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Animal rescue groups want Tenon out

Some animal rescue groups say under Sarah Tenon, Macon-Bibb's animal shelter has become an unwelcoming, high-kill facility.

"The animals and the citizens are being failed," Anne Brennaman, a volunteer with Macon Purrs 'N Paws, said.

They say that's why they want the current director out and Van VanDeWalker in.

Mayor Robert Reichert recommended VanDeWalker for the animal welfare director position last week, but the Commission tabled a decision on that department head by a 6-3 vote.

Brennaman says she went to pick up animals on two separate occasions, after making arrangements with Tenon, but found out the cats had already been killed.

"I went to get them at the appointed time and they had, oops, been euthanized," Brennaman said. "'I'm so sorry. It happens.' That was the explanation given to me and the explanation we're all given because it's happened to most of the other rescue groups I know."

More than half the animals in the shelter were killed so far this fiscal year, according to numbers we received from county spokesman Chris Floore.

But that's down from an 80% kill rate in fiscal 2010 before Tenon took over.

More than 4,400 animals were put down three years ago compared to just under 800 last year.

The number of animals taken in by the shelter also dropped considerably each year, from more than 5,300 in fiscal 2009 compared to just over 1,500 so far this fiscal year.

"There have been healthy adoptable animals put down for time and space," Janet Battcher, president of Central Georgia C.A.R.E.S, said.

It boils down to philosophies.

"I can't change a commissioner's beliefs but I know what this community wants. We want change. We want a low-kill shelter," Battcher said. "You either have a place that picks up strays, holds them for a period of time and if they're not adopted or pulled, they're euthanized. There's a low-kill philosophy that picks up animals, if they're adoptable, they're not put down."

But animals are put down a lot under Tenon's watch, they say.

"The euthanasia rates are extremely high. Under Van's watch he took it from an 85% kill rate to 10%," Brennaman said.

VanDeWalker ran the shelter as interim director for several months in 2012.

The fight over who should head animal welfare now continues in the midst of construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art shelter, funded by tax dollars.

"We had a low-kill animal shelter in the middle of the landfill under Van VanDeWalker. It's not the building, it's the person. You either have that philosophy or not," Battcher said. "I hope we're not building a $3 million facility to bring animals in and then put healthy animals down."

Without the right leader, rescue groups say the shelter will fail, and the community's vision destroyed.

"I feel sorry for the animals because in the end they're the ones that are going to lose," Brennaman said.

Battcher says she knows people have questioned VanDeWalker's management, though she disagrees.

"Managerial skills can be taught. But compassion and caring for our homeless animals is something that has to be inherent," Battcher said.

The mayor is expected to announce his recommendation for the position next week.

The only two applicants were Tenon and VanDeWalker, according to Floore.

Both candidates have declined comment until the mayor announces his choice.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ and on Twitter @anita_oh.


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