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ACC creates new Animal Services Division

At the October 1, 2019 Regular Session voting meeting, the Athens-Clarke County Commission unanimously approved an agenda item that established the Animal Services Department as an independent department reporting directly to the Manager’s Office for appropriate and consistent oversight. The approval also created three new full-time positions in the department from five part-time positions in Animal Shelter operations and a new department director position from a superintendent position.

Selah Gardiner, who has served in the Volunteer Coordinator position, will serve as Interim Department Director until the job is filled through a national search that will begin within the next week.

Gardiner previously worked at the Humane Society for Greater Savannah from 2013-2017 as the Volunteer Program and Community Engagement Manager. During that time, she was on the leadership team and assisted with shelter operations, resource development and fundraising, staff training, the opening of a low cost community spay/neuter clinic, and program and relationship building within the organization and community. She was awarded the Georgia Volunteer Manager of the Year Award in 2016 and two different Maddie's Fund Apprenticeships in 2019 for shelters and rescue organizations to share ideas and strategies to improve lifesaving.

Previously, the formerly named Animal Control Division was a division of the Central Services Department operated by an Animal Control Superintendent and managed by the Central Services Department Director. It included nine full-time positions and 10 part-time positions. The new Animal Services Department includes 12 full-time positions and five part-time positions.

The three new full-time positions in the Animal Shelter come from combining four part-time Animal Caretaker positions into two full-time positions and converting the Volunteer Coordinator position from a part-time to full-time position. Converting these positions to full-time positions is expected to improve recruitment and retention for these important and difficult to fill jobs, while also improving the overall experience and skill levels of the shelter staff by reducing the frequency of new‐hire training and attracting a more experienced applicant pool.

The Animal Services Department includes animal shelter services, as well as animal control field services to protect the public safety and health from at-large and dangerous animals and protect animals from inhumane treatment. The department staff includes an Animal Shelter Supervisor and a Field Services Supervisor. Michelle Carrigg will serve as the Field Services Supervisor, while an Animal Shelter Supervisor position is currently in the hiring process.

“Establishing Animal Services as a department and updating its staffing needs to reflect its growing intake operations is just the first step in a process to improve our animal-related services to the community,” said Manager Blaine Williams. “We’re developing this process not only with internal feedback from staff and volunteers, but also by consulting with other animal service partner organizations in the community.”

Over the coming months, the Manager’s Office will continue to work with the Animal Services Department staff, volunteers, and partner organizations to update policies and ordinances related to animal services for Athens-Clarke County.

In November 2010, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGov) began accepting stray cats in addition to dogs. The Athens Area Humane Society, which had been providing cat services at a separate facility through an independent agency contractual agreement, discontinued providing small animal services to ACCGov as of June 30, 2009.

In November 2011, voters approved the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) 2011 program, which included Project #19 for an Animal Shelter Expansion. On December 9, 2016, the Animal Shelter Expansion was dedicated. The expansion added a cat shelter, additional dog runs, and office space to the existing dog shelter. The opening of the expansion more than doubled the cat shelter capacity, but did not add additional full‐time shelter staff. 

On June 6, 2017, the Mayor and Commission approved the FY18 budget for ACCGov that included funding for a new part‐time position to coordinate volunteers. It was filled in January 2018. In May 2018, the Central Services Department reallocated existing department funds to provide for two additional part‐time Animal Caretakers due to the workload created by the growing cat population at the Animal Shelter.

In August 2018, the Central Services Department reallocated a vacant full‐time position from another division to create a second full‐time Animal Control Supervisor position in the Animal Control Division to serve as the Shelter Supervisor over the Animal Caretakers, while the existing supervisor position oversaw Animal Control Field Services.

The proposed SPLOST 2020 program voter referendum includes Project #24, Animal Shelter Improvements. If voters approve SPLOST 2020 on November 5, 2019, this project would provide funding for renovations, improvements, additions to, and equipping of dog kennels, front offices, and public spaces of the ACCGov Animal Shelter.

For more information about the Animal Services Department, visit

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