Fairfield County, Ohio, one of Ohio's fastest growing counties, is located about 30 miles
southeast of Columbus. As the County's population increases, it has changed from a
mostly rural area to a mix or rural and urban, but many governmental and public offices
have struggled to keep pace with the County's growth.
Animal overpopulation is a nationwide problem leading to many thousands of unnecessary animal deaths. Not only are animals being "euthanized" when shelters cannot
handle the load, but they are being abused and neglected as well. The methods of euthanasia and disposal used in government operated shelters are often inhumane, adding needless suffering to the short lives of the victims.
Here in Fairfield County, animals in our shelters are routinely "gassed" as a means of euthanasia, which is a cruel and expensive method that has been banned in many states. The victims do not just "go to sleep," and those that do not die immediately often suffer. Gassing can also present serious safety issues for shelter workers.
Unwanted animals are often dumped like trash on the roadside. Others are beaten, poisoned, sold to research labs, or used as "bait" for dogfighting. Many more loving, healthy animals live isolated lives at the end of a chain, never being socialized to animals or people. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has confirmed that chained dogs are more likely to bite or attack, regardless of the breed.
This is a health and safety issue for humans and animals. Other state and local governments have started to address this problem by enacting laws which completely ban chaining animals or limit the time they can be chained.
Animals in Fairfield County continue to suffer because of the widening gap between the increasing needs of a growing human and animal population and the ability of government and public agencies to respond to those needs.
We can prevent many animals from dying unnecessarily in Fairfield County. There are low-cost spay and neuter clinics in other counties that help curb the animal population growth. There are also many animal rescue groups, foster and adoptive homes. However, there are not enough options available in Fairfield County.
We must combine our efforts to control the growth of the pet population with steps to provide more humane and more effective care for the animals already among us. These are our friends, companions, and family members.
There are many animal rescue groups nationwide that assist shelter animals. These groups offer medical care, spay or neuter services, as well as board, transport and relocate shelter animals. Rescue groups also screen adopters and offer support following adoptions. However, they cannot do it without the cooperation of government officials. Our elected officials have done little to change these outdated systems. In fact, some resist positive change.
There are many people who would welcome these "castaways" into their homes, but it will take time and effort to reach out to those people and get the animals to them. We cannot save them all but we can reduce the numbers that are killed and we can reduce the suffering of those that survive. We can also insure that those animals that are euthanized are treated humanely.
Our shelters should take an active role in placing adoptable animals, even those with health issues, and conduct outreach programs in the community to educate and do fundraising. This means raising additional funds beyond the license fees that are used in poorly run shelters. They should extend shelter hours to accommodate working families or out-of-town adopters, and use screened volunteers and animal rescues to help.
Moreover, the shelters in our community should utilize medical and veterinary care checking each animal taken in for disease and injury, and spaying and neutering animals before they leave. They should establish intake procedures that check for microchips, tattoos or tags in order to identify the owner and reunite the animal with its family. In addition, they should isolate young and new animals from the general population. Shelter staff should receive constant training on ways to improve services and care of the animals.
These efforts have been used for many years across the country for a simple reason: because they work. It is time for a change for the animals in our community, and this must come through education and a commitment by those in the community to help them. Won't you please become a part of the solution?