County officials address problems at animal shelter

March 25, 2016 chris
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 By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

At the Etowah County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 15, Etowah County Animal Shelter volunteer George Iliff addressed the commission about the problems that the shelter was facing. 

Iliff says that the facility has been understaffed, and as a result, has been operating well under capacity, causing the rates of animals put down to rise. According to Iliff’s calculations 7,622 dogs and cats entered the shelter in the last two years. Of those, 1,587 dogs and cats have been adopted, rescued or reclaimed while 6,035 of the dogs and cats were euthanized. 

“I know that we can’t save them all, but we can save more than we’ve been saving,” said Iliff.

Iliff has volunteered with the shelter for several years, and said that he just wants the animals to have a better chance at adoption.

“I believe [the commissioners] probably were unaware what was going on,” said Iliff. “Hopefully now that they know the issues, I’m really hoping [the commissioners] can get these addressed, get it fixed.”

Sadly, euthanasia is unavoidable in animal shelters, as some animals are deemed unadoptable. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), animal shelters take in about 7.6 million animals a year. Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized and approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year. About 649,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners.

County Commissioner Joey Statum said that Iliff’s numbers are incorrect, but that “he made some valid points.” 

The county commissioners are working to resolve the issues brought up, especially the understaffing of the facility. A kennel technician was hired last week. The vet technician position has been posted in several places, and the county hopes to fill the position soon. The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department is also working to bring inmates to the facility as part of a volunteer program.

“It’s a positive thing that we are moving forward,” said Statum.

Chief Administrative Officer Sherrie Kelley is currently working with the shelter to increase adoptions and reach out to rescue groups.

“Our goal is to get as many animals adopted as possible,” said Statum. 

Statum also highlighted the responsibility of animal ownership as a problem that needed to be addressed. 

“Most animals left at the shelter are dropped off there,” said Statum. 

According to Statum, 68 percent of the animals at the shelter are given up by their owners. The number one thing responsible owners need to do is commit to the lifelong care of pets. Another step owners can take is to spay or neuter animals to prevent unwanted litters that can not be cared for. 

For anyone considering getting a pet, adoption can save the life of an animal and be cost-effective. The Etowah County Animal Shelter, located at 12071 US Hwy 278 East in Piedmont, does not have adoption fees. When approved for adoption, new owners must get the animals spayed or neutered and provide a rabies vaccine. To view animals up for adoptions or get more information, visit ecanimals.com or the Etowah County Animal Shelter Facebook page.

The shelter also takes donations, which can be given on its website.