AP NEWS

FOTAS: Animals just keep coming to county shelter

November 11, 2018

“A record number of animals surrendered to the Aiken County Animal Shelter this month.”

We see this headline way too much. The story goes on and on. The shelter staff works tirelessly at warp speed to feed, care for, provide medical attention, and everything else necessary to keep the conveyor belt of overcrowding moving.

The army of FOTAS volunteers who show up for duty every day to walk, socialize and show some love to all the animals to make certain their adopters will get the best pet they have ever owned.

Other FOTAS volunteers open their homes to foster dogs and cats for short terms to acclimate the traumatized animals to a household environment. This generosity of these fosters frees up space so that another dog or cat can be released from the holding section of the shelter and moved into the adoption kennels.

Still other members of the FOTAS army spend endless hours coordinating the transfer of large numbers of animals to shelter partners hundreds of miles away that actually have a shortage of adoptable pets. This exhausting and expensive program is a necessary evil when the shelter receives over 4,900 animals per year.

The pressure of so many new cats and dogs filling the shelter builds every month like a balloon about to burst. The goal of not having to euthanize an adoptable pet has been met but that goal is challenged every day as the numbers continue to rise.

Why does this cycle never end?

Perhaps the public is getting the wrong message. The new, much-needed shelter that opened in 2014 has been heralded (as it should be) as a larger, healthier and more practical facility that is better able to care for the animals of Aiken County. That does not mean you can just surrender your pet and not worry because the shelter will find that animal a home.

Sure, there are legitimate reasons someone would have to surrender their pet to a public shelter, but sadly, the vast majority are surrendered just because the care of the animal is no longer convenient.

Adopting a pet is a lifelong responsibility for the person or family who adopts one. That means food, shelter and medical care for the pet for the rest of its life. Pets are living, breathing animals with feelings. They are not clothes that you buy in a store and can return if you don’t like them or they don’t fit.

This has to end. What does it mean to be a more responsible pet owner?

• Your pet should be spay/neutered to help prevent overpopulation. There’s no good reason not to (most owners are not in the breeding business). Fixing your pet not only reduces unwanted litters dumped at the shelter, it also improves its health and reduces behavioral problems.

• Spend time with your pet. Teach it basic obedience skills so it can be a better family member – one who is part of the family and who, in return, will want to please you and love you unconditionally.

Their lives are in our hands.

By the Numbers

In October, the Aiken County Animal Shelter received 512 strays and surrendered pets.

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