Concerns about a high euthanasia rate and other animal shelter issues were the focus of a local man who spoke during Tuesday night’s Bulloch County Commission meeting.
Dr. Richard Marz, a Statesboro dentist, was supported by a number of people who attended the meeting. He gave commissioners a presentation suggesting an advisory committee be formed to help the Bulloch County Animal Shelter reduce its euthanasia rate, work with volunteer and rescue groups and increase the number of animal adoptions. His goal is ideally to see the shelter become a no-kill, or at least low-kill, shelter, he said.
He described how many people are disturbed by the high number of dogs and cats that are “put to sleep” and reminded the commission that the reality is that they “are not sleeping but killed.”
Cats, dogs and other pets “are part of our families,” he said. “They are not livestock. The Bulloch County animal disposal system does not reflect our values of life. They are systematically and needlessly murdering these animals.”
Marz cited the definition of euthanasia, which he said meant the merciful ending of a sick or injured animal’s life.
“This is not the case at the Bulloch County Animal Shelter,” he said.
Adoptable animals are not handed over to rescue groups or other entities for adoption, but are instead euthanized, he said.
In an interview Wednesday, Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, who oversees the shelter, said shelter manager Wendy Ivey often “keeps animals for over a month” in an effort to adopt them out. While the shelter has stopped utilizing a Facebook page due to what he said was negative interaction, they work with Petfinder.com and other online resources to seek adoption opportunities. The shelter also has its own site, www.bullochanimalshelter.org, where adoptable animals may be viewed, he said.
During the meeting, Marz acknowledged that “public irresponsibility” contributes greatly to the stray animal population in Bulloch County. By calculating the numbers of dogs and cats euthanized as reported in the Statesboro Herald each week, he said that in 2014, 57 percent of dogs and 72 percent of cats received into the shelter were euthanized.
Marz called for “strict accountability and transparency,” stating that there is “very little oversight and accountability at the Bulloch County Animal Shelter.” Other shelters report 90 percent “save rates,” while the local shelter’s records show 1,188 dogs and cats were euthanized last year at a cost of $126,000.
Lorna Shelton, manager of the Effingham County Animal Shelter, also spoke at the meeting. She told commissioners that “two or three people a week” from Bulloch County come to her shelter seeking to drop off animals after being told the Bulloch shelter is full and refusing incoming animals.
Wynn said Wednesday that the shelter is indeed sometimes full, and due to Georgia Department of Agriculture rules and regulations, it cannot accept more dogs and cats during those times.
He suggested people with animals who are turned away “wait a few days” and then approach the shelter again, as room may become available. Animals are adopted, making vacancies, and veterinarians euthanize animals weekly, thus making room for more.
Marz said Tuesday that he feels there should be better options than euthanasia.
“Our shelter has to take killing off the table for savable animals,” he said. “Our job as a shelter is to find them homes.”
Other cities have no-kill or low-kill shelters, he said.
“I’m sure we can be just as good as them.”
Wynn said Wednesday that he appreciated Marz’s presentation and him “bringing attention to the challenges we face as a shelter” and said he is open to suggestions for improvement.
“Our goal is just as theirs: to lower the euthanasia rate and increase the adoption rate,” he said. “We have filled up from time to time. We have an aggressive humane enforcement, and there may be times when we cannot take in any more.”
He said he would like to know where excess dogs and cats are housed in other cities when their shelters are filled to legal capacity.
Bulloch County has no leash laws, no spay and neuter requirements, no pet registry and limited resources, he said.
“I think we have an effective service. The Department of Agriculture inspects us and regulates us. We get good reports.”
Marz suggested the shelter utilize social media more effectively, allow licensed rescue groups to take pets that have not been adopted, host more adoption events and make use of more volunteers.
A shelter board of directors would be an asset, he said.
“We must have momentous change in the power structure. Nothing less will work.”
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.