ATLANTA - Animal control officers in Fulton and DeKalb Counties are disturbed by the growing number of animal cruelty cases they are responding to.
"They're astronomical," said Fulton County Field Services Director Tim Poorman, who said the citations and charges have more than doubled since last year from 239 to 526 just this year.
"I and my officers always say that they are glad to get the cruelty call because they know about this one," said Poorman.
Officials said DeKalb County is also seeing a staggering increase in the number of animal cruelty cases. Two cases have garnered national attention. A pair of beagle puppies were discovered on the brink of starvation, abandoned on the side of the road in southeast Atlanta and another dog named Lulu died after being buried alive up to her nose in Tucker.
Poorman said one reason for the increase, is that the public is more educated on the issue and are reporting the abuse.
"It's good that it's reported to us and we get the animal out of that situation and hold people accountable, the bad is; is that it fills up our shelter very quickly," said Poorman.
Each of the cruelty cases takes up a single kennel which the animal must be kept in until their court date which can sometimes take a year or more, so the shelters are packed and taking up space that can be used to help other animals.
"LifeLine has built the trust with the community where they feel comfortable in calling us to come out and help in these situations, however, it does put a burden on the shelter when we already have so many pets there and it is so crucial for people to come in and save lives," said Karen Hirsch with LifeLine Animal Project, which oversees both the Fulton and DeKalb County Animal Shelter.
Staff at the shelters are encouraging the public to adopt, so they can free up space for other animals that need help.
Poorman said he and his officers are present in court for every citation they write and are starting to turn the corner with the court system.
"It's being taken more seriously, the fines are going, we've had people put in, incarcerated in jail as part of their sentence and hope that word gets out there that if you treat your animal badly you are going to be held accountable for it," said Poorman.