By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

On March 8, Barking Hound Village Foundation (BHVF) acquired the contract to operate the Fulton County Animal Shelter, located on Marietta Boulevard in Atlanta.

The foundation is the nonprofit entity of Barking Hound Village and was formed to run the shelter, said David York, the founder and head of Barking Hound Village.

Eight months later, allegations of animal cruelty by former shelter director Jere Alexander have been raised, mainly by former kennel manager Myles Swain, whom Alexander fired in July. Alexander resigned Nov. 3.

According to a Nov. 5 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Swain accuses Alexander of placing aggressive pit bulls in cages with smaller dogs unable to defend themselves, resulting in several deaths, and of protecting aggressive pit bulls.

“When we arrived, the shelter was absolutely packed,” York said. The reported problems “are not current problems or current issues. They were more things that happened right when we took over. We had to move some employees out of the way to really make the shelter a better place.”

He defended Alexander, whom he hired in March, saying her resignation was a response to the pressures of the position.

“It’s a tough job,” York said. He said Alexander had conducted a “well-respected” animal study for Emory University and resigned to return to the study.

“She just felt very compassionate for the animals and decided it would be better for her to work in her former capacity. She could help more animals that way,” he said.

He would not comment on the specifics of cruelty claims but did respond to complaints about the shelter’s treatment of pit bulls.

“There’s not just a blanket policy on pit bulls,” York said, adding that about 75 percent of the animals brought into the shelter are pit bulls. “Our idea has always been to save as many animals as we can. The idea that we were just trying to save pit bulls was not the way it was down there.”

He said any issues have been resolved. “We run a very safe, clean shelter. We have spent more on vet care. When we got there, we didn’t have a vet at all. We now have a great full-time vet, and we have an extra, additional vet two days a week.”

He said adoptions, spayings and neuterings are at all-time highs. The shelter also has increased the kennel staff from about 35 to 50.

“We’ve added 24-hour staff … because we have animals coming in all night,” York said.

Herman Swann, with more than 30 years’ experience, is the interim shelter director and is being considered for the permanent post.