Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Southeast Georgia: Animal Hell… Animal Hope?

Someone in Florida asked me something the other day along the lines of ‘Is the situation with animals in your part of Georgia really as bad as it seems from your facebook posts?’ Sadly, yes. Yes, it is. In fact, it’s probably worse. Animal Control services in this area are limited or non-existent (depending on the county), shelters and rescues are overwhelmed, and one has to drive an hour or more to access low-cost spay/neuter clinics. But the real problem, in my opinion, is the culture. My mom was speaking to some sheriff’s deputies the other day about this and they said ‘We’ve got a real dog problem around here.’ Her response was ‘No. We’ve got a people problem around here.’ And it’s true.

In early December my mom emailed me about a disabled dog that had appeared in her yard (its back legs were paralyzed, although it could drag itself about with its front legs). She called local Animal Control and was told that they had already been called out because of this dog and had spoken to its owner. They said they would come out later that day and talk to the owner again. They told my mom where the dog lived and she took it home. The ‘owner’ told my mom that the dog had been abandoned with her by someone who was now refusing to take responsibility for it. The dog appeared in my mom’s yard the following week and she again returned it to its ‘owner.’ On December 19th, I found the dog sitting in the middle of the road about half a block from where I knew it lived, and I carried it back to its ‘home.’ The poor thing was sweet as can be, but had absolutely no use of its hind legs, and had raw spots on the back legs from where they dragged the ground.

I went back with my camera… the ‘owner’ came out shouting at me about how I needed to get the hell off her property right then because I was trespassing (I was outside her fence on the public right-of-way). My response was that she needed to do something about the dog because keeping it like that was inhumane. She told me the same story she had told my mom about the dog being abandoned with her, and said that she had no money for vet care, or a wheelchair for the dog, or even to have it euthanized. I offered to take it and have it euthanized, saying that I would pay for it. She hemmed and hawed and said she didn’t want to do that because it was such a sweet dog. I offered to share its picture on facebook with my animal rescue connections, and she agreed.

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I shared the dog’s pictures on facebook with the following caption: This dog was abandoned at the home of one of my mom's neighbors, and her owner refuses to take responsibility for it. My mom's neighbor is broke and unemployed and while she is feeding this dog, she can't afford any vet care. The dog is elderly (in her teens) and has lost all use of her back legs and has no muscles in her back end, so it is atrophied as a result. She drags herself around, and has rubbed her back feet raw doing so. Mom's neighbor does not want her euthanized (I offered to pay if she did). Local Animal Control is aware of this and have been out several times. Mom's neighbor doesn't want it to be taken by local animal control because she knows it will be euthanized. This dog is incredibly sweet, and really needs a loving home where she can live out her final days with quality care. Unfortunately, neither my mom nor I are able to take her. CAN SOMEONE HELP???? At the very least, please share this album. Thank you.

Notice how I didn’t mention anything about how the dog was always out in the street or in neighbors’ yards, or about the woman’s confrontational attitude. I didn’t even mention her name. Well, this being a small town, one of my friends is one of her facebook friends, so she saw the post. And totally flipped her lid. Here I was trying to help her, and her response was to post on my friend’s thread about what a liar I was and how I had never offered to help her and how she did really want to have the dog euthanized, but didn’t have the money. (In my opinion, if you have the money to chain smoke your way through a 30 minute conversation, you have the money to pay for euthanasia.) She then sent me two incredibly nasty facebook messages calling me a liar and a bitch, accusing me of slander, and threatening to have me arrested if I trespassed on her property (*cough* public right-of-way *cough*) again, and sent an equally nasty facebook message to my mom. The messages did, however, say that she would have the dog euthanized the next day.

We saw it on December 26th, nearly a full week later, sitting in a different neighbor’s yard.

It’s not an animal problem; it’s a people problem.

On December 23rd, as I was driving from my house to my mom’s, I saw a sad, skinny puppy sitting in the middle of the road in the rain. I pulled up next to it, and got out. It shrank away from me in terror. I coaxed him over to me and picked him up, and he clung to me. I went to three houses in the neighborhood. One house said they thought the puppy lived at a place down the road. I went to said house to be told no, it wasn’t theirs, but they’d seen it around the past couple of days. I went to the place across from them; no, it wasn’t theirs. They’d called Animal Control, but no one had come out. I took him home.

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Loki at his first trip to the vet.

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Loki in my room

I took him to the vet, got him his shots, had him de-wormed, got him some antibiotics for the infected cut on his rump, and posted pictures of him on facebook. Through the modern miracle of social networking, I was able to arrange for him to be adopted by my uncle’s ex-wife, a woman I had not had any contact with since I was an infant. Sometimes people can be the solution, if only they are willing to try.

Christmas morning as my mom and I were driving back from feeding the horses (meaning that we were out in the country), I spotted a Budwiser box on its side, with puppies huddled in a pile in the weeds in front of it. We stopped and went back. Yep, they’d been dumped. Five skinny little puppies, about six weeks old, dumped on the side of the road in a Budwiswer box on Christmas morning. This isn’t a dog problem; this is a people problem.

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The five puppies when we first got them home.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom is 69 years old, lives alone, works full time (as a teacher, so she does NOT have a lot of money), and already has a ton of animals (two horses, eight dogs, and about 25 cats – all rescues, all fixed, all vetted). The addition of one puppy to the mix was stressful but doable. Five was not really feasible at all, but we couldn’t just leave them there. I posted a quick picture on facebook with a short, panicked rant about our situation. By that evening a local rescue (BARC) had contacted me with an offer of assistance. They offered to pay for vet care and to try and find foster homes for the puppies. Within three days, the puppies had gotten their first shots and had been wormed (and boy did they need that wormer, wow), and four of them had been placed in foster homes. And puppy number five? My dad had seen her picture and decided to adopt her. (If you're interested in adopting one, please contact BARC.)

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The puppies after 3 days in our care

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The puppy my dad is adopting

People can be the solution. My mom and I could’ve just driven past those puppies. Between the worms, the lack of food, and the cold, wet weather, and their proximity to the road, they would probably be dead by now. But we didn’t drive by. Instead, they’re healthy, cared for, and on their way to having loving, permanent homes.

People can be the solution, but right now those of us who are part of the solution are hopelessly outnumbered. Just take a look at some of the animals found by local area rescues in the same time period during which I was dealing with six puppies and a paralyzed dog:

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This one was abandoned at a loca apartment complex. Apparently its jaw had broken and had never been set, so it ‘healed’ like this. (From here.)

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This is one of three Great Danes surrendered by a backyard breeder who decided she didn’t want them anymore. They had apparently never been to a vet before. (From here.)

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This one was rescued from a local Animal Control facility. (From here.)

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Another starving stray found on the side of the road. (From here.)

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This poor injured cat had been dumped in this condition in a convenience store parking lot. It had to be euthanized, but at least it is no longer suffering. (From here.)

And that’s just a sample of what went on down here in just ONE WEEK.

There are some wonderful people (such as the ones working with the animals posted above) who are working their tails off trying to help as many animals down here as they can… but they can only do so much against the tide of indifference and cruelty that animals down here face. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you drive past the starving or injured animal you see on the side of the road and do nothing, you are part of the problem. If you do not get your animal spayed or neutered (for ANY reason), you are part of the problem. If you abandon an animal (for ANY reason), you are a part of the problem. If you have an injured animal and refuse to pay for vet care while spending money on cigarettes, you are part of the problem.

How can you become part of the solution?

Don’t just drive by abandoned/injured animals. If you can take them in – even temporarily – do so. With modern social networking technologies, you may very well be able to find homes for them among friends, family, and acquaintances, or you may find an animal rescue willing to take them. Another option is to set up an appointment to bring them to a local animal control facility. If the animal is severely injured, $35 will end its suffering. That’s how much it costs to euthanize an animal at my vet. I hate to see an animal die, but it’s even worse leaving it to die a slow and painful death on its own. If you cannot pick up the animal (and I do understand that it is not always possible, although keep in mind there is a difference between ‘impossible’ and ‘inconvenient’), call local animal control. (Keep in mind that in many areas – such as southeast GA – animal control facilities, shelters, and rescues are limited in size and funding and tend to be overloaded. Rely on them as a last resort.) If there is no animal control in your area (or even if there is), use your phone, take a picture of the animal, and share its information on facebook. Provide local and nationwide rescue organizations with the animal’s location and picture; spread the word amongst your family and friends that there's an animal in need of help.

Support local animal shelters, rescues, and humane societies. A while back I wrote a really long post about how to donate and support local shelters wisely, click here to read it. (Don’t just give money blindly; do your research and make sure you’re supporting an organization that will make good use of your money. You can also support local shelters, rescues, and humane societies by volunteering your time, either at their facilities, as a foster, as a fund-raiser, as a webmaster, as a photographer, and so on.) Do not donate to the Humane Society of the United States; donate locally to ensure that your money goes to the animals that need it.

SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS. I cannot stress this enough. If you can’t afford the surgery at your local vet clinic, do a google search for low cost spay/neuter services in your area. Even if the closest service is an hour or so away (as it is here), it is much cheaper to make the drive than to deal with the expense of puppies or kittens later on. In some areas there may also be local services that provide transport for the animals to low/cost clinics for those folks who can’t take the day off work to make the drive. Even if you’re keeping your animal inside at all times and it is not around animals of the opposite sex, you should still get it fixed. I love cats and dogs…. but cats in heat are loud, obnoxious, and pee on everything. Dogs in heat bleed. Intact male dogs and cats spray EVERYTHING. Get your pet fixed, and you won’t have to deal with these problems! Not to mention that if something happens and your ‘indoor only’ pet gets out… Well, you can figure out what happens! I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Well, he can’t get pregnant, so I’m not going to waste the money.’ True, he can’t get pregnant, but how do you think all the female cats and dogs get knocked up? If you’re not getting your male dog or cat fixed because he can’t get pregnant, you’re part of the problem.

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A spay/neuter message for Game of Thrones fans :-)

And for the love of god, do not abandon your animals.

If you are in Southeast Georgia, I highly recommend the Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC) as a wonderful organization to support, whether via donation or through fostering or other services. If you need to get a pet spayed or neutered, The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA and No More Homeless Pets in Jacksonville, FL offer low-cost spay/neuter/vaccine services, and the River City Animal Hospital  of Jacksonville, FL provides a mobile spay/neuter/vaccine clinic which serves northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. If you are in or near Waycross, this lovely lady can help to arrange transport for your animals to the nearest low-cost spay/neuter clinics.

And to leave this post on a high note, here’s an absolutely hilarious picture of Mochi playing with the puppy that will soon be living in Clearwater, FL with my uncle’s ex-wife: 

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Ladyice01 said...

Thank You for your heart breaking & heart warming story! Thank You for all you do. I will never stop speaking for those who can't speak for themselves.

Sara Eckert said...

Wonderfully written article, and so very very true. Folks, PLEASE take responsibility for your pets, no matter where in this great country you live.

sarah beatty said...

Jane I couldn't read it all. Please let me know about the danes. Have they been adopted?? Thank you for your wonderful, selfless work.

Annie Nimity said...

I believe that http://www.damesfordanes.org is setting up fosters for them. BARC (http://brantleyanimalrescuecoalition.weebly.com/) would know for certain about their status.

ratluber said...

Thanks you Jane. I could not have said that better!!!! It is definitely a "PEOPLE PROBLEM".
Lois Vassilion, President

dana shelton said...

My husband was offered a job here in Coastal GA, so we relocated in July. I worked in Public Health for 15 yrs, not working here and would very much like to be able to offer my help in some way in a volunteer capacity. Please feel free to contact my Twitter account @dannalynette
Again, Thank You!
Dana B Wells

Barbara Griffin said...

Although I've always had pets, I wasn't officially involved with Friends of the OHS until recently. I truly admire those who do as much as you; I do what I can, but working full-time makes it harder. I have 5 dogs, all rescues, two from the local shelter, one via a Wayne Co. rescue group. Medical care and time and energy is required if you take this seriously. I don't expect others to be as concerned as I am, but there is no excuse for abuse and neglect.


How is the skinny brown and white dog outside the juke joint doing? Does he have a warm place?

Gene Keeler said...

Jane, The puppy that I adopted - Molly - has turned out to be a wonderful dog. She is very smart, athletic and a real snuggler. Thanks for finding her. Dad