Valdosta, Georgia- July 12, 2012
Sadie is a sweet young stray who was taken in by the Valdosta Animal Shelter. Like most dogs, she loves attention. Taking her out to play means making a friend. Sadly, though, Sadie didn't make a friend.
After 5 days with no one to claim her, she was led out of her kennel, walked down the hallway and led into a room… She never came out alive.
Sadie is one of more than 2 thousand dogs put down ever year in Valdosta. In 2011, 13 pregnant dogs were even put to sleep. With numbers like these it's easy to want to blame someone. But the root of the problem goes deeper than an animal's final hour.
Lowndes County Clerk Paige Dukes says "what citizens need to understand is that the blood is on the hands of the person that refuses to have that animal spayed or neutered. Not on the hands of the shelter employees, or the shelter, or the county. You sentence that animal to death when you decide to let it reproduce and you're not responsible for that offspring."
In Tallahassee the dog deaths are even worse. Erika Leckington, the Tallahassee Animal Shelter Director, says "It's a big problem here. We take in about three times the national average of pets per human population."
Many of those pets will never leave. Last year more than 4,000 dogs were euthanized in Tallahassee. That's just a fraction of the animals that are left at the shelter. When you sweep your pet problems under the rug, it doesn't mean they go away.
Leckington went on to say "we have five cages as you can see behind me. And we take in anywhere from a thousand to 12 hundred animals a year through these drop cages. And sometimes they're full, sometimes they only have a couple of animals. And sometimes they're over full with more animals than they should hold and cages stacked in front of the shelter with animals in them."
There are 8 full time animal care staff members at this shelter. The national standard says they should have 22… meaning in the war against overpopulation these odds simply aren't enough.
It's clear the problem of overpopulation is not going away. But that doesn't mean you can't make a difference. The Humane Society has local branches across the country, including in Valdosta and Tallahassee. They are funded completely by donations. Or you can give another way... by fostering a dog.
Kate MacFall, the Florida Director of the Humane Society, says "It's the best kept secret. Because in your life, in your work, your neighbors your friends, you know people that might be interested. So you take them home. It's temporary it's not a lifelong commitment. It's perfect, you get them out of the shelter opening up that kennel for the next animal who needs it, whose life depends on it."
Beyond fostering, beyond donating money, the most important thing you can do to help prevent the thousands of dogs that die every year in Florida and Georgia-- Spay and neuter your animal.