Published 12:00 am Monday, July 9, 2007

By Jane Hartness
For the Salisbury Post
Recent letters to the editor and articles have spoken to a major issue that should be given priority by our county government, an issue that affects all of us, whether we are pet owners, animals or simply concerned citizens.
The pet population in Rowan County is out of control. The Humane Society of Rowan County has attempted to work with Rowan County government and residents for years to reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs that roam the streets and highways and that fill the local animal shelter and its gas chamber.
Space prohibits my including the entire history of the organization’s efforts toward working with the county to curtail the pet population surge; but it can be summarized by saying that, despite statistics from communities with mandatory low cost spay/neuter programs and the long range financial savings realized in these communities, our efforts have not produced the results the organization hopes to attain. (A timeline of HSRC’s efforts from February 2006-January 2007 with the Rowan County commissioners and the Rowan County Board of Health was printed in the organization’s spring newsletter and is available by calling 704-636-5700.)
One question asked by the HSRC of the Rowan County commission chairman and the Rowan County manager in February 2006 was, “What has happened to the $40 spay/neuter deposits collected from adopters of animals from the Rowan County Animal Shelter that were not spayed or neutered?” Statistics collected from local veterinarians and the Rowan County Animal Shelter indicate that only 28 percent of the animals adopted in the previous year had actually been spayed or neutered. We were promised a timely answer and, after repeated calls, we learned in June 2006 from the county manager that the unused deposits went into the county’s “general budget for use by the Animal Shelter.” While that presents yet another question, it also presents a partial answer to the pet population problem. (A bit more history here: during the fantastic fundraising efforts of the Meet the Challenge group who made the current animal shelter a reality, some donations were earmarked for a “spay/neuter clinic at the new shelter.” Obviously that didn’t happen, and we were told that those donations, many in honor or in memory of people dedicated to animal welfare, “went into the general fund.”)
As one writer pointed out, a $20,000 bequest to the Rowan County Animal Shelter was used to purchase computer equipment. This equipment can be a valuable tool in tracking adoptions and compliance or non-compliance with the terms of adoption. When HSRC representatives stated this fact, we learned that additional manpower would be needed to follow up on shelter adoptions. The shelter is understaffed as well as overcrowded. If an additional animal control officer is needed to further follow through on adoptions, then the shelter should be allowed an additional animal control officer. What is the purpose of requiring spay/neuter if no one is going to enforce the requirement?
The Board of Health formed a subcommittee last winter after hearing requests from the HSRC. The subcommittee has written a proposal and, we understand, presented it to the county commission. A part of that proposal is the establishment of a spay/neuter clinic at the shelter. That probably sounds familiar to those who have supported and followed the HSCRC’s efforts over the years. It’s exactly what we proposed as the current shelter was being constructed. Perhaps in the future there will be enough support at the county government level to implement a proven method of reducing the pet overpopulation among animals adopted from the county shelter.
In July, a portion of the subcommittee’s proposal will be implemented, but that’s the county’s news to announce.
The HSRC does have a program to help the gentleman whose dog was featured in the “Big Mama” story a few weeks ago. During the past four years, we have arranged and in some cases absorbed the total expense of spay/neuter surgeries for more than 4,000 cats and dogs. We were blessed by a generous donation from wonderful benefactors for the sole purpose of decreasing the population of unwanted cats and dogs. We began the service by transporting animals free of charge to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Kernersville. Last year, two local veterinary clinics joined us in offering low cost sterilizations, thus providing more options for those who contact the HSRC for assistance with spaying/neutering their pets.
The HSRC is committed to reducing the overpopulation of unwanted cats and dogs in our community. We depend on donations to keep the program active and welcome sponsorships of animals for sterilization. Please help us spread the word to pet owners that help is available, and please remind our county officials of their responsibility in reducing the number of unwanted cats and dogs in our community.
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Jane Hartness is president of the Humane Society of Rowan County.