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Dogcatcher = Idea Catcher 

New Chatham County Animal Services head makes push for transparency and a ‘happier place’

I ONCE adopted a little mutt named Gypsy. The short and brown furry thing with a funny nose lived up to her wandering name the day after she moved in.

I visited the pound every day for weeks hoping she would show up. The hardest part about losing her was scanning those cages, looking at all those scared faces.

I had to ask why I cared about Gypsy and not those others—destined for—for what?

Well, that’s the thing about the pound, right? We know what happens to lost dogs there.

Or do we? It seems there’s a lot of mystery about what really goes on at Chatham County Animal Services, formerly called Animal Control, on Sallie Mood Drive.

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The agency’s new director, Kerry Sirevicius—pronounced “sir vicious”—wants to open the curtains and give people new ways of thinking about the county shelter.

Chatham officials recently hired Sirevicius after deciding to “re-county-fy” the animal control agency. Previously, it was managed by the city under Metro Police.

“One of the first things we need to do is make this a much happier place for people to come,” she says. “I think that most people don’t want to come to the animal shelter because they say ‘It’s the pound. It’s sad.’ And so they’re not likely to come here first.”

She’s right about that. The squat building has a pall about it. Looking for my lost dog was the only experience that I ever had with Animal Services before I met Sirevicius.

I suspect many other people have similar experiences. We only go to the shelter when something bad happens. The gate is open. She ran out the door. Where is she?

Then there’s what happens to unwanted pets. We have to talk about it. As a public safety net shelter, Animal Services must accept all animals—some sick, some old, some mean.

They release about 80% of their 6,000+ annual intakes. But the whole process is opaque. Servicius says she’s committed to increasing transparency and facilitating adoptions.

“We want to publish those [numbers] monthly so everyone can see the release rate and understand exactly the reasons animals are euthanized, exactly how many are transferred to the rescue organizations,” she says. “That’s one of my first orders of business.”

She wants new software to do this. You might recall a software glitch led county officials to rebuff reports of a “mass euthanasia” earlier this year. The episode hurt many feelings.

I also asked her about the misunderstood “five day stray hold.” I thought it was a ticking clock on death. Sirevicius says it’s more like the time Animal Services must hold a stray.

After that, a veterinarian will assess the animal. Most are made available for adoption and to rescue organizations. For those reasons and more, she encourages use of pet collars.

“There is no set day that animals are going to be euthanized,” she says. “If they’re of sound health and temperament, those are the animals that we’re trying to save every day.”

And that’s what I get from Sirevicius —an energy for new ideas—like partnerships, community events and pet training certifications—all aimed at facilitating adoptions.

Simply put, this dog catcher is an idea hatcher. Her own pets, a dog named Dexter and a cat named Pow Pow, ground her. She opted not to go to law school for this kind of work!

“It just seems as though I was always drawn to the needs of animals,” she says of her career choice. “It’s something that’s grown and flourished inside me.”

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Orlando Montoya

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