No two days are alike on Dan Yelton's job.
Columbia County Animal Care and Control employee Mike Whitaker walks a boxer to a pen at the facility.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
But that's the way he says he likes it.
"I love it," said Yelton, who has been a Columbia County Animal Care and Control officer for 18 months. "It's exciting. It's something different every day."
In 2004, the center in Appling saw more than 5,400 animals come through its doors, according to recently released figures.
Center Manager Linda Fulmer said her staff stays busy with a steadily rising number of cases that come along with the county's growing population.
"Even the number of locations that we went to in 2004 was up from 2003," Fulmer said. "The more population means more and more animals."
Fulmer's office, at 6337 Columbia Road, handled a number of cases beyond picking up 494 stray animals in 2004 and running the county's pet adoption program, which found new owners for 565 animals in 2004. Her department also is responsible for handling the operation of the shelter, in addition to nuisance animal complaints, animal cruelty investigations, animal attacks, rabid animals, dead and injured animals, and private pet cremations.
"We handle all the livestock calls, cows getting out, horses, pigs, goats, chickens, all the livestock calls," Fulmer said, adding that her staff rounds up and tries to return such animals as cows that have escaped their owners.
Fulmer and her staff are on call around the clock to respond to emergency situations such as car wrecks or driving under the influence stops when animals are involved.
"The emus are probably the strangest we had to deal with and probably one of the toughest," Fulmer said, referring to a two-day chase involving escaped emus that occurred in 2000.
And in eight years running Animal Care and Control, Fulmer said she has seen a lot of odd situations, including cases of animal cruelty and neglect, which are investigated by Animal Care and Control. One such case occurred Feb. 10, when Fulmer's office seized 92 cats from Denise Beausoleil's Martinez home after they were found to be living in unsanitary conditions.
Fulmer's office investigated 10 animal cruelty cases in 2004, wrote 27 court citations, and issued 55 written warnings and 297 verbal warnings to pet owners.
"To me personally, the cruelty cases hit me the hardest because it's not the animal's fault," Fulmer said. "You are looking at a person who either didn't know how to take care of the animal or either they are just neglecting the animal. That is when I really have to just be on my toes. It hits you so hard, but you have to be professional. You have to talk to them, even though you don't want to."
Fulmer admits that being an animal lover is a must for the job because her duty is to rescue and find homes for forgotten or neglected animals.
"You have to (love animals) to work here, there's no doubt about it,'' she said. "The things we have to see and the different kinds of animals they have to pick up, the staff has just been wonderful."
Adoption is considered a success at the shelter, Fulmer said, adding that she has five horses at home and two miniature schnauzers.
But not all animals get to go home with loving owners. Even though 545 pets were returned to their owners in 2004, more than 3,000 were euthanized at the shelter for a variety of reasons.
"That is still the bad part of our job," Fulmer said. "We know it is something we have to do, particularly the ones that you get in that are covered with mange or are just not friendly. You know putting them to sleep, they are better off."
Animals that are vicious, incurably sick or otherwise deemed not adoptable are euthanized. Fulmer said a large portion of 2004's euthanized animals were feral, or wild, cats. Feline AIDS and other diseases run rampant among the feral cat population, most of whom are not able to be tamed.
In addition to cremating euthanized animals, the shelter provides private cremation services for citizens' pets and veterinarians' referrals.
Fulmer said her staff performs several private cremations a month and contracts with several local vets.
Stray animals are kept for five days to give owners an opportunity to pick them up before they are put up for adoption. Animals released to Animal Care and Control by their owners are adoptable immediately.
"Then after five days it is put up for adoption and we hold it as long as it stays healthy and we have the space. That is the kicker, space," Fulmer said.
Puppies or kittens are held for seven days and given their first worming and set of shots before being put up for adoption. Adult animals are adopted for $25, and kittens and puppies cost $20 to adopt.
All adopting owners are required to have the animal spayed or neutered.
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