First, they plan to save animals. Eventually, Friends of North Augusta Animals hopes to be instrumental in replacing the city’s “holding facility” with a real shelter.
“We want an actual shelter,” said Tyler Galles, the group’s president. “And something that’s closer to town.”
The new group is working with city officials, including Animal Control Officer Mike Strauss and City Administrator Todd Glover, to be allowed to “pull” animals from the shelter and make them available for adoption by the public.
Typically, rescue groups place the animals they pull in a foster home, then take them to adoption events such as those held at PetSmart. Even if it takes a while to get them adopted, the animals no longer face being euthanized.
Strauss already is working with Molly’s Militia, but would be happy to work with other rescue groups, too, he told them at a recent meeting at A Paw Above Pet Emporium, the Georgia Avenue shop of FONAA member Laura Nichols.
They’ll have to sign a contract and appoint a coordinator to work with Strauss, and they’re taking steps to do both.
They’re also doing what it takes to be registered as a charity whose donors can write their contributions off on their taxes. That’s crucial to their long-term goal of building a real shelter.
“We plan to first approach our Mayor and City Council this September and ask for their help to find a suitable location for a shelter,” said Cynthia Gordon, the group’s vice president. “We know that much of the money will have to be raised by our group.
“We don’t anticipate getting much money this year because of projects already in the works. We will start out slowly and along the way we are hoping to partner with other businesses that will donate to our group,” she said.
North Augusta’s Claypit Road facility — whether considered a shelter or a holding area — didn’t exist before 1998. Animals were boarded with a local veterinarian.
The first structure was six pens with a tin roof. Later it was enclosed with tin and air conditioning was added. But it’s not a place the public can visit without an appointment, so it’s rare that someone goes there and adopts.
That’s why rescue groups like FONAA, Molly’s Militia and Team Stinkykiss — which sent a representative to FONAA’s latest meeting — are so important.
North Augusta Animal Control took in 294 animals last year, and most of them – 159 – were brought in by people who decided they didn’t want their pets anymore.
There were 126 strays, and 107 of them were reunited with their owners. But only 43 of the remaining 187 were adopted — about 23 percent.
Feral cats were the most commonly euthanized, and there’s no program to deal with them in North Augusta.
FONAA members hope to reach out to feral cat rescues in Aiken County, which could lead to a neuter-and-release program, where the animals are trapped, sterilized and released.
It’s a difficult problem, Strauss said, because feral cat colonies are usually not wanted by nearby residents who don’t consider release a part of the solution.
Also, feral colonies often contract feline leukemia and other diseases that can spread to the pet population.
But saving animals’ lives is the name of the game for the rescues and Strauss, and FONAA members say they’ll push ahead together, fixing what they can today and hoping to do more tomorrow.
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.