Savannah Chatham Animal Control Under Fire; Pets Left Voiceless

The Savannah Chatham Animal Control facility is facing criticism from a number of area animal professionals, one of whom is a veterinarian who has worked at the GA pound:

“They’re hoarding,” said Dr. DeAnna Douglas in an interview Thursday. “There’s a lack of enrichment, poor sanitation, they’re not providing preventative care.”

While the complaints by Dr. Deanna Douglas are valid in the sense that sub-standard care is unacceptable, the underlying theme of her affidavit seems to be that the pound should be killing more, which is obviously never a solution.  For example, Dr. Douglas states in her affidavit that although “pet adoption is a worthwhile cause”, the pound must function primarily as a dog catcher facility if it is to uphold its mission.  This is representative of the outdated “catch and kill” model of animal sheltering.  She further complains that pregnant dogs are “often exempt from euthanasia” and allowed to whelp in the isolation ward where the families are kept for 5 – 6 weeks in runs covered in urine and feces.  The former – that pregnant dogs and their unborn puppies are allowed to live – is not the problem.  The latter is.  Dr. Douglas seems to imply that killing would be better than forcing the pups to live in unsanitary conditions but this is a false choice.  There are other options available.  Keeping the runs clean comes to mind as one alternative as does partnering with the community to foster pregnant pets.

Dr. Douglas makes one point very clear:  The local rescue group known as Friends of Animal Control Team Savannah (FACTS), enjoys the unique privilege of keeping its animals housed, fed and cared for by the pound.  And they are able to have taxpayers foot the bill for the care of these animals for an indefinite period of time ranging from months to years.  Meanwhile, Dr. Douglas has killed young, healthy animals by request of the pound for “space” when their mandatory holding period expired.

Why would FACTS be allowed to have the public pay for the sheltering of its animals at the local pound?  I don’t know but some wonder if it has to do with FACTS’ founder, Diane Abolt, being the spouse of County Manager Russ Abolt.  A state inspector at the pound on September 13 pulled a cat’s cage card which was incomplete, at best:

Image of cat cage card at Savannah Chatham Animal Control as appearing in the state inspection report from 9-13-2012. (click to enlarge).

The inspector cited the facility for its shoddy record keeping after spending hours trying to determine who this cat was, how long he’d been there, where he was going or anything at all:

Portion of the Savannah Chatham Animal Control state inspection report from 9-13-2012. (click to enlarge).

The inspector gave the pound a week to get this cage card sorted but:

On a return visit the following week he found the same card reading “Diane’s cats x 3,” prompting him to cite the shelter for “willful disregard.”

The inspector’s findings seem to reaffirm Dr. Douglas’ concerns about the indefinite rescue holds placed on pets at the pound:

In his comments on a Sept. 5 inspection he wrote: “It was also observed that some of the kennels were tagged with the names of some of the local rescue organizations. I asked about this and it was relayed to me that some of the organizations tag some of the animals as theirs and place the animals under their license — also receiving the adoption fees. The holding period set by the county allegedly does not apply to these animals and some may stay housed in the shelter for extended periods of time.”

During a meeting of the Chatham County Commission on October 19, the county manager had nothing but praise for his wife’s rescue work:

“She’s the Mother Teresa of dogs and cats,” Russ Abolt said.

Angie Koban, an area professor and shelter volunteer recently detailed her concerns about the conditions and lack of protocols at the pound in a letter to a local paper.  Like Dr. Douglas, Professor Koban paints a false picture that animal sheltering choices are limited to hoarding and killing.  While we know this to be incorrect, her observations are nonetheless noteworthy:

Because [the facility] is understaffed, the cages are not cleaned properly and do not get cleaned more than once a day.


I have seen many animals (especially puppies and kittens) living in a cage full of animal waste.


It is proper protocol to have sick animals or animals newly arriving at the facility residing in an isolated area. I have witnessed these animals being randomly placed into empty cages, or more often, with another animal. Without an isolation area, it is impossible to stop the spread of disease and the dogfights that ensue when random animals are placed together. […]  One of my volunteers, Kyle Adams (AASU student and CCAC volunteer), reported to me that a dog was brought in after 5 pm and was placed into a kennel with a dog that had been at the shelter for a while. The following morning, staff found that the new dog had attacked the first dog, creating fatal injuries.


Also, the exceptionally long holding periods of dogs being held by F.A.C.T.S are inhibiting the proper movement of animals and therefore creating a backlog of space.


In order for my students to enter the facility to provide enrichment, they must sit through a lecture by a CCAC volunteer, Mrs. Diane Abolt, the unpaid Director of Volunteer Operations and Director of F.A.C.T.S., who does not have formal animal sheltering experience (to my knowledge). While this volunteer is in charge of all volunteers at the facility, there does not seem to be (i.e., she does not present anyone with) an official protocol for volunteers or employees that addresses: 1. How dogs are consistently handled when they enter the shelter, 2. How volunteers and employees are to interact with the animals, 3. How cages should be washed, 4. How dogs should be fed, 5. How cats should be handled, fed, etc., 6. How animals are arranged, etc., etc.

The state inspector echoed the concerns about improper housing:

“Sick animals should be housed separately in such a manner as to reduce the spread of communicable and/or infectious disease,” inspector Scott Sell wrote in his report.

Calling the facility “a jewel,” Russ Abolt said the only outstanding issues raised by the Department of Agriculture were structural ones.


County officials say they’ve addressed the inspection problems and are making plans to improve the shelter long-term, including the six-month hiring of a part-time veterinarian approved by the Chatham County Commission Friday.

I don’t see how hiring one part-time vet for 6 months is going to solve any problems at a shelter with no protocols, no separation between county money and a county official’s spouse’s rescue group, and no one advocating for putting in place the proven programs of the No Kill Equation.

The county manager thinks the place is a jewel.  The loudest advocates are framing the only choices as hoarding and killing.  The community pets in Chatham Co have no one advocating for their most basic right:  the right to live.  I don’t think Mother Teresa would approve.

17 thoughts on “Savannah Chatham Animal Control Under Fire; Pets Left Voiceless

  1. I believe a similar rescue tagging/warehousing system is in place at the Barnwell County, SC, pound. A friend of a friend tried to adopt a dog from there, but she was told that it had been reserved for Eleventh Hour Rescue in NJ, and if she wanted to adopt it she would have to pay an adoption fee of something like $275 to Eleventh Hour rescue instead of the something like $85 fee to Barnwell County pound. But the dog was still sitting in the pound in SC. I called Eleventh Hour about it, and the lady waffled between denying they do anything of the sort and blaming the pound for miscommunicating and saying “That dog was listed on our web site, and once the dog is up on our web site it’s ours.” (Even though they had not paid anything to Barnwell County pound for the dog and it remained in pound custody.) She said they already had several adoption applications on the dog. So it seemed to me that the rescue group is getting free boarding at the pound while they shop the dog around to adopters in NJ. Then, after they get an adopter they pull the dog and ship it.

    I had been hoping to do more research into this sort of thing and write something about it, but I’v not had time.

    1. Don’t know if I would call keeping a pet alive at a shelter which is what they are supposed to do “free boarding”. Rescues will sometimes even pay boarding fees to the shelter to keep the pet alive until they can get a foster or placement. However, if an adopter comes in and the rescue hasn’t paid then maybe the pet should go to the adopter. On the other hand if the rescue is reliable and consistently pulls and have placed a determinate time hold on a pet it may be reasonable.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t at all mean to imply the pet should be killed. But if a rescue is going to take and animal they should do it and free up the space so others may live. The whole point of rescue groups is to get the animals OUT of the pound, IMO. A hold period of a few days is reasonable, but if they want to board a pet, then they need to take it out of the pound and board it somewhere (a good idea anyway because of the diseases and worms so many pets pick up in the pound). And if the dog is still in the pound, it shouldn’t “belong” to the rescue and local adopter should get priority.

  2. The SCAC is open everyday of the week for 3.75 hours!
    Mon – Sun: 1:00 pm – 4:45 pm

    Right in the middle of the day when most people are otherwise engaged.

    I’m constantly amazed and angered at the attitude toward homeless pets. Don’t animal shelters even consider being proactive to find them homes?! It seems to me to be the very first thought that should come into the minds of every single person associated with the shelter system in this country. WTF??

  3. Have they ever heard of working with rescues to find temporary homes for the pregnant animals so they do not give birth at the shelter? The people that are running the majority of the shelters in this country are idiots and have no clue how to make things better for the animals or how to increase adoptions or how to work with rescues so they can decrease the killing of their animals! Even the vet is clueless-if the shelter is hoarding it is because they are not working on getting the animals adopted and/or taken by rescue groups.

  4. No protocols, no organization, no apparent goals (other than … whatever the hell it is they’re doing).

    This isn’t a shelter, it’s a manifestation of someone’s ego. And the animals are suffering for it.

    1. Exactly.

      Looks like we have yet another shelter to email. Not saying they will change overnight, but they need to know that this will not go unnoticed.

  5. As they always say, every coin has 2 sides. So do most stories. I don’t think we even know half of what really is going on. All we know is that different people make different statements and that’s about it.
    Here we have a “full-time tenure-track assistant professor of psychology at Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU)” that for some reason turned over night in to a animal shelter expert because she visited that shelter one time.
    So, what is the solution of that “shelter expert”? Right, kill more animals.
    It sounds to me like a story that I heard from many No Kill communities that are still fighting against the “kill ’em all” crowd.

  6. Leadership! Leadership! Leadership

    There is a vacuum of leadership that is being filled by those that scream-“kill”

    While the big three HSUS-ASPCA- AHA
    Sit silently by –

  7. It seems to me that laziness and lack of caring are apparent. Don’t they have any common sense? There is so much to be done to find ho n mes for these animals! They just need to get off their butts and work with people and groups willing to help!

  8. I just found out that Professor Koban wants a job with the ASPCA in New York. It appears that she was trying to pad her resume for this purpose.
    I am not pretending that the shelter doesn’t have problems, they all do. Budget cuts,staffing are always a problem. But lets not forget that the biggest problem is pet owners who don’t spay or neuter their pets and then abandon them.

    1. Pet owners who don’t neuter their pets is not the “biggest problem” and even if everyone in the county neutered their pets today it would not clean a single filthy cage at the pound nor would it stop the apparent cronyism and defrauding of taxpayers there. Stop blaming the public and start blaming those actually mistreating and killing the animals.

      If it’s true this person was simply grandstanding in order to get a job with the ASPCA, she’s doing it right. The ASPCA loves grandstanding.

    2. Budget issues at the ASPCA in NYC? Surely you jest? They take in millions from their sad/heart-wrenching advertisements and then send their animals to NYC ACC to be killed, thus padding their statistics. Do your homework, please.

    3. I thought the ASPCA was a marketing company to raise money for themselves and not an animal care organization. They have lots of money-just look at their financials.

      Animals would still be killed in the shelters because many shelters do not network/market their animals so they can be adopted/rescued. These shelters are just a holding facility until the animals can be killed.

  9. “The facility, with 116 kennels that can expand to double that number, also operates without a written protocol for animal care, but two veterinarians are currently developing those guidelines. Such protocols, which cover everything from record keeping to nutrition to cleaning, already exist elsewhere. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians published its “Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters” in 2010.”

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