Let’s face it; there is nothing sexy about preventing a problem. You can’t look in the face of the kitten or puppy that was never born and heave a sigh of relief that you don’t have to be concerned about an unwanted life that never happened. There are no heartrending pictures of the consequent neglect, or abandonment. There are no pleading fur faces peering through cage wire. I know this is true, because I watch the money roll in for the PAWS rescue programs that can press that emotion button over and over again and have people from all over the county, state, and country pressing PAWS donate buttons to save another lucky puppy or dog from certain death. They deserve it. It feels good to do something that essential to life.
PAWS offers another way to feel good that can be illustrated in six months of May, May being the beginning of the “summer surge months” in national shelters and Aiken County Animal Shelter is no exception. There are three ways for an animal to be impounded: an officer picks it up, a citizen brings it in, or an owner gives it up. There are three ways for an animal to get out alive: an owner picks it up (RTO), someone adopts it, or it is transferred to a 501(c)(3) rescue. Everything else dies in the shelter.
As reflected in the chart below, the numbers are coming down and it is very likely because PAWS and the SPCA are spaying or neutering everything we can get our hands on. Since April alone, PAWS SNYP Program (Spay/Neuter Your Pet) has referred over 170 animals to the SPCA for surgery. Since we began our joint effort, 136 surgeries have been funded meaning literally thousands of unwanted litters that will not happen in six more Mays. But we can only continue with your help. Please contribute to PAWS-SNYP and here’s why:
According to county shelter data, this May there appears to be a huge change. Although live release has remained relatively steady for four consecutive years, since May of last year, the number of animals killed is down 63%. Owner surrenders are down 30%, officer pick-ups are down 30% and total animals received is down 15%. Even citizen drop-offs are down 10%. This is all in the first of the summer high intake months.
Five years ago this month, I had the privilege to incorporate Friends of the Animal Shelter, now well-known as FOTAS, and 2009 was also the year that I started accumulating data. Aiken County Animal Services and the miserably inadequate pound it operated was a huge problem. Well over five-thousand cats and dogs were impounded annually and more than 9 out of 10 left in big black garbage bags.
Once founded, FOTAS immediately went to work on the shelter population with volunteer recruitment, foster programs for puppies and kittens and a transfer program that sent many fortunate candidates north. For the first three years all available energy went towards saving animals and raising money to help the county build an adequate county animal shelter. It wasn’t until the spring of 2012 that a big shelter fundraiser in Columbia offered a way for area rescues to earn spay/neuter funds. FOTAS jumped on it.
That summer a pilot program was launched in Wagener, logistically the best place from which to send animals to Columbia. Wagener also was blessed with a committed mayor and great volunteers. When the Columbia funds were gone, the new SPCA’s high-volume clinic stepped in to help and the spay/neuter assistance program began to expand. A year later FOTAS and I parted company and Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc. (PAWS) was created to permanently eliminate the need for area shelters to kill companion animals because there are too many of them to accommodate. Unwanted litter prevention is the heart of PAWS mission.
February 2014 the beautiful Aiken County Animal Shelter opened its doors. It is a facility in which we can all finally take pride. It was designed to accommodate the problem the previous facility was inadequate to address; not to expand its intake capacity, nor its holding capacity. Out of concern that the numbers might explode with the perception that the county was now in the animal warehousing business, I continued to track the data. It was a delightful surprise to discover that the situation is actually beginning to improve.
We are very proud of what we are accomplishing, and we cannot do it without your help. We have no heart-wrenching photos of the absence of homeless pets for our SNYP Program. What we can offer are the thousands of animals who will not have to die for lack of homes and lack of space. Please help us by sending a check to PAWS – SNYP, P.O. Box 392 Aiken, 29802 or go to our website paws4nokill.org. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit registered in South Carolina. Give what you can so we can do what we do. God bless you for caring.
A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.
P.S. Hows this for heartwrenching?