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How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

Jul 07, 2014 03:26PM ● Published by Jason Huddle

By: Kim Cassell

Walking through the doors of Cabarrus County Animal Control is an assault on the senses. Most prevalent is the barking of dogs. Others are visual: seeing a Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Department Animal Control truck drive to the rear intake area and watching county residents surrender animals to the shelter.

Covering the 367 square miles and roughly 182,000 residents within the county, the Cabarrus County Animal Control Division has its hands full answering abuse and neglect calls, enforcing county animal welfare laws and handling the stray population. Add to that the numbers of animals voluntarily surrendered to the shelter by their owners for a variety of reasons: financial, housing changes, vacation/holiday, pregnancy in the family, the pet is old. Yes, you read those last three correctly.

In fiscal year 2012, Cabarrus County Animal Control officers picked up 2,055 dogs and took in 1,450 stray cats; Animal Control does not pick up cats from residences. An additional 580 dogs and 614 cats were owner-surrendered. While 364 dogs were reunited with their owners, only 45 cats were as fortunate.

That’s where Cabarrus county rescues come in. Most closely affiliated with Animal Control, the Humane Society of Concord & Greater Cabarrus County (HSOC) took in 452 dogs and 229 cats from Animal Control in 2012 and put them up for adoption. Between the HSOC and other county 501(c)3 nonprofit rescues (see sidebar), the euthanasia rate dropped that year to 48 percent for dogs (971 put down) but was still high at 79 percent for cats (1,138 put down).

The HSOC was awarded a contract to manage the Animal Control facility beginning in July 2012. This entails receiving a portion of the Animal Control Department’s annual fiscal budget to employ animal intake personnel, a rescue coordinator, veterinary assistant and cleaning crew, allowing Animal Control officers to focus on their own presence in the community; there were 14,291 Animal Control calls in 2012 alone.

It also means seeing firsthand the vast numbers of animals ending up within the shelter walls; heartbreaking for rescuers. The advantage, however, is the ability to monitor what types of animals come in, leading to breed-specific rescue placement (you’d be surprised at the specialty breeds going through shelters), reuniting more lost pets with their owners via the Internet and social media, and building networking relationships with other rescues. These efforts have a direct influence on the euthanasia rates.

The Humane Society of the United States paints the bigger picture, saying, “The number of dogs and cats euthanized each year in shelters has decreased, from 12 to 20 million to an estimated 3 to 4 million. An estimated 2.7 million healthy shelter pets are not adopted each year, and only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues.”

As an important side note, Cabarrus County ceased euthanizing animals via a gas chamber a year ago and now use humane lethal injection administered by the county’s veterinarian.

There are about 3,500 animal shelters in the U.S. and 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter those shelters annually. And while we now live in the high-tech 21st century, it’s doubtful these statistics will change significantly until the importance of spaying and neutering is fully realized by pet owners.

It would be more than safe to say that rampant dog and cat reproduction is the primary reason so many end up in our shelter/rescues. The Cabarrus Spay & Neuter Clinic has been aiding with this ongoing problem since 2005. As a nonprofit sterilization organization, it provides low-cost spaying and neutering for Cabarrus County pet owners. Call 704-784-6304 for more information.

An effort that specifically addresses cat overpopulation is TNR: Trap-Neuter-Return. Drive into your favorite fast-food parking lot and you’re likely to see cats hovering near the dumpster. They’ve probably been abandoned there because their owners saw a food source for them. As the breeding cycle continues, a feral colony forms. Once these colonies are recognized, rescues can set traps, get all age-appropriate cats “fixed,” vaccinated and release them back to their territory.

From there, a rescue volunteer takes on the role of caregiver: feeding, providing shelter and monitoring the colony. Kittens and friendlier adults are typically further socialized in foster care and offered for adoption. Advantages to the TNR practice are numerous, including putting a halt to further breeding, reducing fights and marking by males (colonies don’t let other, unneutered males into their colony), rodent control and fewer cats ending up in shelters. There are several TNR groups in the county working behind the scenes.

With regard to dog overpopulation, spay and neuter is once again a huge concern. The other is the number of puppy mills in the state. In May, legislation that was passed by the N.C. House of Representatives went on to the Senate. Its aim is to ban inhumane breeding operations as outlined in the measure. Since the majority of pet shop puppies come from puppy mills – and can often be diseased upon arrival – more and more shop owners choose not to sell pups from their stores.

A volunteer base is critical to any nonprofit organization and this area’s animal rescues are no exception. From cleaning to socialization, transport and adoption events, they are the individuals keeping these organizations going. So are adoption fees and donations. Each rescue dictates its own fees and typically has rules in place as to the care of the adopted animal. In other words, if you’re looking for a guard dog to chain outside and don’t plan on keeping it up-to-date on vaccinations, these organizations are not for you.

So, if you’re seeking an opportunity to volunteer in our community and don’t mind hard work, animal rescue may be for you. And if you’re looking for that special new furry family member, get in touch with one of the many Cabarrus County rescues…pet adoption is a very rewarding experience. The HSOC and Kitty City are currently the only organizations with brick & mortar adoption facilities. The rest rely on foster homes to take care of animals until they’re adopted, and conduct adoption events at various locations. Check them out!

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