Apr 9, 2024 - News

Who let the dogs out? Who will put them back in?

Illustration of two dogs fighting over a hundred-dollar bill.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

City Hall officials and Fulton County commissioners are fighting like cats and dogs over how much Atlanta should pay to wrangle, well, cats and dogs.

Why it matters: Atlanta's home to countless creatures, and more than half of the animal services' calls are inside the city's limits.

State of play: This past Friday, the county stopped answering those calls and advised Atlanta residents and businesses to call 311 for assistance.

Catch up quick: When divvying up everyday government services, Fulton County is responsible for picking up stray dogs, rescuing injured wildlife and investigating animal cruelty in its municipalities.

  • For the past six months, Atlanta has protested the county's proposed contract that doubles the cost of those services, to $6.4 million. Every other Fulton city has already agreed to pay increased costs for their services, county commission Chairman Rob Pitts said.
  • During that time, animal control officers have been operating inside the city limits without an agreement — a legal no-no, county attorney Soo Jo told county commissioners on March 20.

What they're saying: Fulton does not make a profit on the service, county Commissioner Dana Barrett told Axios.

  • "It's not like we're withholding something from them or that there's some wiggle room on the price. It's really just 'sign it or don't.'"

Context: The decision wasn't made lightly. At the March 20 meeting, Fulton Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. warned colleagues against cutting off vital services to the county's largest city and state capital.

Of note: The city could purchase services from a private vendor or another county's animal control agency, Barrett told Axios.

The other side: In a press release the day Fulton halted services, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens' administration claimed the county reneged on a tentative animal services agreement after the mayor expressed "concern" about inmate deaths at the county-operated Rice Street jail.

Plus, the city's statement goes on to say, Fulton's past due on a nearly $6 million water bill to the city.

  • "We would not risk endangering the welfare of people or animals while negotiating in good faith to resolve these issues," the city said. "We expect the same professionalism and care for our citizens and animals from the county."

What's next: County commissioners are set to discuss the unpaid Atlanta water bill and animal control at Wednesday's meeting.

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