published Friday, April 26th, 2013

Murray County Sheriff taking over animal shelter

IF YOU GO

The Murray County Sheriff's Office will hold a public meeting to introduce the new shelter director and answer questions on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pork N Beans BBQ, 304 N. Third Ave., Chatsworth, Ga.

The Murray County Animal Shelter will be under new direction starting Wednesday, a change that has some area residents and shelter volunteers concerned about the fate of the county's animals.

At the start of the month, director Pauline Davis will step down and the Murray County Sheriff's Office will take control.

According to Dr. Homer Mathis, a semiretired veterinarian who works closely with Davis, whoever is chosen as the new director has big shoes to fill.

He said Davis is a "day-and-night worker," laboring far past regular business hours to ensure that the shelter's animals go to new homes rather than being euthanized.

"A lot of us are concerned [because] Pauline is such a diligent worker. She has so much of her own after-hours time doing this rescue and has built a very large organization, a large organization of fundraising ... it would [take] a mighty effort, if anyone could even come close," Mathis said.

According to a Facebook page for the Murray County Animal Shelter, the transition will put a stop to any out-of-state rescues. The page states that such rescues account for 95 percent of animals saved.

Mathis said the out-of-state adoptions were made possible by Davis' fundraising efforts, and he fears that the shelter's new leadership will not be as zealous in pursuing out-of-state homes for the animals.

Murray County Sheriff Gary Langford said in a news release that the change will not stop rescue efforts at the shelter.

"We will continue to cooperate with licensed rescuers both locally and abroad to ensure that our 'companion animals' continue to find good homes," he said.

Mathis said that, through Davis' efforts, more than 5,000 animals have been saved. He estimated that the shelter's canine adoption rate has been about 70 percent for the past three years.

"She is the most kindhearted individual to animals I have ever met," he said.

Davis and shelter staff were unavailable for comment.

County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman said in a prepared statement that mandated officers would take over the facility.

"A mandated officer is better equipped to handle certain situations than a civilian due to the extensive training that mandated officers receive," she said.

Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at lburkholder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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