A co-founder of an animal rescue based in New Jersey said that his organization has been blocked from getting dogs from Augusta Animal Services and that at least one diseased puppy died after the director refused to allow his group to take it to a veterinarian for treatment.
The Home for Good Dog Rescue pays full adoption fees to overpopulated shelters in Georgia and South Carolina and places the dogs into foster homes in New Jersey until they are adopted. Co-founder Richard Errico said that since his group’s foundation in 2010, he has found permanent homes for about 400 dogs from Augusta.
But since March, when the Augusta shelter lost its part-time veterinarian, who performed weekly spays and neuters, Director Sharon Broady has not allowed his rescue to take any animals, even after he offered to arrange and pay for the animals’ sterilizations, Errico said.
“We have said we would guarantee compliance, but they would rather euthanize than work with us,” Errico said.
Georgia law requires all animals to be sterilized before leaving a municipal shelter, but it also permits shelters to enter into written contracts with rescue groups or individuals guaranteeing animals will be sterilized within 30 days.
Broady, who has led the Augusta shelter since 2010 after 36 years at the Richmond County Correctional Institution, has said she will not enter into contracts with rescue groups because of low compliance in the past.
Broady on Monday declined to respond to Errico’s allegations, and did not reply to repeated messages requesting an interview Tuesday.
Errico said her decision is diminishing the chances of healthy animals being adopted, and in one case, guaranteed death.
According to a letter Errico sent to Mayor Deke Copenhaver and the 10 members of the Augusta Commission, his group tried to adopt an ill Labrador-mix puppy named Nicholas on April 3 but Broady refused to release the dog because it had not been sterilized.
Errico said he offered to have the puppy sterilized and to return proof it had been done as allowed by law, and offered to provide veterinary care and a local foster home.
After Broady refused, Errico said, he received a call from an animal control officer explaining the dog was ill with canine parvovirus and was not receiving medical treatment.
Errico said he offered to transport the animal at his expense to a 24-hour vet equipped to treat parvo, but Broady “claimed the puppy had to be treated by a veterinarian of her choice,” according to his letter.
The vet selected by Broady was not equipped to treat parvo, a contagious virus, but even so, Broady refused to allow Errico to take it to a 24-hour veterinarian.
Errico said he “went above Broady” and persuaded the vet to transfer the animal to St. Francis Animal Hospital for correct treatment. After the Home for Good Dog Rescue spent $3,000 at St. Francis on the animal, it died because “too much time had gone by,” Errico said.
“With parvo, speed is the key. If you can catch it right away, the dog stands a fighting chance,” Errico said. “We have an excellent, excellent record with bringing parvo dogs to survival. That dog would have stood a very, very good chance to survive if (Broady) had cooperated. Instead she chose to prove a point.”
On June 26, Broady presented the Augusta Commission with revised animal-related city ordinances but did not include a proposal to contract with rescue groups interested in adopting unaltered animals even after half of the local shelter’s advisory board suggested such an arrangement.
The commission directed Interim Administrator Tameka Allen to meet with the advisory board and Broady on the issue, which will take place this week.
Errico said that the Home for Good Dog Rescue has offered to meet with Broady to share details on its spay/neuter program but that she declined.
At the June commission meeting, Broady said she will not contract with rescue groups because Georgia law does not allow her to pick and choose whom she contracts with. Broady said that if she arranges contracts with rescue groups, she also has to provide that opportunity to private residents, who are even less likely to follow through with sterilization.
According to Mark Murrah, the companion animal manager for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, shelters can indeed adopt unaltered animals to rescues under contract and still refuse to contract with individual residents.
“How the shelter picks who they will treat how is their decision, just as long as the sterilization act is complied with,” Murrah said in an e-mail to The Augusta Chronicle.
Errico said rescues such as his have incentives to sterilize adopted pets because they could lose their licenses if they fail to comply with the law.
“By permitting adoption to animal rescue groups under such a contract, the county shelter will be shifting the financial burden from your tax payers to the privately funded rescue groups,” Errico said in his letter. “We are willing and able to rescue and adopt many more dogs and have them sterilized, inoculated and adopted, all at our sole expense ... if a dog or puppy has an offer for adoption, it is highly unethical and unnecessary to euthanize the animal.”