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Humane shelter expects to avoid closure
Staff, volunteers fighting rat infestation
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A rodent infestation recently threatened to close down the Liberty Humane Shelter and Liberty County Animal Control, but thanks to the quick responses of county officials and Shelter President Sandra Frye, the facility is open and has made progress in eradicating the infestation.  
Frye said representatives from the Georgia Department of Agriculture visited the facility several months ago and along with animal control and shelter employees, documented the visible rat problem. Roughly two weeks ago, an agricultural official returned for a follow-up visit and said the number of rodents had increased.
“Instead of decreasing the population they increased, and we are seeing them getting bolder, coming out in the daylight and taking food from the dog bowls,” Frye said.
Although the Liberty Humane Shelter and Liberty County Animal Control are separate entities, they are housed in the same building.
Frye said the facility was given 14 days to drastically reduce the rodent population. The same afternoon the Department of Agriculture representative visited, the staff made phone calls, developed a plan and started working with Yates-Astro Pest Control Services in Hinesville to eliminate the problem.
“We were made aware during a routine walk-through about the situation,” County Administrator Joey Brown said. “Despite all the cleaning we do, it is an outdoor facility … We contacted professionals and are working on removing extra food, food containers and taking extra precautions and, so far, the added measures appear to be working.”
“We’ve already put it into effect and we have seen a drastic reduction already,” Frye said. “I’m an optimistic person, but at this point I don’t foresee them telling us that we have to move the animals or close. Even the exterminators came out today (Monday) and changed out all the bait stations and reset all the traps … Yates-Astro has been nice and kind and even came out after hours to see what we were dealing with. It’s amazing, the difference.”
Frye said in addition to the traps and extermination procedures, the staff has made many general improvements to remedy the situation. She said the proactive approach saved the shelter the hassle of finding temporary housing for the animals and prevented animal control from having to euthanize animals on their side earlier than necessary.
“We had a lot of areas where the rats could live and breathe and we closed those up,” Frye said.
She said the kennels in the animal control section are separated by cinder blocks, which helps to reduce the spread of canine diseases. However, the blocks were placed in a way that allowed rats to crawl into the center of the blocks where they could live and breed. They have since sealed all the block openings with cement.
Frye said they also took the GDA’s and the exterminators’ advice on limiting the food supply and storing food items.
“We are dumping the food into metal containers to hold the food so the rodents can’t chew through the plastic to get to the food,” she said.
Frye said it’s not a problem that will be completely resolved in a few weeks, but the staff has made enough progress to keep the facility open and they’re still working to keep the rats away.
However, the ordeal has strained the shelter’s already-tight budget as the large, metal, food-storage containers were costly.
“We haven’t found a good answer as to where we are going to house all our food because we get such large quantities donated,” Frye said. “But we are looking into some old-style chest freezers — something [rats] can’t chew through.”
As the animal control and shelter personnel work through the rodent issue, they are also preparing for the cold winter months ahead.
Frye said the staff still has plenty of blankets but will need lots of bleach to keep all areas clean and rodent-free. In addition, they need large garbage bags and large, rat-proof solid food containers.
Brown said the county is in the planning stages of building a newer, more modern animal control facility and officials have been visiting neighboring facilities to get ideas.
Frye said she and her staff want to put this issue behind them and focus on fundraisers to get them through the cold spell.
The shelter’s big annual moneymaker, the Pouring for Paws Celebrity Bartending event, is slated for Nov. 19 at Vann’s Bar and Grill.
“We are looking for a good crowd and I’m still getting my bartenders ready, but I do have a few already lined up,” Frye said. “We will participate in the holiday parade. But our big event is the Pouring for Paws and we will need some help with it.”

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