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Dawsonville council brings animal control in-house
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After months and months of discussions, debate and failed attempts to reach agreements, Dawsonville's city council on Monday voted to take control of its own animal control issues.

In a 4-0 vote following the second of two public hearings in which no one spoke in favor or against the proposal, the council approved a measure to bring animal control in-house.

Previously, the city had a tenuous contract with Dawson County to take care of any stray or dangerous animals within its city limits at the cost of nearly $300 per animal picked up and taken to the local shelter.

That cost is closer to $600 per animal when animal control officer salaries are added to the amount the county provides to annually fund the local shelter, officials have said.

"That's an outrageous amount of money. It's way overpriced, and I believe we can do it cheaper. That's the only reason I want to do it this way," said City Councilman Caleb Phillips, who led the charge to bring Dawsonville's animal control in-house.

The saga dates as far back as March 2013 when the city council voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Dawson County Board of Commissioners regarding animal control within the town limits.

The county, according to city officials, never responded to the proposed draft.

Then in November 2014, the county commissioners reportedly approved their own draft of a proposed IGA and forwarded it on for a city vote, which also never took place.

When an agreement could not be reached, the city began looking elsewhere for alternatives, going as far as meeting with leaders in Lumpkin County who said Dawsonville could pay $45 per animal taken to their Dahlonega facility.

While it appeared Lumpkin County officials were on board, that community saw otherwise, prompting commissioners to listen to the outspoken constituency and not move forward with the agreement.

The issue of animal control within the city limits has been actively bounced around for at least the last six months when an incident involving a stray dog snapping at visitors at the historic courthouse on the town square was made public.

The city was contacted by concerned residents, who in turn were told to contact the county's animal control.

However, without a signed intergovernmental agreement between the two entities, county officials said the issue fell back on the city.

The city is now working to construct a pole barn at its maintenance shop that will be used to temporarily house picked up stray animals.

According to the new ordinance, the city council must also appoint a veterinarian and a three-member board.

The ordinance also lists the city's impoundment fee at $50 and boarding fee at $10 per day.

There are consequences of impounded animals that are not claimed.

Owners who fail to respond to their animals being picked up by city animal control within "the time specified under state law" may find their animals "disposed of pursuant to state law," according to the ordinance.

Calls to city hall requesting copies of the "state law" citing the time frame to be used when addressing such issues were not returned as of Tuesday afternoon.