DeKalb animal shelter has largest number of dogs ever; critics say court delays make it worse

The DeKalb County Animal Shelter in Chamblee is currently housing more than 600 dogs.

That’s well over its capacity and more than the shelter has ever had at one time.

Last summer, the Georgia Department of Agriculture temporarily ordered the shelter not to take any more animals until it reduced its population.

That happened by late June before it rose again.

Shelter volunteers said another problem, long holds on so-called ‘court dogs,’ never really went away.

The economy is one issue, and some of the people who adopted dogs during the COVID-19 lockdown are now giving them up.

Shelter volunteers, Hadley Nobles and Anna Oltmann, contend that dozens of animals are held too long because they are evidence in abuse cases that keep getting postponed when defendants repeatedly skip court.

Nobles said she started paying attention to the overcrowding at the shelter and the systemic problems that appear to contribute to the overcrowding a few months ago, after an abuse case in her own neighborhood introduced her to the county’s magistrate court.

That’s where abuse cases begin and most are resolved.

“We went to court. Luckily, the defendant in our case pled guilty, largely because we made sure there were five witnesses,” Nobles said.

But many cases do not move quickly. That means the animals continue to be held as evidence at the shelter, which is now badly over capacity.

The overcrowding is not solely because of dogs being held as evidence, but they are a factor.

Anna Oltmann monitors magistrate court, where she said defendants in animal abuse or neglect cases routinely fail to show up for their cases.

“It’s very common. We see that all the time,” she said. “I think unfortunately, things have gotten worse,” Oltmann responded.

In some cases, Oltmann said defendants went to magistrate court and demanded a jury trial in state court, but the solicitor’s office failed to file new charges in the higher court. “So it’s essentially a clerical error, an administrative error, that’s causing these extended delays. The dog sits (at the shelter).”





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