I’ve been home for ten days now. It’s amazing the difference between Orlando and Southeast Georgia when it comes to stray animals. I have seen ZERO stray dogs and only ONE stray (but nonetheless large) cat since moving to Orlando at the beginning of August.
In Orlando, I’ve seen rush hour traffic on a six-lane highway come to a standstill for two foolish sandhill cranes who decided that was a good time and place for a stroll. I haven’t seen much of any roadkill. Now, the lack of strays could simply mean effective animal control (and I shudder to think of what that implies), and the absence of visible roadkill could mean that the folks whose job it is to remove carcasses from the roadway actually do their thing. I did witness the sandhill crane crossing myself, and I was amazed that everyone stopped.
Things are so different here in Southeast GA. I suspect that were a sandhill crane to take a stroll down the main drag (only four lanes), it would get run down in an instant. Since I’ve been home, I’ve seen several dead dogs and cats in the middle of roads, as well as on the verge.
A couple of days after arriving up here, I noticed a pack of large, stray dogs hanging out in a field next to a Georgia Power relay station. They’re not starving (yet), although their ribs are starting to show. This past Sunday I gave in and stopped. Three of them were incredibly friendly. I can’t take in any large dogs, as I will be going back to Orlando in a few weeks. My mom has as many dogs at her place as she can handle (space-wise, safety-wise, and money-wise). But every time I drive out to our land, I pass these dogs. I can’t just do nothing. So I bought some dogfood, and began stopping to feed them once a day. Granted, I knew that couldn’t be a long term solution, but it was the best that I could do.
Yes, the dog on the left had a collar. However, it had no tags, its ribs were beginning to show, and it had patches of missing fur on its back. He was incredibly sweet. As was the female dog in the middle.
(Now, before anyone suggests calling the local animal control, please remember my history with them. Even though the place is under new management, I cannot in good conscience send any animals to that place. Or as I remember it: that death camp. Also, one can’t just pick up an animal off the side of the road and drive it to the local shelter because they only accept animals by appointment, and they have a waiting list.)
While stopped to feed the dogs, I noticed that one of them (the only one that wouldn’t let me pet it, much less catch it) had a huge, gaping wound in its neck. If I could have caught it, I would have taken it to the vet to be put out of its misery, but I couldn’t catch it. Instead I took some pictures of it, as well as of the other dogs.
I got in my car to drive away. And I saw what looked like a white plastic bag rolling down the center of the road. As I got closer, I realized that it was actually a white puppy with black spots. I pulled over; the two cars behind me didn’t slow down. They barely missed hitting the little guy. I opened my car door and called to him. He timidly slunk over, but as soon as I began to pet him, he relaxed and began wagging. He was filthy, and covered in fleas.
Three of the four adult dogs have a good chance of surviving out there. The fourth I couldn’t catch. This puppy stood no chance of surviving (and at least with a puppy I don’t have to worry about bringing a cat-killer or small-dog-killer into my home), so I took him home with me, with the goal of finding him a home before I return to Orlando at the start of the new year.
Regarding the dogs that were still out on the street, I did the only thing that I could do: I shared their pictures on the internet with other animal rescue folks. The pictures – especially the graphic ones of the dog with the injured throat – were shared far and wide on Facebook.
Several people who live about two hours from here (in a place that has an even worse stray animal problem than we do, if you can believe it) immediately agreed to drive up the following day to see if they could catch the dogs. I gave them a map, in which I highlighted the area where the dogs usually are, and gave them my phone number if they needed my help in catching (or finding) the dogs. I thought it was odd – but wonderful – that they were willing to drive two hours to attempt to catch homeless dogs. I went to bed feeling relieved, and expecting to hear from them in the late morning the following day.
Early morning the following day, I discovered that I had received some bizarre emails from them. Had I contacted local animal control? (Have I mentioned my feelings about local animal control? Yes, yes I have.) Perhaps they should be the ones to deal with this situation. Or maybe they local animal control should at least assist? What did I know about local animal control? When the dogs were caught, could they be taken to the local shelter? I told them that our local animal control was useless – and that our local shelter requires appointments to bring in animals. Oh, and that it’s a kill shelter. I didn’t hear back from them for the rest of the day.
Only two of the dogs were in the field that afternoon, so I fed them, then went to my mom’s to check my email. There was nothing from any of the rescuers saying if the other dogs had been picked up or not, so I emailed them and asked. The reply? They had decided not to come, because it wasn’t really worth it to drive two hours one-way when the dogs might not be there, and when they might not be able to catch the injured one. They had called local animal control, but were told that local animal control would only do something if *I* contacted them with the details.
You know how I feel about the local animal control and shelter. Against my better judgment, I messaged the local shelter’s director with the photos and the map and explained the situation. His terse reply: “We’ll see what we can do.”
I didn’t hear anything yesterday, but this morning there was a comment on Facebook from one of the staff at the local shelter, saying that the dog with the injured throat was now at the shelter. The rescue folks immediately said they’d be down to pick him up – and they said they’d take the puppy, too! Yay!! There’s already someone connected to the rescue who is seriously considering adopting the puppy. Hooray!! This is all wonderful news, and I have to keep reminding myself that some good has come out of all of this.
I wrote back to the local shelter’s staff member and asked about the other dogs – the healthy, if thin ones – had they been brought in as well? No reply.
Later the rescue folks messaged me and asked if I could meet them at the local shelter when they came down to pick up the injured throat dog. I agreed, and met them at the shelter early this afternoon, where I said goodbye to the sweet, and super-cute little puppy.
Then the director of the shelter came out. Keep in mind this is a completely different person from the one featured in The Inhumane Society, and someone with whom I have gotten along quite well in the past. He said to me, “Annie, I have a message for you from the people over at Animal Control. They told me to tell you that you need to stop feeding the dogs, because it’s illegal, and that if you keep doing it, they’re going to arrest you. Also, they’re going to go back out there and shoot the dogs, so you won’t have to worry about them.”
Wait. WHAT? Was he joking? “Shoot them? Are you serious?” I asked. He nodded and said, “Yep. That’s what they said.” I told him that I had a reply, but that it couldn’t be spoken in polite company, but that the next time he spoke to them he should string together a bunch of four letter words from me.
What really bothered me was that neither he, the secretary, nor the rescue person reacted at all to him saying that the local Animal Control folks were going to go and shoot three reasonably healthy, and VERY friendly dogs. And that and the whole threatening to arrest me thing? Talk about flashbacks to 2009. Although, hell, even “Carol” threatened to arrest people who shot dogs, not vice versa!
I left as quickly as I could – I was on the verge of tears by the time I got into my car. I drove off, called my mom, and totally broke down into hysterics. Here I had been trying to do right by these dogs, and all I was getting in return was myself threatened with arrest and the dogs shot. I hadn’t seen them this morning, and figured that very well might be why. I couldn’t decide which was worse, the fact that my trying to help these dogs had likely gotten three of the five killed, or the fact that no one but me seemed to care.
My mom called Animal Control, to find out why her daughter was being threatened with arrest, and why the Animal Control folks were now in the business of shooting dogs. In contrast to the very specific message given to me by the shelter’s director, they told her that I wasn’t being threatened with arrest, but that in GA if you feed a dog for more than ten days, it’s yours – and if it’s running loose, you are then responsible for fines and whatnot. She pointed out that I only started feeding them Sunday, which was not ten days ago. They also told her that they had not shot the dogs, and had no plans to do any such thing as they do not shoot stray dogs. They said they had tried to catch them, but were unsuccessful. They also said they were not planning to go back out there. (Since the director of the shelter clearly made a point that the Animal Control folks had said to tell me these things about shooting and arrest, either he made it up, or the Animal Control folks were lying to my mom. I don’t know who to believe.) The Animal Control people also told my mom that the only reason why they went out and caught the injured throat dog (using a tranquilizer gun) was that someone on the shelter’s board of directors had seen my facebook pictures of it, and demanded that it be taken care of.
This whole thing has stressed me out to no end and gave me an abysmal headache. I spent the remainder of the afternoon under the covers with Mochi and Charlie.
I can’t wait to get back to Florida.