Over the past several weeks, many of us have been inundated with phone calls, emails and questions about the unfortunate demise of Happy Tails Rescue. Like many of you, I have wanted answers, as I am also an animal lover and advocate.
This is what I know to be true and accurate.
HAPPY TAILS RESCUE was not shut down by Columbia County. Happy Tails’ license was revoked by the Georgia Department of Agriculture for code violations. These violations are outlined in the Department of Agriculture’s report and can be obtained through the state’s open records division. Any reasonable person would agree that the Department of Agriculture would not shut down any business without valid reasons.
It is not my intent to criticize anyone who is helping homeless animals. I will agree, however, that we all have to answer to someone. Every business is subject to rules, regulations and laws, and knows there are consequences for violations of such. It is my sincere hope that each and every one of the
animals in Happy Tails’ care received safe, secure and forever homes.
Animal rescue work is one of the most difficult jobs anyone can undertake. It takes a large network of dedicated people to accomplish all the goals we set for ourselves. It begins with a person’s kind heart and compassion to nurture animals and find them safe, secure and loving homes. It can be pretty overwhelming at times because the number of stray, abandoned, abused and neglected animals is endless.
It is very difficult to realize
that we, the people involved in rescue work, cannot save them all. The reality of this is truly heartbreaking. But each of us can help by being more responsible pet owners.
Thousands upon thousands of adoptable animals are killed in our local animal shelters every year. The United States has the highest kill rate of adoptable animals in the world. Many more are abused, neglected and abandoned. Many are simply put out to fend for themselves, because people did not think seriously enough about the responsibilities of pet ownership before adopting them.
THESE FACTS ARE horrendous and stem from the reality that some people do not care enough for their pets to make a commitment to their care. They still have not embraced the fact that, by not spaying and neutering their pets, they are contributing to the overpopulation crisis, which in turn increases the numbers of animals that end up in these horrible situations. Spaying and neutering – preventing more unwanted litters – is the best, most humane way to decrease these statistics.
Domestic animals can be wonderful companions, and most people have pets. Cats and dogs are great fun, but they also are dependent on us for their care, food and shelter. They are not inanimate objects. They are not property. They are thinking, feeling creatures. When you have a pet in your life and you have that trust relationship with them, how do you think it affects them when you don’t want them anymore?
We have a choice about adopting pets, and must make that decision knowing there are strings attached: responsibilities. We must fulfill the responsibilities of pet ownership and keep our commitment to them.
When people adopt pets, they must realize they are responsible for their physical and emotional well-being. In other words, if you cannot afford veterinary care for spaying/neutering, regular vaccines (including rabies) from an early age, annual checkups and the emergencies that will always come up, do not adopt a pet.
If you intend to leave a pet outside, you must provide good, safe shelter from the heat of summer and the cold and rain of winter, as well as good nutritious food and clean fresh water. If you are not able or willing to do this, do not adopt a pet.
Your new pet is a social creature, and looks to you for companionship. If you cannot give a pet kindness, or your schedule does not allow you time to spend with a pet, do not adopt a pet.
JUST AS SURELY as you wouldn’t treat your parents or grandparents poorly as they age and become more dependent on you, why then, would you get rid of a companion animal as they age and need you more?
Pet ownership is a serious decision and commitment. There are other alternatives. Volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue until such a time as you feel you can make a definite commitment to their care.
Think seriously about a pet before you adopt. That animal’s life depends on it.
(The writer – co-owner of the Village Deli in Augusta – is the founder and president of the animal rescue group That’s What Friends Are For.)