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Progress Is Being Made at Our Animal Shelter

We have gone from a euthanasia rate at DCAC in the 40% range or higher weekly, to a average rate of euthanasia for the entire year of between 16% 18%.

Volunteering to save shelter animals is a painful undertaking emotionally, it can take it’s toll on even the strongest of character and will. By the time that most people get involved with shelter animals, others have already let these animals down or abandoned them or worse. Shelter animals are society’s cast asides. Many of these unfortunate creatures have been thrown out on the streets and abandoned. Or they have been left tied to trees or left in abandoned homes and fields to die of starvation. Many are the products of the inhumane business of dog fighting and others are simply used as broodmares to produce puppies for profit.

Over the course of the last year I have known many shelter animals and sadly I have seen many of them pass from this life. Most of these animals were forced to forfeit their lives through no fault of their own. They were forced to forfeit their lives based upon an antiquated system of animal control, that afforded them no chance or ability at life beyond the limited space and confines of our present shelter facility. In the not too distant past, when these unfortunate dogs and cats arrived at animal control, they were treated as inventory and disposed of in the landfill when the need for more kennel space arose each week. It was not that long ago that hundreds of dogs and cats were being put down weekly during the peak litter seasons and hundreds upon hundreds more were being killed during the summer months to provide space for the endless flow of litters, the abandoned, surrendered and the abused.

The good news is, there have been significant changes over the past year and those changes have made a significant difference in the numbers of those being put down each week. These changes at the shelter have led to a difference in both the number of animals arriving at the shelter weekly and a difference if the number of animals who are being spared death by adoption and rescue. These changes have been due to the community and the staff becoming involved in solutions based management of the shelter and working together toward salvaging the animals housed there. These changes have also been due to the shelter assessment and the policy changes that have been implemented in the past year as a result of the assessment and public demands for change.

One of those demands was for intake vaccinations. The county Board of Commisioners heard the voices of the community and directed last December that all animals arriving at the shelter receive vaccinations against common diseases at intake. As a result of this simple change, our shelter animals have become healthier and rescue organization have returned regularly to pull animals from the shelter due to the increased health and marketability of the animals.

We have all worked very hard over the past year to change the previously existing policies at the Douglas County Animal Shelter. We have worked very hard over the past year to change hearts and minds, both in the community and in county government and as a result of the combined efforts of many individuals, positive and impressive changes have been made at the shelter. Progress has been made to reverse decades of neglect. As a matter of fact, a level of progress thought unattainable a year ago has been reached in the preservation of life at our animal shelter. We have gone from a euthanasia rate at DCAC in the 40% range or higher weekly, to a average rate of euthanasia for the entire year of between 16% 18%.

These changes and the dramatic decline in euthanasia did not simply happen. These changes occurred because of the dedication of numerous volunteers and dedicated shelter staff working week after week to make positive and measurable changes happen. Many individuals have worked tirelessly to demonstrate by their commitment and direct actions, that there are alternatives and there are other means available other than to simply pick animals up and put them down for space in an endless cycle of warehousing and death.

The presently accepted and antiquated model of animal control applied across the state of Georgia and the region in animal control facilities is wrong headed, out dated and it does not address the root causes of animal over population. Simply stated, we cannot kill our way out of an over population of un-spayed, un-neutered and unwanted animals. If change is ever going to be effected to stop the flow of unwanted animals, then the comunity must take steps directly to address the problem. Locally, we have been able to make changes and move away from the antiquated model of ‘animal control by euthanasia.’ We haven’t been able to shift away from that model entirely, but over the past year, we have moved farther and faster in a new direction than any county that I am aware of in the state of Georgia or the southeastern United States for that matter.

We as a community have been able to prove time and again over the past year, that comunity volunteers giving of their time and efforts, combined with marketing and sponsoring of animals, combined with cooperative and dedicated shelter staff and rescues, can make all the difference when it comes to saving shelter animals in Douglas County. Given the opportunity to be sponsored, marketed and promoted, many of these animals can be adopted and rescued and many have been over the last year. Even so and with our best efforts, we cannot save them all. Even so, with all that we do and all that we have accomplished, there remain those that we cannot help. There remain those who will perish because the resources are still not available to afford them the time or space they will need to find homes and be adopted. But we as a community have made a difference, a huge difference and an ongoing difference.

I look forward to the new year and the goals that we as a community are striving toward in Douglas County concerning our ongoing approach to animal control. The long awaited new animal shelter is scheduled to become a reality in the coming year and with that new facility the community hopes to demonstrate a model of animal control, animal housing and animal care that will be admired and soon copied by all counties in Georgia. I want to give thanks to our county Board of Commissioners and our Chairman in particular, for their continued and combined efforts and support of the programs and policies that have been implemented over the past year at the Douglas County Animal shelter.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when a community and government pull together toward a common goal and it is amazing what has been accomplished at our animal shelter over the past year as a result of those combined efforts. 

I invite all residents of Douglas County and those in the metropolitan area to come visit our shelter and see what has been accomlished by those committed to seeing change. Have a look around and visit with the animals and see what can be accomplished by positively motivated volunteers, staff, government and everyone who has become committed to making changes for the better.

Come join us. come be part of the new beginning. Come make a difference today in an unfortunate animal's life and become part of something good. "Doing a little is doing a lot when so many are doing nothing." Become someone who does something.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cyd January 08, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Carl, you said "The presently accepted and antiquated model of animal control, is wrong headed, out dated and it does not address the root causes of animal over population." and " the comunity must take steps". Every effort should be made to find forever homes for animals of the shelter. However the "Antiquated" belief that a companion animal is nothing more than property, to be discarded or abused/neglected when they are no longer wanted. The community should be educated on how to choose a life long pet to be a part of their family, on the cost of care (feeding medical),or patience when training to correct behavior is required, that it is in- humane to keep a pet tied up all day and/or never socialized and what to do in the event they no longer can keep the pet they took into their home. This is the root problem. A no-kill philosophy is definetly admirable, but tell me who will take the animals when there are no more resources or space? If it was that easy to place animals with foster care or rescue groups or finding forever homes then there would not be a need for animal control services. The Shelter can not turn animals away leaving them to continue in abusive homes or running the streets of their community. I believe that DCAC deeply cares for their animals and putting an animal done is not without great sadness. In my oppinion focusing on shelter management is not good effort. Rather focusing on prevention of abandoned,or abused animals is.
Carl Pyrdum Jr. January 09, 2013 at 12:07 AM
Thank you for your comments Cyd, I agree, the public should be educated on the responsibility of pet ownership. Education on spaying and neutering of dogs and cats is essential, as are the programs that are presently available to assist those in our community who are unable to afford spay neuter. Those pet owners who have fallen on difficult times due to the economy, can always find assistance to feed their pets through our local Humane Society Pet Food Pantry. There are also low cost programs available to address annual vaccinations. The information for those programs can be found on the Douglas County website, or by calling the shelter directly or the Humane Society. As it concerns a 'no kill' philosophy? I don't believe my comments made reference to or advocated a no kill philosophy. If anything, my comments promote a low kill philosophy. The killing of healthy adoptable animals for space is proven to be avoidable and unnecessary and the statistics have proven that fact in DC over the last year. It is a matter of properly managing stray animals as opposed to controlling strays by killing them week after week. Animal advocates and volunteers have proven that there are alternatives to destroying healthy animals and the county has more than proven that we cannot kill our way out of the problem of stray animals. If you are seriously concerned about focusing on stray, abandoned and abused animals in DC, please come join us. Volunteers are always welcome.
Cyd January 09, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Your comments didn't specificly address the "No Kill" philosophy, I added that in because I have noticed a push for animal control in general to move toward being "no kill" shelters. (Not specificly here in DC). It seems to me to be "technically impossible" for example when an animal is beyond medical help or has been declared viscious or shelters become over crowded to the point that if they continued to take in animals it would not be humane living. It is sad that any healthy animal be put down for lack of space, however that is not Animal Controls fault. The healthy able pets should never have had to be there in the first place. I have been to the DC website and was happy to see that even animal control tells the community that the shelter should be the very last resort and points them toward groups such as the Humane Society as a better option. It is a blessing to live in a community that is passionate about animals and has a shelter willing to reach out for their animals to find good homes, while maintaining a humane environment. Thank you for the invitation to come volunteer, I do plan on it as I believe the best way to help is to assist the Shelter to reach out further into the community and find forever homes for the animals of DC.of course education of animal welfare and other programs to help low income families take care of their pets needs. Again thank you
delynn January 09, 2013 at 01:34 PM
When an animal is put down because they are truly beyond medical help then that fits the true definition of euthanasia. I do not think anyone is going to argue that is wrong (even the no-kill advocates). Definition of over crowded? A subjective term in the eyes of many. Those who view a progressive approach to animal control believe that more animals can be saved if adoptable animals are given some additional time to be either adopted or rescued from county run facilities. DCAC has proven that can be done over the last year. When you look at the reduction in the their euthanasia rate from 40% to around 16%. Douglas County partnered with the DCHS to have an in-depth shelter evaulation done of the Douglas County Animal Shelter last year. It pointed out the many deficiencies at the shelter that need to be addressed. They spent close to $8000.00 on the report. which included recommendations to be implemented. I think the report gives Douglas County a good road map on how to address many of the issues regarding animal welfare, education to the public, reaching out to the community, while still using a progressive approach to animal control. In other words not trying to "kill" their way out of the problem. A copy of the report can be found here. http://www.celebratedouglascounty.com/view/departments/view_dept/&cdept=72&department=Animal%20Shelter Since the county spent that money one would think the implementations of recommendations will be forthcoming.
Cyd January 09, 2013 at 03:19 PM
I am confident in the management & staff of DCAC to bring forth the changes recomended in the report. I have heard there is to be a new Shelter built and changes made to improve the quality of the animal spaces, which makes for happier animals. (I am speaking of my own understanding) Rescue groups have the PRIVILAGE to say no to an animal due to limited resources. Animal Shelter's I expect also have limited resources like Rescue groups, however they have to keep space available to take in animals in need (i.e. abused, abandoned). It would be just as bad to leave an animal in abusive conditions as it is to put a healthy animal down. Therefore they do not have the same privilage to turn an animal away in good consciouse as Rescue groups do. (My Oppinion) This leaves me to conclude to expect shelter's to change (DCAC included) to keep animals longer giving rescue groups time to acquire resourses to take in more animals ( DCAC included) is somewhat unrealistic. I admit I do not know the current holding length is nor if it is possible to extend it in, however there has to be space continuously available in Animal Shelters unlike Rescue Groups. To keep a healthy animal while deniying an abused animal shelter is not an answer either. I say we need more effort and focus on finding homes for shelter animals and educating people on what it takes to be a responsible pet owner.
Carl Pyrdum Jr. January 09, 2013 at 08:04 PM
"I say we need more effort and focus on finding homes for shelter animals and educating people on what it takes to be a responsible pet owner." Thank you Cyd, your last sentence sums up the community efforts at the shelter over the past year perfectly. We have been finding more shelter animals homes this past year and no abused animals were ever denied resources due to over crowding or lack of space. Finding abandoned shelter animals homes is the reality of our accomplishments in 2012 and it is my belief that we can continue and maintain that success in 2013.
Lisa Levesque January 10, 2013 at 11:43 AM
No Kill is not simply "admirable," it is possible..., but only when shelter manager/director makes decision to stop killing & start lifesaving efforts. Sadly, many are too entrenched in kill mindset and refuse to try. So goes the saying: I don't care how much you know, until I know how much you care. No Kill does not mean terminally ill or critically wounded animals are not spared suffering. No different than you or I do with our own beloved 4-legged family members. No Kill means taking all proactive measures to re-home animals, who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own. Douglas County has had recent success with off-site adoption events, but more needs to be done. No Kill means rejecting the PC use of "adoptable," as some arbitrary measure to determine a homeless animal's worth. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the vast majority of animals only wish to be loved. No Kill means embracing Trap Neuter Release (TNR) for feral cats, which Douglas County has not done, so healthy cats & kittens find themselves warehoused in isolation room until the day comes to kill them. That is a disgrace! No Kill means actively pursuing the spay/neuter of all companion animals. My input here barely scratches the surface, so if you wish to learn more, please check out: https://www.facebook.com/nathanwinograd and http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/ There are always nay sayers, but lets push for ideal to move those mountains! May God bless.
Cyd January 10, 2013 at 04:16 PM
I am just wondering why is it the DCAC program's responsability to change things? I feel a tone of animosity toward DCAC in all the previous comments. I am just saying in my oppinion public accusations and demanding DCAC do something is not the answer to change for the Animals of Douglas County. If you want a TNR program for our community then let's get busy. We need to help DCAC not condemn the program. Keep in mind change is not overnight and it will take more than just a few policies and procedures changes to really make a difference. I am not against any change that will save Animal Lives, but it has to be more than just DCAC changing to fix things. Yes, let us "ALL" push to move mountains!
Lisa Levesque January 10, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Cyd, I have been actively volunteering for over a year to effect positive change. If you want to help, by all means, I would love to meet you at the shelter! I am usually there on Sunday afternoons.
Cyd January 10, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Great, I am willing and able to help. I have recently filled out the volunteer application and maybe this Sunday I can work with you to learn the volunteer roaps at the Shelter. I don't know much about animal welfare issues, but I look forward to learning.
Lisa Levesque January 10, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Excellent, see you there! :)
Tammy Rakestraw Pyrdum January 11, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Cyd ... Based on what I am reading of your post it appears that you feel DCAC has little if any responsibility to help find the animals homes, yet your post seem to suggest the sole responsibility falls to the volunteers and the community. I personally think that is both an unfair unrealistic expectation.. As a taxpayer of this county , myself and others have the right to expect some accountability of the animal welfare at DCAC. The county does have a responsibility to its taxpayers beyond simple "animal control". There are many positive solutions that "can" and "have" been put on the table with the management at DCAC, over the last year. It has been my past experience that those suggestions have been either met with resistance or flat out ignored. In order for any positive solutions to work there has to be a partnership and cooperation with the DCAC management, staff, community and volunteers. Many programs from TNR, offsite events, School Pet Clubs, Jail Dog programs, working with local veterinarians and many , many others have been put forth over the last year. Some of these programs require funding from the county in order for them to implemented and successful, that has not happened.
Tammy Rakestraw Pyrdum January 11, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Most ALL of the animals that have been spayed/neutered at DCAC over the last year have been directly funded through the sponsorship of the small group of volunteers at the shelter and people within the community. Most of these services are paid for by other county run animal control facilities in the Atlanta metro area. Since funds were not and do not seem to be in the budget , these services were paid for by the volunteers and community in hopes of giving an animal a better chance for adoption or rescue. Hundreds if not thousands of dollars have been spent by many. As far as "other" outreach programs being suggested or implemented.. I can tell you it has not been for a lack of trying, every time we ask or suggested something we were met with pushback or told "we do not have the staff to participate". It is imperative for DCAC staff participation as the volunteers are not allowed to handle the adoption of the animals to the public. So it requires at least "one" staff member present at the events.
Tammy Rakestraw Pyrdum January 11, 2013 at 02:38 AM
ALL the monthly programs put in place this fall were programs that were thought up and organized by volunteers. Barktoberfest, Old Timers Round-Up, Two for Twenty Cats, Patriachs and Pups, Labs for Ladies, November Cat Promotion, Black Cats and Tuxedo's Half Price, Toys for Tots, etc. The volunteers both promoted, networked, sent emails, made and paid for flyers to be distributed to local buissness. Information was sent to the Patch and the Sential to promote these programs. There is a small group of very dedicated volunteers at the shelter. Most of them have full time jobs and additional obligations beyond volunteering at DCAC, however they have spent many , many hours trying to do what ever they could do to impact the adoption and rescue rates and reduce the euthanasia rate. I can not speak for everyone else but I personally spend anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day networking, downloading pictures, making flyers, administrating facebook pages, sending emails and making phone call regarding setting up spay/neuter appts for the animals and more.
Tammy Rakestraw Pyrdum January 11, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Does the county have no resposibility to help in saving the lives of the animals? Is this burden to be placed solely on the shoulders of the volunteers or the community? We will continue to do what weI can to find homes or rescues for the homeless animals of Douglas County. I will continue to put forth postive solutions in hopes that we can all work together towards a common goal. I hope that other like minded people will join in the effort of looking for postive solutions so that healthly , loving animals are not killed or a regular bases. We have to look for other solutions to help save more lives. The animals and the citzens of Douglas County deserve better than that. I hope that you will volunteer in an effort to help save the lives of the animals at Douglas County Animal Shelter.
Cyd January 11, 2013 at 04:19 AM
No, Tammy I am not saying DCAC has no responbility , I am saying it is not only their problem. In my perception the tone was negative in some of the comments about DCAC. DCAC has had an interm director for sometime and the current director has not been on the job for very long. Maybe that is why many of the suggestions were not whole heartedly embraced. I have heard the current director say he is very greatful for the work the volunteers are doing and have done. . I am In no way dis-crediting the volunteers in or outside our community. In fact, I did say that I was blessed to live in a community that is very passionate towards animals. It sounds like the volunteers have had to shoulder alot of weight for a long time. Hopefully, we can get a mutual balanced partnership going with DCAC. I am not sure of what needs to be done or what all can be done, but I know that by working togehter we can make some positive changes. I do care about animals, I have had my Cricket (dog) since she was a baby and to me she is family. My husband and I have also fostered a number of dogs and two cats over the years. I for one do not want to see any companion animal put down, and look forward to helping with positive change at the DCAC.

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