A group of almost two dozen animal advocates met Thursday afternoon to discuss future programs for North Augusta animal safety, continuing momentum started over the summer with a visit from an animal control consultant.
Mike Strauss, the city's animal control officer with North Augusta Department of Public Safety, led the meeting, which focused on establishing a "safety net" for pet owners and foster care ambassadors.
Strauss said after the meeting that the turnout shows the passion of the community for animals.
"It was very well attended, over 20 people were here tonight and I think, you know, that is a big positive step toward furthering our community agenda as it comes to animals," he said.
Tyler Galles, president of Friends of North Augusta Animals, was one of those in attendance and said he was excited to see so many people at the event. "I'm excited to see a system, a community forming," he said.
In June, Dr. Sara Pizano with Team Shelter USA visited North Augusta as a paid consultant. Pizano spoke with city leaders and community members and visited the North Augusta animal control facility. She wrote an assessment report, making suggestions – including a community cat program and a new shelter facility.
"Some of the things that she brought up were very easy to implement and we changed those pretty quickly upon getting the assessment, and there were some things that we needed money," Strauss said during the meeting. "Right now we're going through the budget process, and the budget's not finalized but we've kind of got a good idea of what's maybe going to make it and what's not going to maybe make it and the city's stepped up and it looks like we're going to have some funding available, increased funding for animal services."
Strauss said the city would like to "hit the ground running" in January, which is when the new fiscal year begins.
The group, known as a temporary working coalition, discussed two main programs that are being considered for implementation.
One of those programs is a safety net program. Safety net volunteers would act as a sort of social worker for animals, developing and recommending community resources to pet owners who are having pet issues or wanting to re-home their pets. The group discussed resources a safety net volunteer could recommend, such as behavior resources, short-term foster care, food banks or home-to-home adoption options.
The group also discussed implementing a foster care ambassador program, which would provide resources to pet owners or good Samaritans who may be able to foster animals they cannot keep, preventing those animals from entering the shelter.
Strauss said after the meeting that implementing Pizano's plan is one of the animal control department's main objectives.
"We're really happy that (City Council) has not ignored it. They've actually backed animal control 100% and we look forward to great things to come with the new programs we are implementing," he said, adding that over the last 20 years, even as the population of North Augusta boomed, the number of animals that have been impounded has decreased.
"That's through successful programs that we've implemented and some of the great codes that Council's worked on over the years and a really proactive approach toward animal management. I think we're continuing that with these meetings here and getting people involved that like to work with animals."
The next meeting of the coalition has not been set, but those interested can sign up to receive emails on the city's website at northaugusta.net.