A new leash on life

Too many local animals are being put to death -- and Augusta can change that

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If more than 6,000 dead fish showed up in the Savannah River, it’d be a national story. They’d call out the EPA, the EPD, the FBI, the CIA, whoever.

But that many dead cats and dogs and other animals killed by the Augusta animal shelter? It’s just another year.

The Augusta Chronicle reported recently that the Augusta Animal Services shelter’s euthanasia rate is 65 to 70 percent – 6,760 animals put down last year. That compares very poorly to the estimate of 50 percent kill rates across the country.

It’s not the local shelter’s fault, certainly. These folks are on the front lines of this ugly battle, and it breaks their hearts as much as anyone’s to have to put so many furry little creatures to sleep. In fact, one online commenter at AugustaChronicle.com wrote that he or she has a kitten from the shelter that’s named after the kennel manager there.

At bottom, this is a social ill we’re unloading on their doorstep.

It’s the uncaring, cruel or just negligent pet owners who dump their little family members by the side of the road, or allow them to escape or otherwise run loose and multiply and create starving, frightened strays who, themselves, keep on multiplying.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

At this point, we’re largely ignoring it – to our shame. The heavens have gifted us with an overabundance of affectionate, devoted, dependent reminders of God’s regard for us – and we return the favor by funneling them by the thousands to a love dump from which there is rarely any return.

This area clearly needs alternatives to killing so many unclaimed animals.

This has to be primarily a private-sector fix; the government has its hands full already with the full range of society’s ills.

But we call on the city government to provide the leadership to reduce the extraordinary number of animals being put to death here. Call a town hall. Get public input. Find the best practices elsewhere in the country – or the world, for that matter – and import them to Augusta. Call on the considerable expertise of the rescue industry around the world, and commit to doing better here at home.

If you have a pet, imagine that little critter homeless and facing euthanasia – just because he doesn’t know where you are or how to contact you, or because he never was fortunate enough to have you in the first place.

It doesn’t take much to stir good folks to action, either. When The Chronicle’s news story featured a photo of a husky mix, the Augusta shelter adopted Freisha out to a loving family before noon.

We need to save as many of the other Freishas as we can. Our kill rate is a blemish we can go a long way to removing.

We just need to get together and do it.

Columbus, on the other side of the state, has done just that – with an aggressive and comprehensive nine-point Save-a-Pet program featuring expanded shelter hours on Mondays, volunteer programs, off-site adoptions, aggressive outreach to rescue groups and foster homes and more.

Under the program, photos of the animals are posted on the city’s website as soon as they enter the shelter, in the hopes of reuniting them with their owners.

But here’s the headline: The Columbus shelter has reduced its euthansia rate from a whopping 79 percent a few years ago to just 32 percent last month.

There’s no reason – except inertia – that we can’t do the same.

To his great credit, we asked and Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver instantly agreed to see what ideas can be imported from Columbus.

There are too many animals suffering and dying needlessly. Our overwhelmed animal service workers need all the ideas – and community support – they can get.

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Cadence 05/05/13 - 04:50 am
Free spay and neuter clinics

The county in which I live has quarterly free spay and neuter clinics that many people use. There are still too many strays, but far fewer than there used to be. Please prevent your pets from reproducing unless you are a licensed breeder. If your family is ready for a pet, please go to the pound or humane society rather than buy a $600 dog.

maandpa 05/05/13 - 08:42 am
Someone Was Trying To Help

Addressing this problem is a good start. However, the elected county commissioners apparently do not care about the number of animals being euthanized, or they would have done more to help the woman who was recently shut down by the state for helping stray animals. The locally elected county commissioners, at least one of them, should have extended an offer to help with this problem with some type of compromise or plan that would have aided this woman whose kind heart was trying to solve the problem but became overwhelmed. Not one commissioner stepped up, so the Animal Holocaust continues.

t3bledsoe 05/05/13 - 10:26 am
Started to let this editorial go unread

The Augusta Chonicle may very well be very conservative in their politics, but very obviously they can be compassionate as well ! I am very glad that I read this editorial and it reflects on the very people that have to deal with this heart-break every day ! I, for one, do not shy away from admitting , "I could not work is a cattle, pork, chicken slaughter house nor a shelter that puts animals to sleep. These people should be looked up; that's right; LOOK UP to in our society ! We have 1 cat that came to us 4 years ago. it was the coldest three nights there was in that January. On the third night, we could go no longer without being compassionate towards him ! I watch NEWS 12 on Mondays and they show two animals per Monday that visit from the animal shelters. I would love to take in more animals, but we just are not set up for it. I am sure that EVERYBODY wish the selters could have a 100% adoption rate !! This would be great.

historylover 05/05/13 - 11:31 am
Outstanding article, sad truths

Thank you for sharing the statistics with us. I do not live in Augusta but I certainly see the many starving and homeless animals in our rural area. We feed, spay and neuter as many of them as we can catch and as we can afford. I would be willing to volunteer to help get more animals adopted. Where do we start?

Lou Stewall
Lou Stewall 05/05/13 - 12:47 pm
Thin the Herd

Our veterinarians should not be allowed to give vaccines (except rabies) or heart worm medications to dogs and cats who are two years old or more, unless they are neutered. Those who want to breed their pets can pay $100 a year to keep them fertile and still receive veterinary care. Sounds mean? This would shorten the lives of dogs with irresponsible owners and cut the number of fertile pets way down.
Feeding feral cats is OK with me but packs of wild dogs need to be shot, as well as coyotes.

flcracker 05/05/13 - 05:56 pm
No Kill solutions

As an animal lover I was shocked when I read the kill rate in the paper last month. I called Animal Services about volunteering and volunteer hours are Monday through Friday 1-4:30. The shelter is not open to volunteers or the public on Saturdays- when working people and families have the time to come to the shelter. How many foster groups does Animal Services partner with? Not many I'm guessing. Also, the Animal Services Facebook page has not been updated since November. Animal Services needs to realize that social media is a FREE resource they can use to make citizens aware of the animals available for adoption. Also, there are no pictures of adoptable animals on the website. Other county/city run shelters in the country have a Friends group that helps with fundraising and awareness at special events. Looks like Animal Services (along with a lot of Augusta) needs to enter the 21st century.

TheGeorgian 05/05/13 - 11:46 pm
Kennel Manager

"In fact, one online commenter at AugustaChronicle.com wrote that he or she has a kitten from the shelter that’s named after the kennel manager there."

It's our little lynx colorpoint in question that we got from the shelter and named Priscilla. She's our third adoption from the shelter. The oldest cat showed up on his own 11 years ago and did a lot of traveling with us. One cat was originally in the Gordon County shelter, one in Gaston, NC, one from private rescue. One dog was purchased from breeders in Joplin, MO and the other thrown out of a car near our rural home one rainy night three years ago. Both are treasures. The county shelter here is dedicated to helping change statistics and get their animals homes. Please make their work easier by adopting and spay/neutering.

Darby 05/05/13 - 08:38 pm
This time last year we had no cats...

A short time later we had seven because some louse dumped them in our neighborhood and my wife wouldn't let them go hungry.

We're down to five now, all have been fixed but one and she stays indoors. (For now.)

You might get away with shooting wild dogs, too bad something can't be done about people who abandon helpless pets.

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