Tuesday night’s Upson County Board of Commissioners meeting included many comments and much discussion regarding Smart Web, director of Upson County Animal Control, with Animal Shelter employees, local officials and others addressing his abilities and character.
John Smith, animal control officer, and Christy Stephenson, animal control assistant, the two individuals who work most closely with Web, both expressed support for their immediate supervisor, with Smith stating in part that longstanding rumors of misconduct by Web are slanderous.
Georgia Department of Agriculture Inspector 1 Robin Nicholson, who has for five years overseen 12 counties in west central Georgia, including Upson County, also reported to the Board of Commissioners.
She initially addressed an issue concerning the Thomaston-Upson County Humane Society, saying she has “heard rumors that they have animals for adoption on certain Web sites,” but that due to her workload, she has not yet personally investigated this matter.
“But the Department (of Agriculture) is looking into this,” she said, as she explained that the local Humane Society has not obtained the mandatory state licensing to operate as a rescue group that fosters and adopts out animals.
According to Nicholson, she is also aware of complaints concerning Web, but said that in her professional capacity, has noted nothing that would support any accusations of wrongdoing.
“In that time, I have not found any violations that needed to be issued to the Upson County Animal Shelter,” she said, adding that she has worked exclusively with Web.
Nicholson said that with regard to animal euthanasia, the state requires animal control facilities to possess scales to weigh animals, ensuring the proper quantity of humane drugs are administered, as well as a stethoscope to verify the animal’s death.
She stated the Upson County Animal Control facility is in compliance with this requirement, and that Web is certified to perform the proper state approved procedures.
Nicholson also said she is aware of concerns regarding portions of the Animal Shelter’s policy with regard to the period of time animals are held prior to being euthanized, as well as adoptions, but countered those concerns by reporting the facility is not even required to hold animals for adoption.
However, she said Web has “gone above and beyond” by allowing animal rescue groups to photograph animals housed in the shelter in the hopes the groups could secure adoptive families.
“I think it’s just a testament to the service it (the shelter) provides the community,” she said.
Nicholson also addressed the state’s position on the autonomy local governments hold with regard to animal shelter policy and procedural issues.
“We cannot come out and change it just because we’re the state,” she said.
She said she could make recommendations, but that local officials may or may not elect to implement those changes. With regard to the Upson County Animal Control facility, Nicholson said she has recently made “cosmetic change” recommendations, and they were accepted.
Commissioner Rusty Blackston addressed the issue, stating that at this time, the shelter operates with a budget of nearly $200,000, and that he has a suggestion for board consideration that may put an end to some unproven rumors regarding Web.
Blackston said he recommends the Thomaston-Upson County Humane Society obtain the proper license to operate a rescue facility and construct such. His recommendation would be that once those requirements are met, the Animal Shelter should hold animals for a period of seven days to allow owners an opportunity to recover their pets, and for shelter staff to monitor animals’ health. At the end of that seven-day period, animals would be turned over to the Humane Society to be maintained until such time as they were adopted.
Commission Chairman Maurice Raines also addressed the issue by stating, “I reiterate that we’re in the business of animal control.”
Raines also stated that he, too, has “heard the rumors,” but said he “has not received facts” regarding wrongdoing on the part of Web.
He specifically addressed and supported Web by adding, “You have a thankless job. People aren’t willing to do your job, and we’re grateful that you do.”
Raines then said that unless and until he is presented with factual information regarding wrongdoing, he is no longer willing to discuss the issue.
“I do not want to talk about our animal control shelter unless someone wants to bring facts,” he said.