Stray animals create burden, danger for community
by Matt Shinall
Mar 10, 2011 | 3904 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Bartow County Animal Control official holds an intake slip marked “will bite” on a mixed chow that was picked up on Stamp Creek Road Tuesday. Animal control was alerted about the dog from a caller. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
A Bartow County Animal Control official holds an intake slip marked “will bite” on a mixed chow that was picked up on Stamp Creek Road Tuesday. Animal control was alerted about the dog from a caller. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Incidents involving stray dogs becoming violent have made headlines recently as the city of Kingston prepares to vote on re-establishing a contract with Bartow County Animal Control for animal services.

The matter of loose and unattended animals, however, has been a continuing issue for communities throughout Bartow County battling with uncontrolled animals.

"There's an overpopulation of unwanted animals in Bartow County. In fact, statistics have shown that Bartow County has one of the highest rates of euthanasia so it's a very, very real problem," said Bryan Canty, executive director of the Etowah Valley Humane Society. "There just seems to be a proliferation of animals -- and this is preventable. It is never cliché when you hear someone offer the advice to spay or neuter your animals. It is some of the best and soundest advice."

The humane society is the local adoption facility for animals in need of rescue. The capture and containment of stray animals is handled by Bartow County Animal Control. In 2010, BCAC picked up 6,350 animals. About 4,000 of those animals were euthanized and only 394 were reunited with their owners.

The crux of the problem lies with irresponsible pet owners not providing the necessary means for reasonable confinement within their property. Incidental problems abound when animals are not spayed or neutered and proper medical treatment is not kept up-to-date.

"Bartow County Animal Control is responsible for picking up abandoned or stray animals in Bartow County and they don't want to euthanized any more than anyone else," Canty said. "They are there simply because you have irresponsible pet owners that don't want to take the necessary precautions to make sure that unwanted animals wander our streets.

"We support the efforts of animal control and what they do. We know it is a tough job that they have to do but Bartow County is a better place because of them, and we do all that is within our power to make sure that the animals they bring in can find good, forever homes."

According to BCAC Director Debbie Elrod, the department receives anywhere from about a dozen calls to more than 30 calls each day relating to stray animals. Of animals showing signs of aggression, she said animal control receives roughly three calls a week.

"People are complaining about stray, loose, unattended animals," Elrod said. "We're seeing more animal-to-animal violence. That's what we're seeing a lot of, just loose unattended animals.

"With summertime moving in, pretty weather, it's probably going to get worse. Female strays in heat affect the temperament of male dogs."

Elrod encourages all pet owners to take the proper precautions in keeping animals confined and vaccinated for rabies. In a recent case, she noted that two stray dogs had scaled a fence attacking a pet that eventually died from its injuries. Elrod and Canty agreed that aggression and violence of animals increases when placed in groups.

"When you have [dogs] wandering freely, when they get together, they're going to have that pack mentality. It may not be one particular dog, but when they get into the pack, they're out to defend themselves because they have no other natural protection around them," Canty said. "And it's not just from a vicious animal standpoint. There are a number of diseases out there that can be easily passed from one animal to another by incidental contact. There's Parvo and Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, and these are maladies that can ultimately infect a lot of other animals and cause a pandemic outbreak."

To help prevent the problem from escalating in the future, the Etowah Valley Humane Society is heading up the Homeless Pets Club, the first program of its kind in the nation.

"We're in the process of implementing a program that was invented by Dr. Michael Good out of Marietta, who is one of the gurus in our industry, to form these Homeless Pet Clubs in the schools so that you get kids on board, you educate them, make them aware of the plight of animals in their area. They get on board with sponsoring them, helping adopt them and once the animal is adopted, they have pride and accomplishment knowing that they had an active role in saving that animal's life," Canty said.

The aim of Homeless Pets Clubs within schools will be to educate children at an early age about responsible pet ownership and empower them to not only care for animals but also pass the knowledge along to the next generation.

"Getting it instilled in the minds of these kids at this age, by the time they become parents themselves and their kids want pets, they're already educated to ensure that this pet has the best life possible and that's what Homeless Pets Clubs is all about," Canty said.

Involvement and support will include the Atlanta Braves and former Manager Bobby Cox. There are plans for a Homeless Pets Club day at Turner Field and successful clubs will be honored by the team.

"I've already met with both superintendents and I'm setting up to go to the schools and meet with the principals and teachers to get the clubs started," Canty said. "We would hope to ultimately have that culminate in mass adoptions at least twice a year where we'll take one of the local gyms and literally adopt out dozens if not 100 or more animals in one day."

To contact Bartow County Animal Control, call 770-387-5153. For more information about the Etowah Valley Humane Society, call 770-383-3338 or visit www.etowahvalleyhumane.org.