Make your pets a priority

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Irresponsible pet ownership is a problem in Butler County, said animal welfare officials.

Some 535 animals were impounded at the Greenville Animal Shelter in the last six months, and 383 of those animals had to be euthanized, said animal control officer Alan Ingram.

&uot;Irresponsible pet owners keep the shelter in business,&uot; said county veterinarian Bill Watson.

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The main reason animals continue to pour into the shelter is because people do not spay or neuter their pets, said Christi Stinson, who works at the shelter and plans to become a veterinarian.

Spaying and neutering an animal

surgically sterilizes them rendering them unable to reproduce.

On average, the adoption rate for the animals in the shelter is only about 13 percent each month, Ingram said, leaving the other 87 percent to be destroyed or held in the shelter.

&uot;People who do not spay or neuter their pets are directly responsible,&uot; he went on. &uot;It’s that simple.&uot;

Nationwide, only 1 in 10 animals are adopted from shelters, and the other 9 are euthanized, Watson said.

Most of the operating costs of the shelter, including building costs and the upkeep of the animals brought in from the city, are paid out of the police department’s budget with the county pitching in $750 per month to help with expenses. Both the city and county pay $14 every time an animal of theirs is euthanized, said police chief Lonzo Ingram.

Some 383 animals from the city and county have been euthanized within the last six months costing residents of Butler County nearly $5,500.

In addition to city and county funding, the Humane Society and Wal-Mart donate food to the shelter, and some people make personal donations.

Not only will the spaying and neutering of pets keep the excess population to a minimum and save taxpayers’ money, but according to Humane Society worker Angie Waggoner, it makes a happier, healthier pet.

It lessens the animal’s urges to fight and wander, thus decreasing its chances of exposure to disease and danger, she said.

According to the Humane Society, dogs that have been spayed or neutered are three times less likely to bite than those that have not.

&uot;[After spaying or neutering,] a pet is more likely to listen to its owner instead of its hormones,&uot; Waggoner said.

Pet owners have as great a responsibility to neuter male pets as they do to spay females, she went on. &uot;It takes two, so it’s just as much their responsibility.&uot;

When people adopt pets from the animal shelter, they have the opportunity to purchase a $35 spay/neuter certificate, said shelter worker Carolyn Flowers. When the animal is at least five or six months old, this certificate can be used for the animal to have the operation.

The certificates are made possible by the Humane Society, which pays for the remainder of the cost of the operation, Waggoner said.

More is involved in responsible ownership than spaying and neutering, however, said animal welfare officials.

Greenville has two city ordinances dealing with the treatment of pets, Alan Ingram said.

One states that a dog must be under the control of its owner, such as wearing a leash, obeying the owner’s commands or being on the owner’s property.

Most dog bite cases in this area, which occur about once every two months, happen when people do not abide by this ordinance, Alan Ingram said.

&uot;These are not stray dogs,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve never dealt with a dog bite case in which the dog didn’t have an owner. Bottom line, they’re not following city ordinances. The dog has to be in the control of the owner.&uot;

Another city ordinance states that a pet must wear a tag on its collar verifying that it is up-to-date on its rabies shots.

According to Flowers, an officer travels throughout the county and fines people for animals that have not been given their rabies shots. People can even be fined for not feeding animals found on their property, whether or not the animals belong to them, Flowers said.

A state law also addresses the issue of cruelty to animals, stating that pet owners must supply pets with adequate water, food and shelter, Alan Ingram said.

He said that when he encounters cases in which animals are being mistreated in these ways, the owners are warned and usually cooperate to fix the problems.

&uot;The main issues here are the health of people’s pets, the owners’ safety and their families’ safety,&uot; Flowers said. &uot;A pet has to be taken care of just like another member of the family. Take care of your pets, and it will reward you in the end.&uot;

For additional information, contact the Greenville Animal Shelter at 382-7806.