Fulton County extends Barking Hound animal services contract - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Fulton County extends Barking Hound animal services contract

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FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -

Two separate disputes have people across Fulton County wondering who would be in charge of picking up stray animals or investigating dog attacks beginning January 1.

As Fox5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis reports, commissioners have agreed to temporarily keep a troubled vendor and continue providing animal services for all 14 cities in the county.

It's hard to imagine Fulton County would let stray animals run wild on the streets of Atlanta come January 1 even if the city didn't specifically ban bullhooks for elephants at traveling circuses.

Commissioners still condemn the use of bullhooks by circuses like Ringling Brothers, but they realized if they kicked the city out of the shared animal services contract, the remaining cities and Fulton County would have to chip in more money. Instead, the city has agreed to let animal control officers monitor circus elephants around the clock when they come to town and issue $500 tickets if the controversial bullhooks are used.

But the larger issue deals not with elephants, but dogs and cats, and whether a vendor the FOX 5 I-Team has investigated in the past should still be in charge.

"The issue with Barking Hound Village is not one of the delivery of services necessarily. The issue and the problem came about as a result of a TV investigation that found that there was a problem with an audit where money was raised that should not have been co-mingled but was in fact co-mingled," said Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts.

Not just co-mingled, but the I-Team investigation and a county audit found tax money misspent by Barking Hound Village Foundation for things like expensive restaurants and trips to New York.

Auditors identified more than $45,000, but when they tried to examine the complete books, Barking Hound refused to turn over the requested records.

Former volunteers allege to county officials that some valuable dogs are sold out the back door, or given to friends while others improperly get free but expensive vet care.

The county is investigating.

"I will say that based on what I've seen first-hand, there are some outstanding issues. There's some capital needs. There's some cleanliness needs, as well as some just management needs," said Commissioner Chairman John Eaves.

"If a fraction of what was alleged is accurate, we have a serious problem. So it's time to change vendors," said Commissioner Liz Hausmann.

Two non-profits have stepped forward to bid on the contract, but too late to be considered for Wednesday's meeting, so commissioners agreed to extend the contract for Barking Hound Village Foundation on a month-to-month basis, giving staff time to recommend who should be the new boss.

"What I'm fearful of possibility that the county might take this over which is problematic when we have a wonderful, qualified vendor," said animal advocate Alison Hector.

And a lot of people paying attention to dogs and cats in Fulton County once again.

In a statement to the I-Team, Barking Hound president David York denied all the allegations of mismanagement. He says he's actually been spending thousands of dollars of his own money to keep the shelter running each month.

Even though York says he's ready to end the contract, he has agreed to stay until as late as next summer.

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