Shelter Officials Say Stray Cats a Big Problem in Hart County, Ask for Ordinance Change

Shelter Director Tammie Jourdenais tells Hart BOC over 900 stray dogs were turned in to shelter last year from Hart County

The problem of pet overpopulation and unwanted pets continues to strain the resources of the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter and other local humane groups.

Shelter Director Tammie Jourdenais gave a report this week to the Hart County Board of Commissioners on the number of animals the shelter took in for 2019.

According to Jourdenais in 2019 they took in 905 stray dogs from Hart County – of that 203 came from Hart County Animal Control and 702 were turned in by citizens.

Jourdenais said overall in 2019 they took in 2,532 animals from both Hart and Franklin counties.

Of that, she said they were able to save 84%, which either were adopted or were transferred to no-kill shelters and rescue groups – that compared to 2012 she said when the shelter euthanized all but 34% of the animals brought in.

Commissioner Ricky Carter asked what people could do to curb the problem of pet overpopulation in Hart County.  Jourdenais had one simple answer.

“Spay and neuter their pets,” she said. “That’s why we try to apply for any grant we can to help out with spaying and neuter by offering low-cost spay/neuter certificates.”

The shelter recently received a grant from Walmart Charities, which they used to offer low-cost spay/neuter certificates for cats.

Jourdenais said every spring and summer, the shelter is overwhelmed with unwanted cats and kittens and the certificates were attempt to help stem the tide this year.

She told the Board the certificates sold out in a day.

Hart County Humane Society President Donna Madkiff added the County animal control ordinance doesn’t include picking up stray cats.

“One I think that would help is that right now animal control in the county is only for dogs and cat overpopulation is a huge, huge problem,” Madkiff said. “I get calls every day. People can’t catch these cats which are mainly feral and get them to the shelter, and they’re a danger. So if somewhere down the road we can get that implemented so animal control can also pick up the feral cats, I think that would get those cats caught.”

Madkiff noted most of the cats turned in to the shelter are feral and can carry rabies.

Franklin County Environmental Health Director Louis Korff noted recently that feral cats are a very real problem in that county because they can be carriers of rabies.

Korff noted that last year, feral cats in Franklin County were the number one carrier of rabies.

“We had a fairly active year last year with rabies. We sent in 13 cats last year. Cats are our biggest problem in this county when it comes to human exposure to rabies. They are not the leading carrier of rabies and generally, we don’t find rabies in the cat population but the problem in Franklin County is we have too darn many feral cats out there in the rural areas. People just don’t think about the cats. They may see them as barn cats and they’re no problem. The problem is they get out there, they’re unneutered, they’re unspayed, they multiply, they mingle with wildlife, they get exposed and then we have tragedies,” said Korff.

Korff said it wasn’t as much the number of positive cases as it is the number of people affected by those cases.

“Of the 13 tested, four were positive, but with those four positive cats, I had five people have to go get postexposure prophylaxis and that’s five people too many. One cat bit two people and the other cat bit three people, so that shows you how dangerous this is. In both cases, these cats were known to these people and were just kind of hanging around.

For the past several years, at least one instance of a feral cat testing positive for rabies has occurred in area counties.

In 2013, a woman feeding a stray cat was attacked and bitten by the cat, which turned out to have rabies. The woman had to undergo a series of post-exposure rabies vaccines.

In 2014, another woman feeding a stray cat was also attacked and bitten by the cat that was later confirmed to have rabies.

In 2015, a person in Carnesville was bitten by a rabid feral cat.

In 2018, a rabid cat was found wandering in Royston.

After hearing from Jourdenais and Madkiff Carter asked they get with the Sheriff to help make improvements to the current animal control ordinance in Hart County.