WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) — Experts say it is a growing problem in Burke County. Despite being the state of Georgia’s largest county in square mileage, it has no Animal Services. That means no animal shelter, no animal control and no animal control officer.
Animal rescuers say there is no greater example of the need than Burk, a dog that was found wandering on a rural Burke County road in July of 2015. He was malnourished, dehydrated, riddled with infections and parasites and near death.
“The photos didn’t do it justice,” said Hayley Zielinski of Dog Networking Agents, a local animal rescue group. “The shape this dog was in, we realized he was in so much pain he couldn’t sit down or lay down.”
Dog Networking Agents took the dog in and named him “Burk”, for the county in which he was found. They believe he may have been part of a litter of puppies put out and left for dead, but somehow survived. Rescuer after rescuer told me that it’s a bigger problem in Burke County than any other in the CSRA.
“It really, really is a problem,” Zielinski said.
“There are dogs dumped in Burke County,” said Bill McFeat of Old Fella Rescue in Burke County. “We don’t want to be known as the dumpster capital of the world, no.”
So why would the “Bird Dog Capital of the World” double as the “Dog Dumping Capital of the World”? Rescuers say it’s because of the lack of animal services outside the city limits of Waynesboro.
“I think probably there is a good number of animals dumped from adjoining counties just like there is garbage in our dumpsters,” said Wayne Crockett, Chairman of the Burke County Commission, which would have the final say on whether or not the county starts animal services.
“We’ve drug our feet with animal control, I’ll admit that,” said Crockett. “We were afraid to jump into it because of escalating expenses. But I think the general consensus is that we need some sort of animal control.”
“It’s a bit like a seat belt law, isn’t it?” asked McFeat. “People still drive without seatbelts even though there’s a seat belt law, but if there wasn’t a seat belt law far less people would put a seat belt on whether it’s good sense or bad sense.”
The problem isn’t new, and neither is the push for a solution. Last year Commissioner Crockett put together an Animal Services Advisory Council to come up with a plan.
“I’ve felt for a long time that the need exists for animal control in Burke County,” Crockett said. “We’re fixing to enter into a budget process, probably in about 60 days, our budget negotiations for the next fiscal year, and we’re going to budget something in there for animal control.”
That’s welcome news to rescue groups across the CSRA.
“We know that animal services are a benefit,” said McFeat. “We’re just looking for the next progressive step to get animal control in Burke County.”
“We get calls and we can say ‘call animal control’ and we know the dog is safe. Whereas in Burke County those rescues have nowhere to call,” said Zielinski.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to completely solve the problem,” said Crockett, “but I think it would help.”
Meanwhile, Burk no longer looks anything like he did last July. He’s happy, healthy and living the life of a normal dog with his adopted owner Heather in Columbia, South Carolina.
“You wouldn’t think he’s the same dog,” said Zielinski. “His physical appearance is like night and day.”
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Rescuers hope the creation of Animal Services in Burke County will mean fewer and fewer animals have to go through what Burk did to get to this point.
“I can call animal control and it would be safe, secure and off the streets,” said Zielinski. “Every county should have animal control.”
Penalties for animal cruelty in Georgia vary from misdemeanor to felony based on severity. But, without an animal control officer, experts say it’s much more difficult to prosecute. Tuesday night, May 10th, The Burke County Animal Advisory Council will hold its final meeting before presenting its final recommendations to commissioners. Count on WJBF to continue to follow this story.
For more information on the various rescue groups in the CSRA and how you can help, click on their links below. Know of a great rescue group not listed here? E-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll make sure you’re included!