Does Bonnie Bragdon have a chance to make the animal control program a success in Augusta-Richmond County?
The veterinarian inherited a difficult situation: a shelter that had to refuse animals because of a persistent outbreak of disease at the facility; an organization that, instead of sheltering animals, has no choice but to destroy them when they are deemed unadoptable; an agency with a reputation for losing track of its animals.
Bragdon will need time and money to sort out all the problems, some of which will not be solved until the new voter-supported animal control shelter is complete.
But she faces an even tougher problem: There are those vocal few in the community who can't accept the fact that animal shelters must thin out their pet populations. They have begun to heap criticism on Bragdon for telling the truth, which is, abandoned pets that aren't adoptable must be put to death.
Some animal advocates believe no pets should be destroyed, but instead cared for until they are placed in responsible homes. That is an unrealistic approach to a problem created and perpetuated by an uncaring public that allows family pets to breed unchecked and then dumps the stray and abandoned animals' fates off onto taxpayers.
Simply put, many pets are not likely to be adopted. They're either not attractive, young, trained or socialized enough for the average prospective pet guardian.
The lack of support for Augusta-Richmond County Animal Control by regional animal humane societies isn't helpful in solving the agency's problems.
Although animal welfare groups' missions are critical, there will always be a need for the last-resort agency, and it's likely that there will always be the sad fact of euthanasia. In fact, at many of the nation's animal shelters, as much as 90 percent of animals brought to the facilities must be killed.
For animal welfare groups to refuse to work with public agencies is not only petty, it's counterproductive.
Humane societies and pet rescue groups have their place, but their mission, in the final analysis, is not that different from the county's mission. For these groups, job one is to get pets spayed and neutered to prevent the overpopulation problem from compounding. That will require public and private funds and a stepped-up, consistent education campaign in Augusta.
Prevention, intervention and placement should be the goal of these groups. While a "no kill" policy is a nice idea that other cities have strived for, Augusta has a long way to go before that's a realistic goal.
In the meantime, the public needs to hold its fire and give Bragdon the time and resources she needs to get Animal Control reorganized and functioning properly.
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