Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor,

I have always felt that owning a dog is a privilege and a responsibility. Dogs require food, water, shelter, human attention and exercise. When you take on a dog as a pet, you are agreeing to provide for it for the duration of the dog’s life. Those cute little puppies grow up and if you are not committed to caring for them, they suffer for your mistake. Unwanted dogs are tied on chains with very little attention, left in the cold with no shelter, malnourished, in flea bitten misery and in too many cases are dumped by the side of the road to fend for themselves. But that is not always the case, many don’t survive. They are hit by cars, starve to death, or are picked up by Animal Care and Control.

Several months ago, I stopped by our County’s Animal Shelter to ask a few questions and discovered I knew very little about the dog and cat population in my County! I was taken on a tour of Henry County Animal Care and Control Shelter, where I was shown 94 runs for dogs and 32 kennels for cats. Which seemed adequate, until you factor in they received over 4,000 calls in 2016 generating over 1,800 dogs impounded! That’s about 35 dogs a week! And, sadly, close to 500 dogs were euthanized. While, not as many cats were impounded (1,059), they were twice as likely to be euthanized (561). Animal Control was able to adopt out 297 dogs and 173 cats last year, and these animals went out with contracts that the new owner was to spay/neuter their animal within a certain time period.

I next decided to learn about the rescue organizations in Henry County. There were several, and all were gracious in giving me the total number of dogs and cats that they were able to adopt out to forever homes in 2016. These Organizations are all 501(c)3 and do a remarkable, but impossible job: Henry County Humane Society – adopted out 66 dogs & 8 cats; Praying for Paws – adopted out 263 dogs; Street Paws (one of our newer rescues) adopted out 16 dogs and 11 cats. If you add the totals for all, you will find that approximately 345 dogs and 19 cats were adopted and most of these numbers came from people who no longer wanted their pet or who could no longer care for them. While our Rescues do a great job, they, like Animal Care and Control, cannot keep up with the number of unwanted animals.

Last, I learned about the many (mostly) women who stop traffic to rescue a stray or feed strays in deserted areas or put out shelters for cats roaming the woods. These individuals help untold numbers of animals, at their own expense!

The problem of stray and abandoned dogs is an age old issue. To further complicate the problem the supply is greater than the demand. There are only eight licensed breeders in Henry County, yet we have well over three times as many not licensed! There is much work to be done! Perhaps more stringent spay and neuter policies, mandatory chips for all dogs and more stringent penalties for those who abuse the privilege of owning a dog should be considered.

Another tool that would assist responsible dog ownership is education. Henry Animal Care and Control offers classes and materials to help new dog owners understand their responsibility and commitment to their dog. Many of these programs are offered to school age children, but adult groups, such as home owner associations, clubs, etc., should also avail themselves of this resource.

Finally, again, we need to spay and neuter ALL pet dogs and cats! This would greatly reduce the number of later unwanted pets!

So, who’s to blame? Who’s not doing their job? We should place the blame squarely on OUR shoulders!

But it’s not too late! We can join together and turn things around! Here are just a few suggestions:
1. Spay/neuter your pet
2. Volunteer to help at a local rescue
3. Donate to a rescue above or to a local spay/neuter group

The groups that I mentioned all have web sites. Our local rescues will also know about spay/neuter groups, as well as, Animal Care & Control (Performed by Paradox 770-787-8717 Call one month in advance) and CatSnip (cats only) 770-455-7077.

Let’s unite and change the future for Henry County’s Dog and Cat population!

Bobbie Hancock