Originally created 07/09/98

Area's humane societies divided



Everyone agrees on one thing: The animal problem is bad.

But that's about all members of several area animal rescue organizations can agree on.

According to group members, a schism that developed in the membership of the Augusta Humane Society 13 years ago has only widened over the years. And now instead of one humane society serving Richmond, Columbia and other surrounding Georgia counties, there are at least four.

This fragmentation began in early 1985 when two factions within Augusta Humane Society fought for control of the organization's budget and animal shelter, according to Steven Fishman, the group's executive vice president.

The result was that officials in the former city of Augusta decided not to renew the society's lease and the Augusta Humane Society shelter was closed, Mr. Fishman said. "We have not ever raised enough money to rebuild," he said.

That left two groups, the Augusta Humane Society and the CSRA Humane Society, he said.

While both groups have the same mission -- finding good homes for abandoned animals -- they don't work together.

"Everybody has their own sort of agenda and there doesn't seem to be a willingness to compromise," said Raynette Mayer a member of the CSRA group for four years.

In addition to the Augusta and CSRA groups, there are two others, the Columbia County Humane Society and McDuffie County Friends of Animals.

"We adopt out over 500 animals a year, and our main thing is taking animals, and it's not just Columbia County -- it's from Columbia, Richmond, Lincoln and Wilkes County -- the whole CSRA, said Donna Evans, adoption chairwoman for Columbia County Humane Society.

All the groups work as a loose network of volunteers, many who foster abandoned animals in their own homes until they can be permanently placed, Ms. Evans said.

Each group vigorously preaches a program of spaying and neutering pets, and offer low-cost plans to the pet owners to encourage the practice.

They appear to be fighting a losing battle.

Following the constant growth of human population, the area's animal problem continues to get worse and each year thousands of animals are killed, according to animal control directors.

This year looks to be bad as well, Mrs. Fulmer said.

"We have had a big influx of puppies this past week, and two weeks ago it was kittens and cats. We got in 40 cats in one day," Mrs. Fulmer said recently. "It's that time of year."

But, the mushrooming animal population has helped propagate the number of animal rescue groups in the area as well.

Formed about three years ago, the McDuffie County group regularly holds pet adoption days at Superpetz on Bobby Jones Expressway.

When people are ready to get a new pet, they like to have a number of animals from which to choose, said Ruth Tracy, of McDuffie Friends of Animals, a former member of the Columbia County group. But, since there is no humane society animal shelter, her group often gathers foster pets together for adoption days, she said.

But even pet adoptions are a point of contention between groups.

The CSRA Humane Society opposes the practice of pet adoption days, held by the McDuffie and Columbia County groups.

"Our organization does not believe in that because we see too much impulse buying," said Ms. Mayer.

Ms. Mayer said her organization imposes a 24-hour waiting period on adoptions to give prospective pet owners a chance to think about what they're getting into.

Conflicting personalities and philosophies have often marred the good intentions of the groups, creating further splintering and distrust between organizations.

Building a shelter, where the public could come to see a lot of different animals at once, might eliminate the need for pet adoption days, but the groups can't come to agreement on such a joint project.

The main reason none of the current humane societies operate an animal shelter is that they all compete for the same money from local donations, said Mr. Fishman.

"The CSRA Humane Society went after the same donated bucks we did," he said.

So the gap that opened began 13 years ago doesn't appear to be closing anytime soon.

"The only ones that really suffered by this whole debacle was the animals," Mr. Fishman said.

BYLINE1:By S.B. Crawford

BYLINE2:Staff Writer

Everyone agrees on one thing: The animal problem is bad.

But that's about all members of several area animal rescue organizations can agree on.

According to group members, a schism that developed in the membership of the Augusta Humane Society 13 years ago has only widened over the years. And now instead of one humane society serving Richmond, Columbia and other surrounding Georgia counties, there are at least four.

This fragmentation began in early 1985 when two factions within Augusta Humane Society fought for control of the organization's budget and animal shelter, according to Steven Fishman, the group's executive vice president.

The result was that officials in the former city of Augusta decided not to renew the society's lease and the Augusta Humane Society shelter was closed, Mr. Fishman said. "We have not ever raised enough money to rebuild," he said.

That left two groups, the Augusta Humane Society and the CSRA Humane Society, he said.

While both groups have the same mission -- finding good homes for abandoned animals -- they don't work together.

"Everybody has their own sort of agenda and there doesn't seem to be a willingness to compromise," said Raynette Mayer a member of the CSRA group for four years.

In addition to the Augusta and CSRA groups, there are two others, the Columbia County Humane Society and McDuffie County Friends of Animals.

"We adopt out over 500 animals a year, and our main thing is taking animals, and it's not just Columbia County -- it's from Columbia, Richmond, Lincoln and Wilkes County -- the whole CSRA, said Donna Evans, adoption chairwoman for Columbia County Humane Society.

All the groups work as a loose network of volunteers, many who foster abandoned animals in their own homes until they can be permanently placed, Ms. Evans said.

Each group vigorously preaches a program of spaying and neutering pets, and offer low-cost plans to the pet owners to encourage the practice.

They appear to be fighting a losing battle.

Following the constant growth of human population, the area's animal problem continues to get worse and each year thousands of animals are killed, according to animal control directors.

This year looks to be bad as well, Mrs. Fulmer said.

"We have had a big influx of puppies this past week, and two weeks ago it was kittens and cats. We got in 40 cats in one day," Mrs. Fulmer said recently. "It's that time of year."

But, the mushrooming animal population has helped propagate the number of animal rescue groups in the area as well.

Formed about three years ago, the McDuffie County group regularly holds pet adoption days at Superpetz on Bobby Jones Expressway.

When people are ready to get a new pet, they like to have a number of animals from which to choose, said Ruth Tracy, of McDuffie Friends of Animals, a former member of the Columbia County group. But, since there is no humane society animal shelter, her group often gathers foster pets together for adoption days, she said.

But even pet adoptions are a point of contention between groups.

The CSRA Humane Society opposes the practice of pet adoption days, held by the McDuffie and Columbia County groups.

"Our organization does not believe in that because we see too much impulse buying," said Ms. Mayer.

Ms. Mayer said her organization imposes a 24-hour waiting period on adoptions to give prospective pet owners a chance to think about what they're getting into.

Conflicting personalities and philosophies have often marred the good intentions of the groups, creating further splintering and distrust between organizations.

Building a shelter, where the public could come to see a lot of different animals at once, might eliminate the need for pet adoption days, but the groups can't come to agreement on such a joint project.

The main reason none of the current humane societies operate an animal shelter is that they all compete for the same money from local donations, said Mr. Fishman.

"The CSRA Humane Society went after the same donated bucks we did," he said.

So the gap that opened began 13 years ago doesn't appear to be closing anytime soon.

"The only ones that really suffered by this whole debacle was the animals," Mr. Fishman said.