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As pet adoptions slow, shelter space fills

Animal Services has compassion

Posted: February 10, 2013 - 1:01am
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Mack pets one of the cats available for adoption. Animals not adopted from the county shelter might be euthanized.
Mack pets one of the cats available for adoption. Animals not adopted from the county shelter might be euthanized.

Can’t find your dog?

Call Columbia County Animal Services. The agency’s manager, Linda Glasscock, practically grinds her teeth in frustration when she hears someone has lost a pet, yet waits several days before calling the shelter to see if the pet has been picked up.

“That really gets under my skin,” she said. “If I lost my animal, the first place I would be is my local animal shelter.”

Spreading the word in that regard is among her agency’s ongoing challenges, Glasscock said, along with the continual push for people to spay or neuter their pets.

Lost pets are among the thousands of animals impounded each year by Animal Services and taken to its facility in Grovetown.

In 2012, about 5,000 animals wound up at the shelter, almost evenly divided between dogs (2,064) and cats (1,982), with another 930 that includes everything from trapped wild animals to wandering livestock, according to Animal Services records.

Of the 4,977 animals impounded, 416 were returned to their owners – an increase of 100 compared to 2011. Another 622 of them were adopted, also an increase of 100 compared to 2011.

The remainder of those impounded animals, 1,912, were euthanized at the county shelter and cremated in one of the agency’s two furnaces. That’s an increase of 133 from 2011. The largest number, 693, were put down for medical reasons, while 585 were euthanized because of aggressive behavior that made them unadoptable. Another 232 were trapped wild animals killed because of their ability to carry rabies, Glasscock said.

The remaining 402 were euthanized because the facility lacked the space to keep them, including animals who were kept the minimum five days at the facility and then put down soon after.

The agency softened that policy when it moved from Appling two years ago to the larger Grovetown shelter. Animals now are kept much longer if there is space available and there are realistic prospects for their adoption.

“We have some animals who have been here four or five months,” Glasscock said.

That change particularly pleases local pet rescue groups. As the economy declined, their adoption numbers slowed and the number of people willing to foster pets in their homes dwindled. That made it more difficult for the rescues to take in adoptable pets from Animal Services, which gives them free to registered agencies.

“The economy has gotten everybody, and people are turning (pets) in right, left and in-between,” said Nancy Bobbitt, president of the Columbia County Humane Society. “Everybody is just full, and there’s not as many foster homes, either. It’s unfortunate.”

Adding to the overpopulation is that Georgia, like most states in the South, doesn’t mandate sterilization, said Barbara Gleitsmann, who heads Happy Tails Rescue in Appling. State officials won’t even discuss it, she said.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “In other areas of the country, they’re importing animals from the South because they don’t have enough pets.”

With limited shelter space and fewer pets being adopted, that makes it all the more important to call Animal Services when a pet disappears, Glasscock said. Not only could a lost pet be euthanized if not claimed within the minimum five days, but charges rack up for each day a pet is housed in the shelter.

To help return missing pets, the agency last year started inserting microchips in all adopted animals. Animal Services now offers microchip clinics each week where pet owners can pay to have their pets implanted with the electronic tags, Glasscock said.

The costs is $15, and the clinics are held 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and 1 to 3 p.m. Thursdays. Animal Services is located at 1940 William Few Parkway in Grovetown, near Grovetown High School.

To check on a missing pet or see adoptable animals, go to the Animal Services page on the county Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov, or call (706) 541-4077.

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