Already chosen to run Fulton County’s animal shelter, an Avondale Estates animal rescue group may soon be running DeKalb’s.
On Jan. 23, LifeLine Animal Project, the only group that submitted a bid to run DeKalb County’s animal shelter, was awarded the $2.4 million annual contract to run neighboring Fulton County’s shelter.
That was the day after DeKalb County commissioners voted to allow the county to negotiate with LifeLine to run its animal shelter and take over the enforcement of the county’s animal control regulation.
The animal shelters in “both counties seem to be struggling,” said Rebecca Guinn, executive director of LifeLine. “Both have been surrounded in controversy for some time. We are very focused on prevention. We want to bring that focus to both counties.”
Guinn said Fulton County officials were looking for an organization to manage Fulton’s shelter and animal control enforcement. When the nonprofit submitted its bid to DeKalb County in June 2012, the county was looking to outsource the shelter’s operations.
“The enforcement piece was not in the request,” Guinn said. “We would be running the shelter—everything that Animal Services does except field services. When the officer picked up animals, they would be brought back to the shelter.”
Under that plan, the new shelter operator would not dispatch animal control officers, she said. But now things have changed and the county seems ready to hand over enforcement also.
“After our vote today we hope we made it very clear of our affirmation of outsourcing animal services,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer said Jan. 22. “We just want it clear that we want to outsource.”
Although the county’s original RFP included outsourcing enforcement, the bid request that was released did not include enforcement, said Kelvin Walton, director of the county’s purchasing and contracting department.
“For the moment we’ve go to accept it the way that it is,” Boyer said about the plan to let Lifeline run the shelter but not oversee enforcement.
And the county will have to do a new RFP for the enforcement aspect of animal services, Walton said.
County officials are planning to negotiate with LifeLine to try to get the contract’s cost down. The contract amount is up to $12.12 million over five years.
“The proposal submitted to us is over budget so we have to go back,” Walton said. “We don’t have that amount in the budget.”
The budget for the shelter—operations and enforcement—is approximately $2.7 million per year.
Guinn said LifeLine is “operating under the assumption that the DeKalb shelter may be awarded to us in the near future” and is prepared to operate both the DeKalb and Fulton shelters.
“We would have a separate management team for each shelter,” Guinn said. “There would be no overlap of operations or personnel. Each shelter would be operated as a distinct operation.”
Under LifeLine management, the Fulton and DeKalb shelters could collaborate “if possible,” as they can now, Guinn said.
To run the Fulton shelter, LifeLine has hired Lara Hudson, who ran a 12-county shelter in Hattiesburg, Miss. That facility, Southern Pines Animal Shelter, reduced the animal euthanization rate from 80 percent to 40 percent in less than a year.
“We are recruiting people who have proven track records,” Guinn said. “The proposed director for the DeKalb shelter ran the Fulton shelter for four years and the shelter was well-run.”
Under Southern Hope, euthanizations at the Fulton shelter dropped from 83 percent to 38 percent, Guinn said. “They had a lot of success.”
At the time, the Fulton shelter’s director was Susan Feingold, who worked there from 2003-2008. Since 2010, Feingold has been on the payroll of LifeLine as a senior animal shelter evaluator and consultant, according to her profile on LinkedIn.
LifeLine, which had a budget of $1.4 million in 2012, has never operated a municipal animal shelter and its own shelter is approximately one-third the size of DeKalb’s. Guinn said LifeLine provides services to “more animals than the county does.”
DeKalb County residents and animal lovers have complained for years about the about the animal shelter. Advocates have said the building is dilapidated and the shelter euthanizes too many animals.
“We felt someone needed to step up and we are that someone,” Guinn said. “For the past 10 years we have been focused on community solutions. We try to keep animals out of the shelter in the first place.
“Our focus is saving lives,” Guinn said. “Animal welfare and the public welfare are synonymous. We can be committed to public safety and animal welfare for the entire community.
“It’s going to be a really good opportunity for both counties,” Guinn said. “We look forward to serving the pets and people.”