The following is an editorial I wrote that was published in one of our area newspapers. I've also linked to it directly from the title above, cited accordingly. While it specifically targets animal issues in Nassau County, Florida, the general concept applies everywhere.
All have responsibility in fixing Nassau animal control concern
By My Nassau Sun
Today's Nassau County Animal Control mess is no different than what it was 20 years ago. Interim County Administrator Ted Selby's comment about animal control, "I need the emotions out of it," ["County wants new outside review of animal control," My Nassau Sun, Sept. 29] is exactly the sort of attitude that has allowed the mess to continue.
For any kind of real change to take place in respect to animals and animal control in Nassau County, a whole lot of people are going to have to put emotions into it - positive ones - and back up those emotions with positive action.
Everyone has the power to turn this mess around. Here's who - and how - from one resident's perspective.
Nassau County commissioners need to:
- Hire only animal control directors and staff that care about the welfare of animals and are dedicated and skilled in promoting responsible pet ownership.
- Quickly investigate and if found valid, punish to the fullest extent of the law, any incidents reported by the public of abuse or neglect of the animals or animal control policy by animal control personnel. There is simply no room in any facet of the animal control mess to "take the emotions out."
- Set aside money to establish an affordable and accessible countywide spay/neuter program. It could be implemented from a mobile spay/neuter bus that would set up once or twice a month at various locations around the county. Money spent on this program could greatly reduce the number of animals taken to the shelter, affecting the county budget in a positive fashion.
Animal control personnel need to:
- Return found animals with identifying tags or microchips to their owners immediately. This will free up space in the shelter for animals without ID and leave more time to find good, adoptive homes for them. There is no need to spend taxpayers' money to process or house any animal with current identification.
- Enforce current leash laws by levying substantial fines against residents who continue to ignore them. Fining violators of leash laws will bring more money into the county coffers.
- Develop a humane education program to take to each school in the county, highlighting, in age-appropriate fashion, the benefits of spaying and neutering pets and defining responsible pet ownership.
- Allow the public ample access to view adoptable animals. This means the shelter needs to be open when the public can visit. Closing time during the week should be extended to at least 6 p.m. and the shelter needs to be open a few hours every Saturday and Sunday.
- Ask for community volunteers and sponsors to help set up a presence online, complete with up-to-date photos and description of animals being housed and available for adoption.
- Stop being isolated and secretive. Both in-county and national groups and organizations, such as Best Friends Animal Society, have information to share, such as how to apply for grants and how to put into place programs to decrease the county's animal overpopulation. Processing fewer animals, adopting out more and in general, lessening the number of abused, neglected and abandoned animals in the county can save animal control time and taxpayers a lot of money.
- Commit in writing to the Nassau County Commission that only sick or vicious animals will ever be euthanized.
Nassau County veterinarians need to:
- Understand that if spay and neutering services aren't affordable, people will not pay for their pets to have the surgeries and then we're back to animals breeding and ending up at the shelter.
- Step up to the plate and provide services at least one day per month for a low-cost spay/neuter program proposed above. The county could offer a small stipend for the service. In addition, participating veterinarians would receive free advertising as the program is promoted.
Local newspapers need to:
- Stop playing a part in this mess by helping people throw away animals. Stop allowing "Free Pet" ads in the classifieds.
- Develop a new policy that requires customers to charge at least $25 for the pet being offered. Dog-fighting organizations, not to mention experimental laboratories, look for "Free Pet" ads for quick and free sources of bait or lab subjects.
The people of Nassau County need to:
- Realize we have the most important role in cleaning up this mess. We are supposed to be the caretakers of our animals - even the Bible says so.
- Stop allowing our animals to roam all over the place, while we disregard leash laws.
- Stop allowing our animals to breed at will; refusing to have them spayed or neutered because we want our kids to "see just one mommy dog have puppies."
- Stop "backyard breeding," where people who keep allowing their dog to mix it up with a neighborhood dog or tom cat are later seen standing in the old Winn-Dixie parking lot giving away the puppies or kittens to who knows who, for who knows what purpose.
- Make sure our pets wear collars, tags with our current address and phone number, and a safe micro-chip. If someone finds our pet, it's a simple phone call back to us. Or, if our pet should ever end up at animal control, no one can say they didn't know to whom it belonged.
- Realize that dogs and cats are not articles of property, like cars or couches. They are living, breathing beings. Families, schools and churches should be teaching our children about responsible pet ownership, about being good stewards for all God's creatures.
- Honor the memory of a beloved past pet by adopting a needy animal from the Nassau County animal control facility instead of buying one from a pet store or backyard breeder.
If the Nassau County Commission, Animal Control personnel, veterinarians, newspapers and every member of the public, with or without pets, would stop finger-pointing and just do their part, the animal control mess in Nassau County can be cleaned up, step by step. Fewer animals will end up at the shelter, fewer residents will complain about animal control, more animals can be adopted into good homes and the county can pocket the savings for a future "no-kill" shelter.