Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Add to My MSN

Weaving a Grassroots Safety Net for Homeless Animals

12/21/2011 2:52:07 PM

Tags: Animal Control, Rural Pests, Community Organization, Pet Overpopulation, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics, Animal Rescue

The term “homeless pets” brings to mind ragged kittens and soulful puppies huddled against the cold, but in rural counties it’s just as likely to mean packs of large dogs roaming the countryside terrorizing residents, killing livestock, and attacking pets. It also means picturesque country roads blighted with the bodies of companion animals — victims of gunshots, traffic, disease and starvation. It means that families enjoying a swim in a creek may stumble upon entire litters that were thrown off the nearest bridge. It means the staff at the county dump dreads Mondays, wondering how many bags squirming with life were tossed over the fence during the weekend. It means any resident can wake up to find one or more animals have been dumped at the end of their driveway. In Pike County, GA, it means all of that and more.

CARE 3In 2007, Mrs. Deloros Smith was attacked on three occasions by roaming dogs inside her own gated and fenced yard. Her neighbor Don Bailey recalls the incidents leading up to her death. 

"She had called the sheriff’s office after the initial attack, only to be told that deputies could do nothing unless they actually witnessed the attack. On the second attack, the sheriff’s deputy maced a dog that was acting aggressive, and the dog retreated. Upon the third attack, a deputy wounded the dog, and it was captured several days later. Mrs. Smith was hospitalized after the third attack and died from her injuries."

Despite the outrage following her death, deputies were acting according to the law in a county without animal control ordinances. Even if they had picked up the dogs when she reported the first attack, there was nowhere to house them because Pike doesn’t have a county shelter for lost or homeless pets. Neighboring counties with their own tax-supported shelters will not take Pike County animals. 

After the initial uproar, her death faded into old news. Except for Don Bailey.Don founded Friends of Pike County Animals in her memory to work toward animal control and a shelter in Pike County. He became a familiar face at public events — handing out fliers, setting up a booth displaying newspaper clippings telling her tragic story. Passersby could put money in his donation jars dedicated to building a shelter someday. The sheriff’s office gladly shared with him their mounting statistics about aggressive animal reports. The Pike County Journal Reporter covered abandoned pet stories and dog attacks on the front page.

Don brought all that documentation to public awareness workshops, county commission meetings, and when he met individual commissioners. Even though many county residents support his efforts, culture change takes time. Throughout much of the rural South principles of responsible pet ownership, such as population control and fencing are not priorities. After three years the movement seemed hopelessly stalled. Then in July 2010 the photo of a wounded dog jump started it again.

An adult male dog with a gaping shoulder wound was one of five starving dogs found by Paula and Don Nalley at an abandoned mobile home on their road. The Nalleys were still reeling financially and emotionally from the impact of finding three pregnant dogs in their driveway a year earlier. They had seen all three mama dogs through their pregnancies and cared for 21 puppies until they found homes. Since there were no low-cost spay neuter options in the county, the Nalleys paid full price to spay the mama dogs.

During that long commitment, the recession hit.  Don lost his job and Paula’s property appraisals nosedived, but they didn’t quit until every pup had a home. The mama dogs never became tame enough to adopt out, so the Nalleys added them to the pack of other abandoned dogs they had taken in over the years. 

The new family of starving dogs was more than the Nalleys could handle on their own. Paula photographed their plight and emailed the images to all of her friends. I drove over to help. Two young dogs had died of starvation before Paula could return with food. The three survivors roused from the weeds when we drove up. They were beyond pitiful, but it was the adult male who stunned us. Ragged coat colored like a fox hound, he had a broad head, wide chest, and noble bearing out of proportion with his emaciated frame. Despite dragging his front leg with the infected gunshot wound, he carried his big head high and proud. Then he walked to each one of us in turn and lowered it to be patted. We were even more surprised when he trusted us enough to walk into the crate that could have been taking him to his death. As we drove away, I looked back at the wreck of old trailers cobbled together to make a dwelling. Clearly, the family that had moved from there could not afford pets. Most likely the dogs had just shown up, and the family fed them. When the people moved, the dogs were left to fend for themselves again.

CARE 4Our friend Chris Curry stepped up to adopt the wounded dog and pay his medical expenses. Chris is co-owner of A Novel Experience. More than just an independent bookstore, A Novel Experience offers a congenial gathering place for any group wanting to do something positive. I sent a photo of the wounded dog to the Pike County Journal Reporter, and writer Rachel McDaniel did the rest. The front page story and photos connected with enough people to have a Sunday afternoon meeting at A Novel Experience.

That day we started a grassroots movement to address the problems of pet overpopulation and abandonment. While Don Bailey continued to hammer away at the shelter and animal control ordinances, we divided the problem into four solution areas that we could do something about:

  • low-cost spay/neuter options
  • fostering
  • financial support for low-income pet owners and Good Samaritans who take in homeless pets; and 
  • socialization to make foundlings adoptable. 

This blog will follow our progress toward making Pike County a more humane place for companion animals in hopes our experiences help other communities tackle these problems.

So what happened to the two remaining pups after Chris adopted the wounded male dog? A woman named Lisa Ramos who operated a small, private rescue kennel called Companion Animal Rescue and Education, Inc. (CARE, Inc.) took the two surviving pups and nursed them back to health. The male pup was adopted immediately and went to live on a 90-acre estate in the Northeast. The female pup, Greta, has grown up at CARE, Inc. and probably doesn’t remember her sad beginning. But even though her physical needs are met, life in a rescue kennel is far from pleasant. She stays in her pen unless a volunteer shows up to give her some individual attention and a short walk — at most twice a week. Most weeks she doesn’t get out at all. She desperately wants a family of her own, so I’m including her Adoptapet listing.

Gwen Running with DogSeveral of us now foster dogs for CARE, Inc. or volunteer there — walking dogs, cleaning pens, socializing puppies, attending adoption events to show off the dogs, photographing dogs for the Adoptapet listings, so many things that Lisa can’t do alone.

Most of Lisa’s time is spent delivering dogs to the Northeast where a long history of spay/neuter and animal control regulations have reduced their pet population. She transports adopted dogs to families along the I-95 corridor through the Carolinas, VA, DE, MD and PA.

Each blog entry will include a profile like Greta’s to introduce our homeless pets to a larger audience. You’ll also meet Coco, the faithful dog who inspired the start-up of our local pet food pantry Coco’s Cupboard. There’s the amazing story of Rosa who went from being a dumpster dog to an autistic toddler’s best friend. Dog trainers Tara and Suzanne of T.A.O. K9 Unleashed who help foster families and Good Samaritans socialize foundlings to make them more adoptable. It’s all about people and pets helping each other in Pike County, GA.



Related Content

Johnny—from crippling shyness to king of the road

Timidity nearly doomed Johnny to a life sentence in the rescue kennel until one determined family sa...

How to cut planks with a chainsaw

Our experiments with an Alaskan small log mill attached to our chainsaw had variable results making ...

Starting a Pet Food Pantry

Compassionate people without a county animal shelter organize a non-profit group to help low-income ...

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

This week is the 12th annual National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

GWEN ROLAND
1/7/2012 11:40:38 AM
You are so right Mike that the problem starts with the owners, but the animals pay the price. I hope our stories from Pike County help you find a way to start addressing the problems in Crawford County.

GWEN ROLAND
1/7/2012 11:38:40 AM
Helen, I'm so glad your feral cat situation was handled in a humane way thanks to your concern. We also have many fine rescue organizations and low-cost spay/neuter options in many parts of the United States. However, the rural south is lagging behind much of the country in addressing pet overpopulation and abandonment. At a meeting about these issues in 2010, I heard the director of the Georgia chapter of the Humane Society say that animal welfare issues trail behind spousal abuse issues by about 20 years. She went on to say that the level of concern about animal welfare in the South is about where concern over spousal abuse was 20years ago. We have seen a surge of concern in the past two years and many more new options for spay/neuter, rescue and adoptions. Culture change takes time, and peer pressure will be a major force.

Helen Fowler
1/5/2012 11:48:49 AM
Thank you for a moving story about a grave and sad problem. I am a reader from Great Britain, although we too have a problem here with abandoned pets we do not have large numbers of dogs roaming wild. We have long standing animal control regulations and societies both national and local to deal with stray dogs and other animals. We have many animal charities that offer help to both domestic and wild animals. Hear in Britain we have a big problem with abandoned and feral cats, in the severe winter of 2010/2011 two very thin cats started visiting my home, this then became seven when they showed up with a bunch of kittens! Although I love all animals I feared been overun with cats and the cost of food. The main British animal charity, the RSPCA agreed to neuter all the cats and kittens at my local vets for free. This was a great relief. There were other organisations that would have offered to help me. I give thanks to all that are trying to help animals in need and hope you have success in creating laws and regulations to help prevent cruelty to man's friends.

mike last
1/4/2012 6:57:30 PM
unfortunately crawford county georgia sounds much the same way. Most people shoot dogs so that pack s don't overwhelm their livestock such as cows and chickens and goats. Its terrible to think about it but if people wouldn't let their animals roam around or drop them off in the country it wouldn't come to that.

Gwen Roland
1/1/2012 9:57:08 PM
Thanks Laurie. I'm working out some technical issues with the blogging software before I submit another post. Looking forward to helping other communities as I share what we are doing.

Laurie Cochrane
12/23/2011 3:04:08 AM
Terrific blog post. I look forward to the pups' stories to come.

MY COMMUNITY
no image
lucy123
7/8/2014 10:01:23 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 10:00:59 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 9:39:00 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 8:56:48 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 8:54:33 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 8:50:19 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 8:42:12 AM
no image
SECRET MILLIONAIRE M
7/8/2014 8:39:49 AM
no image
saracamber
7/8/2014 7:54:00 AM






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.