There's People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and there's Augusta Animal Rescue Friends. If pets could talk, they'd tell you they prefer the latter.
The PETA folks write silly treatises to newspapers and magazines equating animal rights with human rights. They threaten to sue if you criticize them. They disrupt scientific research that could help the ill and lame by releasing research animals and destroying records. They exploit the public's affection for pets to hide a radical, totalitarian political agenda.
What PETA doesn't do - at least not often - is the kind of grunt work that keeps abandoned, sick or mistreated pets alive. That's what AARF does. These volunteers don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk, when it comes to improving animals' lives.
The group works with Richmond County Animal Control, which takes in about 10,000 pets a year, but because the cages can only hold a maximum of 75 dogs and 30 cats at a time, many of the pets that aren't quickly adopted or claimed by their owners have to be put down.
And the sick ones don't stand a chance at all, says Dr. Bonnie Bragdon, the shelter's director, because the cages are for healthy animals to be shown to the public for adoption. There's also no room for pregnant animals.
This is where AARF's fostering and adoption programs come in. They restore hundreds of animals to good health each year and they let the healthy pregnant moms give birth to litters which they'll also raise for adoption. Each week up to 12 pets are adopted - or about 500 a year.
All this work is a labor of love for AARF volunteers who have to attend training classes at the animal shelter and whose foster homes are subject to the same regulations as the shelters and may be inspected at any time by the state Agriculture Department.
The volunteers also make a big financial sacrifice. They have spent their own money on getting the dogs and cats into shape to be adopted, but now that AARF has incorporated as a registered non-profit organization they hope the community will help out with donations. We hope so too. Unlike PETA, this local organization will spend its money wisely on pets, including having them spayed and neutered.