Killing is not the mission

It's way past time for county officials to make changes at Animal Services

Augusta-Richmond County is needlessly killing animals – dozens a day, hundreds a week, thousands a year.

All because leaders at the county’s Animal Services department refuse to work with volunteer rescue groups who help find homes for the dogs and cats that turn up at the animal shelter.

Apparently, it’s simply easier for Animal Services Director Sharon Broady and her staff to warehouse, kill and dispose of the animals than to process the paperwork needed to get them into caring homes.

Rescue groups citywide – and even representatives of Broady’s own Animal Services advisory board – say her resistance to working with rescue volunteers borders on hostility.

Why?

 

THAT’S A FAIR QUESTION, considering that Augusta’s reported 70-percent kill rate – which some say may actually be closer to 90 percent at times – far outpaces the national average of 50 percent.

There’s no reason for Augusta to be killing so many animals when well-connected rescue volunteers can help find them homes around the nation – particularly in the animal-underpopulated Northeast, where people line up to wait for van-loads of adoptable Southern dogs.

Georgia law requires public shelters such as Augusta’s to sterilize animals before relinquishing them to rescue groups or private citizens. But it also allows shelters to enter into written contracts with individuals or groups that allow them to spay or neuter the pet within 30 days.

Such contracts would benefit Augusta Animal Services by reducing the number of animals in custody while it waits for its full-time veterinarian position to be filled in January. But Broady has done nothing to facilitate or promote the 30-day provision, citing the lack of a contract as an excuse.

So the Animal Services’ advisory board stepped in and spent months with the county’s legal department to draft an amenable contract over the spring. Yet when Broady was presented with a ready-made agreement, she still refused to work with volunteers.

The question bears repeating: Why?

 

WHAT POSSIBLE REASON would one have to be dismissive of unpaid volunteers whose only agenda is to unite unwanted animals with loving owners? One doesn’t need to be an animal lover to run an animal services department – Broady was deputy warden at the Richmond County Correctional Institution before taking the job in 2010 – but shouldn’t anyone in that position want to reduce the number of animals that have to be put down?

Why is Broady’s default setting on “kill”?

She told The Augusta Chronicle via email interview that she is open to exploring options of lowering euthanasia rates. We suggest she consult a dictionary if her idea of “open” is to refuse to cooperate with rescue volunteers and blindly adhere to a policy that sends dozens of animals to the county landfill each day.

About 6,500 dogs and cats were killed last year.

Broady says lowering the kill rate would require “a new facility, additional staff, to include another veterinarian, vet techs and a much larger budget.”

She needs more resources? We don’t buy that facile argument for a split second. Broady has volunteers practically kicking her door in, begging to take these animals off her hands.

There are likely plenty of policy changes she can make to cut the kill rate that don’t require a bigger budget. Social media blasts are about the cheapest way to get the word out about animals available to be adopted. Hint: The volunteers Broady doesn’t want to work with are already doing it.

It’s not that Broady can’t do anything. She won’t do anything. For a city official whose job it is to do right by these animals, that’s unforgivable.

If new protocols and a battalion of volunteers still can’t save more animals, then by all means she should make the case to city administrators and let them determine just how much, if any, additional resources are needed.

But don’t try to sell the story that a new facility and a fat budget is the only solution to Animal Services’ kill problem.

 

LOOK AT THE Georgia cities of Columbus and Macon, both of which lowered their kill rates by more closely working with volunteer groups.

Look at operations in Columbia County, whose kill rate is half of Augusta’s, despite also not having a full-time vet on staff.

Look at Kansas City, Mo., which flipped its animal control operations from a mostly taxpayer-funded government model to a mostly nonprofit volunteer one that drastically lowered the kill rate.

Look long and hard at all these other agencies that are correctly and humanely executing their duties without executing tons of animals. Start doing what they do. Check your pride at the door. The animals whose life or death depends on us deserve that much.

Augusta Animal Services’ problem isn’t financial. It’s about attitude. And this agency has precisely the wrong attitude to fulfill a successful mission of caring for and adopting out Augusta’s most vulnerable animals.

No one – including the most die-hard animal lovers – expects Augusta to have a 0-percent kill rate. That’s simply not possible. But it’s not too much to ask the county to meet rescue volunteers halfway so that more animals are saved instead of killed.

 

ONE OF THE LISTED primary responsibilities of Animal Services is the “humane euthanization” of animals – but only ones that are “sick, injured, diseased and unadoptable” (emphasis added).

If Broady is trying to tell the entire CSRA that fully 70 percent – and possibly more – of the animals that enter her shelter are flat-out unadoptable, we’ll be the first to stand up and say it: It’s simply not true.

“We need a public outcry.” Augusta Animal Services’ advisory board member Aimee Murphy said. “This is urgent. There are literally places up North clamoring for them, and we’re killing them.”

Augusta Commissioners have ultimate authority for this slaughter. They have the responsibility to put an end to it. Commissioners, a compassionate and caring community is looking to you now. Do your jobs, and either make Ms. Broady do hers, or find someone else who will.

Calling Animal Services’ facility a “shelter” is painfully inaccurate. A “shelter” implies a place where precious objects can be kept safe.

What’s so safe about the city’s shelter? It’s nothing less than a sick, sad death house. And most of the condemned animals are guilty of nothing more than falling into the hands of an Animal Services department staffed by people who can’t summon up enough creative thinking – or even simple humanity – to work meaningfully to save these poor creatures’ lives.

Transport rescue effort could benefit dogs at Augusta shelter
Sheltered animals remain in limbo after loss of vet
Tempers flare over Augusta Animal Services
Augusta animal euthanasia rate at 70 percent for second year
Program helps find homes for dogs
Animal euthanasia high in Augusta

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