter license, or established events like 4-H shows, or at a law enforcement office. Violators can be fined and the animals confiscated.
It cites a University of Georgia School of Law study in saying pet overpopulation has reached “crisis level” in Georgia, blaming that in part on unregulated backyard breeders and puppy mills. Pets sold by such dealers usually lack health care and medical records.
Peggy McCarthy, a volunteer board member for the Georgia Pet Coalition, said four other jurisdictions in the state have passed a similar law. A dozen local animal welfare organizations have endorsed it, she said.
Representatives of the Atlanta Humane Society and Georgia House Rabbit Society also spoke in favor of the proposal.
Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. asked if the county ordinance would only apply in unincorporated areas, and County Attorney Y. Soo Jo confirmed that. Commissioners approved the ordinance by a 6-0 vote.