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April 7--  The working relationship between the city of Lyons and the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society appears to have been damaged.

Lyons councilman Wayne Hartley says the Lyons animal shelter was visited by inspectors from the Georgia Department of Agriculture March 31 after an unidentified person emailed a complaint to the Department.  Neither Hartley nor SOAPS President Therisa Ingley know who sent the email.

Inspector Tommy Sheffield investigated the complaint and recommended it be closed.  His report found no evidence supporting allegations in the complaint including unaccounted for dogs, euthanasia of puppies and inadequate record-keeping.

However, as a consequence of the investigation, Councilman Hartley says some members of the city council had concerns about certain aspects of a draft animal shelter policy being developed by the city.  The new draft deletes any reference to the city taking financial assistance from SOAPS.  Hartley also says the city no longer wants SOAPS volunteers cleaning the shelter and the dogs on weekends because of potential liability.  

The city has yet to approve the new draft policy and Hartley says they still have to coordinate a memorandum of agreement with Toombs County.  Lyons currently holds dogs picked up in the county but only gets $15 per animal, a figure which Hartley says does not cover expenses.

County manger Doug Eaves says the county will address the overall question of animal control once it gets something in writing from the city of Lyons.

Meanwhile, SOAP's Ingley says the group will continue to work with Lyons officials to find homes for animals in the shelter.  The city caused an uproar when it killed 77 dogs in one day earlier this year.

The state inspector's report says the shelter is "on the verge of becoming overcrowded."  At the city council meeting this week, councilman Willis NeeSmith reported the shelter had 31 dogs.  He said over 50 dogs had been adopted in the past few weeks.  Forty-three of those were rescued by SOAPS, he said.