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Unwanted animals

April 07, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Humane Society of Washington County took in more than 5,000 animals in fiscal year 2005.

More than 3,000 of them never found homes.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said those numbers represent an obvious problem: More animals are going to the shelter than there are people interested in adopting them.

"Obviously, I'm not happy about it," Wivell said by phone Thursday. "Ideally, we wouldn't have to euthanize any."

The Humane Society euthanized 3,037 animals, including 2,383 cats and 521 dogs, in fiscal year 2005.

During the same time, 1,115 animals were adopted, according to Humane Society statistics.

The Humane Society is under contract to provide animal control services for the county.

Because a variety of reasons contribute to animals ending up at the shelter, Humane Society Director Paul Miller said it will be difficult to reduce the numbers without significant cooperation from the public.

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"It takes a community to say, 'You know what? Enough's enough,'" Miller said.

Having animals spayed or neutered and making sure they are properly trained can help reduce the number of pets that end up at the shelter, he said.

The majority of the animals admitted in fiscal year 2005 were strays (1,943), but the number of animals who were surrendered by their owners (1,602) was a close second.

Many of the strays and owner-surrendered animals have some type of behavioral problem, such as aggressiveness, going to the bathroom in the house, not returning when called or chewing, Miller said.

Often, those problems stem from owners not adequately training their pets, he said.

"It comes back to the owner," Miller said. "It's not the dog's fault."

When a pet has such issues, he said it's not uncommon for owners to surrender them to the shelter.

To help lower the number of stray animals, the Humane Society offers discount certificates to all county residents toward the cost of spay and neuter surgeries.

Under the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program, pet owners who live in the county can receive $80 discount certificates for dogs, $60 certificates for female cats and $30 certificates for male cats.

Residents interested in the program must contact the Humane Society, where they receive the certificates to present to their veterinarians for the discounted surgeries. Veterinarians send the certificates back to the shelter for reimbursement, according to the policy.

The commissioners last October agreed to increase the amount of the discounts. They had been $25 certificates for dogs and $20 certificates for cats.

"Hopefully, it will bring the euthanization numbers down," Wivell said.

While the program typically is funded through the sale of dog and kennel licenses, Miller has asked the commissioners for $18,000 toward the program for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Since the commissioners increased the discounts, the Humane Society used $16,619 and has about $20,000 remaining for the current fiscal year, Miller said.

"We may run out of money (in a year), but that's a good thing, because people are using it and getting their animals altered," he said.

In addition to the number of animals that were euthanized or adopted, 137 animals were purebreds placed in breed shelters, 104 died, 119 died on arrival, 439 were reunited with their owners, 81 went to wildlife rehab, 21 were returned to the wild, one cat couldn't be accounted for and another cat was stolen, according to the Humane Society.

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