Aiken County Council considers change to hold period for strays at Animal Shelter

August 31, 2018

The Aiken County Council is considering a change in the hold time for strays at the Aiken County Animal Shelter before they are put on the adoption floor or transferred to another facility or rescue group.

During its Aug. 21 meeting, the panel unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that would address an issue that isn’t clearly defined legally in South Carolina.

Under state law, “the hold period for an unidentified animal, one whose owner is not known, is five days,” said County Attorney Jim Holly.

But the law doesn’t specify whether the period should be based on business days or calendar days.

Currently, the hold period at the animal shelter is five business days. County Council wants to make it five calendar days.

“There have been opinions (about the law),” Holly said. “I’ve researched it in depth, and my interpretation, after spending dozens of hours looking at it, is that Council can go with calendar days if they choose.”

County Administrator Clay Killian believes a hold period based on calendar days instead of business days would be better for both the animals and the county.

In general, he said, it would reduce the length of stays in the shelter for animals, making the situation less stressful for them. It also would cut costs for the county.

“We are not trying to be able to euthanize them (the animals) faster,” Killian said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t do that much anymore except for disease or when animals are violent.”

When the hold period is calculated using business days, weekends and holidays aren’t counted, so sometimes there are long delays in getting an animal onto the adoption floor, Killian said.

As an example, he described what would happen to a stray picked up on Friday, Dec. 21 of this year. Because of weekends and county holidays on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the last day of the hold period wouldn’t be until Jan. 2, 2019.

“If we had used calendar days, it (the animal) would have been moved to the adoption floor Dec. 27,” Killian said.

The day a stray arrives at the animal shelter isn’t included in the hold period, Killian added.

Jennifer Miller, president of Friends of the Animal Shelter, or FOTAS, said her organization supports a change in the hold period from business days to calendar days.

She described calendar days as a “common sense” interpretation of the law.

“It reduces stress (for the animals), it reduces potential disease risk, it reduces aggression and it reduces overcrowding,” Miller said. “It saves county resources, and it saves taxpayers money. This ordinance will be a positive game changer for our Aiken County Animal Shelter and our community. We are excited beyond belief and doing cartwheels.”

In Miller’s opinion, the switch from business to calendar days wouldn’t result in fewer owners being reunited with their lost pets.

“It’s really important to understand that 93 percent of the animals received in the shelter are never claimed,” she said. “Of the 7 percent that are claimed, most of their owners come in after a day or two. It’s heartbreaking to see these animals, 93 percent of which aren’t claimed, having to stay in the shelter’s intake cages for so long.”

Council must approve three readings of an ordinance before it receives final passage.

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