Report: Augusta pets getting registered; intake and euthanasia remain high

Augusta Animal Services is having success with a new pet registration system, and the city goat herd is thriving. But unwanted dogs and cats continue to be euthanized more than half the time at the Mack Lane shelter.

 

Director Sharon Broady and new Assistant Director Crystal Eskola presented the department’s latest statistics to Augusta Commission members Tuesday, including a report that as of Monday had 4,769 pets now registered with the city.

The registration system puts the pet’s info into Augusta’s database and owners who spay or neuter their pets can register at no charge – a perk in the new animal services ordinance the city hoped would slow pet overpopulation.

The owners of at least 650 pets opted not to spay or neuter and pay the $10 fee instead, according to the report.

The commission district that saw the most registrations was large, rural District 8, with 669 signed up and of them, 127 paying the fee, according to the city’s data. Downtown’s District 1 had the fewest, with 372 signing up and 34 paying the no-neuter fee. A majority of the registrations were issued without a receipt, something Broady said was changing.

Animal Services has taken owners to court for locking dogs in hot cars and judges have not been lenient, Broady said. Officers are authorized by the ordinance to break a window to release an animal but members of the public are “on their own” if they choose to do so, she said.

“If it’s dire straits, we’ll break a window, but to date we have not had to break a window,” Broady said.

Animal Services also manages Augusta’s goat herd, used to manage vegetation in retention ponds, and with seven births this year, has 33 goats, she said.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy asked how much room the shelter had for goats. Broady said the stable there has room for hundreds.

“I’ve got more room for goats at the shelter than I’ve got retention ponds that are secure,” she said.

But among dogs and cats, intake is up slightly this year, as is euthanasia, said Eskola, a longtime animal services volunteer who joined city government in June.

Dogs, which represent 60 percent of animals entering the shelter, have numbered 1,555 this year. Some 162 of them were puppies. But of the adult dogs, which animal services did not break down between adoptable and sick or dangerous dogs, 47 percent were euthanized or did not survive, according to the city’s data.

For cats, which at 1,042 were 40 percent of shelter intake, the picture was worse, with some 81 percent of adult cats being put down and just 15 percent adopted. Kittens had a better chance of a positive outcome, with 55 percent being adopted, reclaimed or rescued.

Dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are all subject to the five-day rule before they face euthanasia, Eskola said.

But “we’re working hard to increase our adoption rate,” she said, including through social media, weekend adoption events and events at any venue by request, holiday promotions and billboards that will soon rotate pictures of adoptable animals daily, she said.

Plus the department is posting photos of lost pets that owners haven’t come to the shelter to reclaim.

“We have a huge number of dogs that come in with collars on, painted toenails; they’ve got coats on – we know they’re somebody’s pet, but nobody comes looking for them,” Eskola said.

Overall, the euthanasia rate was up slightly this year at 55 percent, from 53 percent during the same period last year, she said. Columbia County reported euthanizing only eight adoptable pets last year, despite taking in more dogs and cats than Augusta.

Commissioner Sammie Sias said the report showed the new ordinance “has been a success” that hadn’t resulted in a spike in abandoned animals.

Broady said a number of factors contribute to owners’ surrendering pets at the shelter, including relocating military families who represent about 30 percent of cases.

“We have military families that are relocating and their new station, they cannot take their animal with them,” she said.

Other factors include when pet owners die, get divorced or split up, or their children leave home, Broady said.

“Then we have people that don’t take care of their animals and we have to impound them because of neglect,” she said.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-2315 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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