A situation is unfolding at Richmond County Animal Services (RCAS) in Augusta, Georgia that has animal rescue groups up in arms and fighting for reform.
The sad truth of the matter is; the shelter is city run and faced with limited space, a high stray population, and widespread animal neglect. Due to all of these factors combined the shelter euthanizes 70% of the animals that come through its doors each year. Augusta Law Department, provides these numbers: 9,328 animals were admitted into AAC in 2013 and 825 were adopted out. So far in 2014, 5,314 were admitted and 496 were adopted out. This comes down to a 9% adoption rate,
Words used to describe the situation include shocking, numbing, and heart wrenching. The main thing that is angering rescue groups in the southeastern United States is; perfectly healthy dogs as well as as unhealthy dogs are being euthanized when there are rescue groups willing to take them in. All of this is based on a current Georgia law that requires public shelters to sterilize animals before relinquishing them to rescue groups or private citizens or entering into a contract with the person or rescue groups acquiring the animal guaranteeing they will sterilize the pet within a month.
Add to the dilemma the fact that the shelter veterinarian has resigned so there is no one on staff to sterilize the dogs in order to release them to the various rescues that are willing to take them in.
Many rescues have stepped forward and offered to take the dogs and alter them at their own expense then send the paperwork to Richmond County Animal Services proving the dogs have been spayed/neutered but these offers have been met with resistance by the Augusta Animal Services Director Sharon Broady. Broady states this type of arrangement has been unsuccessful in the past and would actually add to the pet overpopulation problem instead of helping it. Broady further advises they do not have the budget or the staff to ensure the rescue groups or the new owners have complied with the sterilization law.
Michele Wacker of Poodle and Pooch Rescue in Orlando, Florida has been very vocal about the conditions at RCAS and has contacted the Governor’s Office in July asking them to intervene and bring about much needed shelter reform. Michele’s main argument hinges on the Georgia Sterilization Act that allows rescue groups to pay for and save unsterilized dogs from RCAS then provide proof of sterilization within 30 days. According to Wacker, Sharon Broady is forbidding rescue groups from doing this and is implementing a policy that is not required by the Georgia Sterilization Act and is completely unethical and detrimental to saving as many animals as possible. Wacker further states that this unnecessary action on Broady’s part is what is causing the sickening conditions of overcrowding at the RCAS shelter creating a hoarding like environment.
Rescue groups up and down the east coast of the United States have been fighting to remove large numbers of dogs from RCAS but are being turned away. Rescue workers are looking at the animals as being held prisoner by the city of Augusta and the RCAS while they are offering money to save them.
In early August Michele Wacker asked to save 30 dogs from RCAS and was willing to pay the asking price. RCAS released 21 dogs to Michele’s rescue (Poodle and Pooch Rescue). They saw other dogs at RCAS that were not on a stray hold and asked if they could pay for these dogs as well and were told no. Wacker felt very frustrated, like they were no longer there to adopt dogs but to pay a ransom to free them so they could place them in homes. The answer was still no. Michele and her team went back to Orlando, Florida with cash in their pockets and empty cages in their vans. Wacker states that Sharon Broady not only refused the rescue of multiple dogs but also prevented her volunteers from even seeing the dogs so they could rescue them. Broady only allowed the volunteers to see 50 of the hundreds of dogs at RCAS now. Wacker feels that Broady is trying to hide the conditions of RCAS from the public and the rescue groups. RCAS is a publicly funded facility so the public should be allowed in to see what their money is funding.
In the meantime hundreds of dogs are suffering and languishing away at RCAS while an Animal Service Director is denying them lifesaving help from rescues.
This problem is not going away until RCAS gives rescue group volunteers full access to the dogs; lets rescue groups pay to save sterilized or unsterilized dogs, lets them save the very young, the very old, the sick and the homeless and abide by the Georgia Law governing the Sterilization Certificate Program.
This will not happen unless Animal Services Director Sharon Broady takes the smart, compassionate, logical steps to fix this situation.
Kudos to Michele Wacker and all other rescue groups up and down the east coast for speaking up for the animals because they cannot speak for themselves.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”