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Humane Society makes best of bad situation

July 13, 2003|By Rochelle Howell

To the editor:

This letter is long overdue. It is in regard to the Washington County Humane Society and to the individuals that are so misinformed. I am an employee of the humane society and am writing to set the record straight. Three things need to be rectified.

1. We are not a rescue, per say, and we do not have purebred animals that the majority of the public wants to adopt. In a year's time we receive 5,000 animals. Many of these animals are ill, injured, neglected, abused, in trash bags and some are half dead, and even worse than that. Many are surrendered by their owners - left behind like yesterday's trash.

We receive the litters from mothers that someone did not spay. We receive the animals with behavioral issues, the animals that owners cannot afford to vet, the animals where their owners are moving and can't take along, the animals that don't match the new carpet, the puppies that were given as Christmas gifts to young children and now are adults and not so cute, the animals people do not want to take the time to train (some expect going outside is a natural instinct), or the animal that is trained to be a fighting dog.

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We receive the feral, the declawed that won't use litter pans, and the males that spray because they are not neutered. I could keep going, but I feel it is important that people realize the horror of the situation at hand. We need help from the public and we need it yesterday.

For the individuals looking to add a pet to your family: We have criteria that we use for adoptions. If you can pass the following criteria I believe you will be a good pet owner. 1. Do you own your own home and if not, are you allowed pets? You must have landlord approval.

2. Veterinarians references - are your current animals vaccinated, spayed or neutered? Is their health maintained?

3. Employment - can you afford to have a pet? Animals require a lot of care, such as diet, grooming, boarding, training, vet care, toys, etc.

4. No animal control violations, such as neglect or abuse of an animal.

These four things are the tools we use to ensure all animals are going to a good home. It takes a lot of time to verify applications and no stone goes unturned.

Some feel this is a lengthy process, but for us at the humane society it is necessary. We have to make sure that history is not repeating itself. This is not always 100 percent foolproof, because you still have the people who do not think things through. An animal is a lifetime of commitments. They are to be part of the family.

We hear many complaints about our adoption fee. When animals are adopted from our facility they are given vaccinations, felines are leukemia-tested, puppies are parvo tested. They are dewormed and treated for fleas and ticks.

The owner is given a spay/neuter certificate that pays a good portion of the surgery. They also receive a complimentary health exam at the vet of their choice. Our adoption fees barely cover the expenses we provide to potential adopters and their new family member. If you have any doubts please call a vet and get individual charges for these services.

Last on my list of concerns is euthanasia. Where do we find homes for 5,000 animals? What happens the majority of the time is that when we are full so is everyone else! (Referencing rescue groups.) We only use rescue groups that are on the same page as ourselves.

If you are not doing verifications on potential adopters we will not use you. We will not use those of you who use money as criteria for adoptions. Animals need to go to responsible people who will take full responsibility for their new animal. If they are not going to be responsible owners, the pets will be coming back into shelters.

There are days that we get 65 animals. We do our best to maintain their health and keep up their spirits, but we can only do so much.

Many of us foster, or have already filled our homes with, the creatures that we adore. We have all cried many tears for the ones we cannot save. These tears are almost daily. Some days you just want to walk away and act as though this problem is not happening, but too many people are doing this already. Until people realize that the answer lies in spaying and neutering, the animal population will stay at a crisis level.

Euthanasia is very difficult for everyone; it's almost too hard to put into words. For me, I think it is criminal and sad for those of us who have to deal with euthanasia. It is terrible to watch a beautiful, healthy, vibrant, ready-to-please pet close its eyes for the last time.

It's hard to imagine what some of them are thinking. Are they wondering where and why they are here? Are they longing for a good home with someone to love them? Do they miss their owners?

Those people who are not getting their animals spayed and neutered, those dropping animals off along the road, dumping animals onto farms, and finding the easiest solution at the humane society's front door have made euthanasia necessary.

Please hear my plea - spay and neuter your animals. I would be glad to find another job.

Rochelle Howell
Hagerstown

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