The heart of the matter

Thu, 02/14/2008 - 4:55pm
By: The Citizen

Georgia Heartland Humane Society urges residents to spay and neuter pets

By Annette Janssen
Special to The Citizen

The heart of the matter

Frantic phone calls are not uncommon at the Georgia Heartland Humane Society (GHHS). This time the emergency was a litter of puppies running back and forth across a busy country road. President Barbara Grosse and volunteers Cindy Hoover, Christine Kilgore and Melissa Hudson mobilized rapidly.

It wasn’t difficult to locate the property or to assess the problem. The number of puppies, gamboling and tumbling about an open lot near a busy country thoroughfare signaled a serious problem to the volunteers. Pouncing on one another, rolling about, biting each other’s ears, the puppies were oblivious to the danger of nearby traffic. But as Barbara pulled her van off the highway onto the one lane road, three wary females signaled an alert and trotted off down the secluded road. The pups scampered after their mothers, who continued to look back suspiciously. A quarter of a mile off the highway, the dogs slunk off to familiar hiding places for cover. Back to the property, where they were fed infrequently, the pups scampered under a rusted out flat bed truck, seeming to play as much as to escape. Weaving back and forth through a dense stand of thin saplings some pups darted to the left to scoot under an abandoned school bus which had tilted precariously to its side. Most scurried to the safety of a burrow dug under the wood floor of a tumbled down shed. Such a nest was tenuous at best. The smallest wriggle of their tiny bodies could bring the shack crashing down upon them.

These were not fearsome dogs; they were fearful dogs. Approaching them would take time and patience. Moving slowly, holding out food, the volunteers enticed one of the mothers, followed by one timorous pup who approached and then scampered off to a pile of old abandoned truck tires. It had rained briefly the night before, and the little pup was drinking from the only visible water source, the shell of the tire. No food was evident anywhere on the property.

This is a circumstance all too familiar to the volunteers of the Georgia Heartland Humane Society. Upon investigation, they learned that the property owner, a well-meaning man of modest means, wanted a pet. Willow, the first dog to approach the rescuers, was that pet. He meant to have her spayed, but time, money, work assignments and other priorities caused him to put it off. Now his one pet has become a pack of dogs, with three females of breeding age. At two years old, Willow is a mother three times over, a grandmother two times over and a great-grandmother at least once. The situation had overwhelmed the owner. There was insufficient food and no health care for the dogs. He needed and wanted help.

The owner could not account for all the pups born in Willow’s lineage. Some had been killed in traffic, some had died from disease and others have wandered off. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals estimates that two unaltered dogs can produce 67,000 offspring over a six year period. It is possible that Willow and her offspring have produced 200 unwanted dogs in just two years.

On that first trip, Willow was the only dog accepting contact and help. With the permission of the owner, Willow was taken into the care of the Georgia Heartland Humane Society. Melissa Hudson, a foster mother, is nursing Willow back to health, and Willow is currently undergoing veterinary treatment for heart-worm after which she will be spayed and hopefully adopted by a forever family. Thankfully, the property owner captured five of the six pups, who were also placed in foster homes. Hoover fosters Chance, Tessa and Tammy, now healthy and continually playful pups, who seem to have no memory of the squalid life from which they came. They may be easily adopted.

The two older pups, Kaya and Loki, were rescued too belatedly to be easily socialized, but Kilgore works with them. Initially Kaya and Loki would only sit in the corner facing the wall. Now they permit Kilgore to pet them. She has high hopes for these little ones. These loving volunteers do make miracles happen.

The last remaining pup evades capture. Even if GHHS could capture him, they do not have a foster home for him because all of the foster homes are full. Although they are less than two years old, the two remaining females are likely too old and too wild to be placed in permanent homes. GHHS plans to capture them to be spayed, hopefully before more litters are born, then they will be returned to the property. Perhaps GHHS can provide food, but the budget they work on is small and the need is great. Tough decisions have to be made. Volunteers continue to stop while in the neighborhood to scatter food for them.

GHHS volunteers wish this were an unusual story. It isn’t. Americans claim to love pets, yet, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “It is well accepted that 9.6 millions cats and dogs are euthanized in the United States every year.” That is one animal every 3.5 seconds. At least 50 percent of these unwanted animals are brought to the shelters by their owners. True, some are ill and a few are vicious, but many are adoptable. Some outgrow their “cuteness” as in the case of the two year old cat relinquished by the owner because her boyfriend had bought her a “new” kitten. The tragedy is that she saw nothing wrong with the notion of throw-away-pets. One of the top ten reasons people relinquish pets is that they permit their original pet to have a litter and have no room for the offspring.

Those animals not in a shelter are left to run wild. The number of these unwanted animals is not known. They will be left to wander and will die slow deaths of disease or starvation, become the target for cruel pranksters, be crushed in traffic, torn to death by stronger more desperate animals, or fall into the hands of dog fighters to be used as bait.

The volunteers of GHHS and like organizations are involved because they believe all life is sacred and that animals deserve humane treatment, but whether of like mind or not, everyone should be concerned about these unprotected animals, which can present a health and safety problem for the public. The Berkshire Hathaway Company Business Wire reported that $2 billion is spent annually by local governments to shelter and destroy dogs and cats due to a shortage of homes. That is an astounding cost to the taxpayer. It is clear that pet overpopulation is not just an animal lover’s issue. It is a public issue.

The solution is simple. The implementation is not. The first step is to have your own pet spayed or neutered. Many low-cost clinics and voucher/certificate programs can help those in financial need. Feral cats can be spayed and neutered for as little as $15 at some facilities.

February 26 is Spay Day USA 2008, the sixth such national event, to encourage people to spay or neuter their pets. Pet owners are not the only ones who can take action:

• Adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue agency;

• Donate your time or money to an animal welfare agency;

• Foster a homeless pet;

• Educate your children about the importance of population control;

• Support legislation directed toward pet population control; and

• Sterilize the stray that comes to your door for a handout.

On Spay Day 2008 volunteers from the Georgia Heartland Humane Society will be at the Wal-Mart Super Center on Ga. Highway 34 in Newnan between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Along with gourmet doggie treats (while they last) the group will have educational brochures on pet sterilization and, most important, information on low cost clinics and voucher programs.

GHHS is one of several local humane societies concerned about the issue of pet overpopulation. GHHS, which focuses on the rescue of abandoned and abused animals, has no paid employees. All donated funds go directly to the rescue and care of animals.

If you are interested in adopting any of the wonderful rescued pets mentioned in this article, please contact Georgia Heartland Humane Society at 770-830-2820, visit their website at, or visit PetSmart in Newnan on any Saturday between 12 and 5 p.m. to see those animals looking for a forever family.

Solving pet overpopulation seems an insurmountable task and may never be entirely achieved, but one person’s actions count. To quote Edward Everett Hale, an American orator and statesman, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” Here is what you can do: spay and neuter your pets.

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