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.