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Web posted July 9, 2006 Shawnee News-Star

Abandoned animals a people problem, volunteers say

By Erin Medley Shawnee News-Star Reporter
Photos by Jason Smith News-Star Photographer

We've all seen them walking along a country road or dumped in our own neighborhoods. Some are pregnant, while others are starving and hardly alive.

Abandoned cats and dogs are a problem not only for Shawnee Animal Control, they are a problem for residents in and around Shawnee.

Randy Newton of Shawnee Animal Control said the number of animals impounded was down in 2001, but is slowly starting to rise again.

In June 2005, 320 animals were impounded, 12 were adopted, 17 were reclaimed and 270 were euthanized.

Newton said the problem is irresponsible people. People think they can just get rid of their pets, he said.

Shawnee Animal Control can take in only animals in the city limits, but often receives calls from surrounding rural areas.

Newton said people don't realize they aren't doing the animals a favor when they dump them. They will starve to death or get hit by a car, he said.

"You can't kill the problem," he said. "You have to prevent it."

With spaying and neutering prices increasing, many people just can't afford it, often leaving pet owners with unwanted litters.

In order to get a handle on overpopulation, Newton said, spaying and neutering is the answer. Currently, Shawnee Animal Control requires that the animals adopted from the facility are spayed or neutered after they are adopted. If the new owner fails to do so, they are taken to court, he said.

Adoptions from Shawnee Animal Control are $30; once the new owner provides paperwork to prove that the adopted animal has been spayed or neutered, $25 will be refunded.

One volunteer, Diane Stegall, has helped animal control tremendously with adoptions. Since the beginning of the year, she has taken 110 animals out of the facility's possession and had them adopted or taken to different rescue groups.

Saving Pets At Risk (SPAR) is a local organization that has been trying to help with the problem of unwanted animals.

"I think there is such an overflow because animals are coming into the shelter every day. They are killing around eight each day," said Kari Barrett, spay and neuter director of SPAR. "We have too many when we have to kill."

Barrett, who began a monthly spay/neuter clinic in Shawnee, said she believes spaying and neutering will help get a grasp on the problem.

"Aggressive spay and neuter would make a difference," she said.

Bonnie Arnold, foster home coordinator for SPAR, said she agrees with Barrett in that spaying and neutering would make a difference. She and her husband currently house 20 SPAR foster dogs on their property. At left Mike Arnold of SPAR sits with NuNu, a pit bull SPAR has ready for adoption.

Dr. Brad Roach of Best Friends Pet Clinic has been volunteering to help with the clinics. Approximately 20 animals are receiving service through the clinics each month, Barrett said. Some veterinarians in Stillwater performed the surgeries last month when Roach was unable to do it, she said.

"Dr. Roach has been super," she said.

A family must make $25,000 or less to qualify for the program, or they must receive some sort of government assistance, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Access Oklahoma.

Barrett said she has been talking with other veterinarians in the area about participating.

"We need more vets to participate," Arnold said.

Newton thinks a low-cost clinic devoted only to spaying and neutering dogs and cats would help significantly, plus it would not take away regular customers for local veterinarians. He recommends hiring a new or semi-retired veterinarian to work in the clinic.

Currently, the cost of euthanasia for the city is $9 per animal.

Barrett said she believes aggressive spaying and neutering would save money for Shawnee.

"I can't even imagine how much," she said.

So will Shawnee ever see a low-kill animal shelter? Arnold thinks there are too many unwanted animals for a low-kill shelter to happen.

"We don't have the room," she said.

Both Newton and Barrett think it's achievable.

"Chances are good with the city's support and volunteers' support," Barrett said.

For more information on Spay/Neuter Clinics or to volunteer, call SPAR at 702-7727.