2009-12-16 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Part 2- please “Adopt A Shelter”- “Yes, West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”…to paraphrase the famous 1897 editorial in the New York Sun, I would love to utter these words, assuring the small, dedicated staff at Wetzel County Animal Shelter (WCAS) in West Virginia (WV), working against insurmountable odds, that kind folks will help them care for and successfully place their flood of wonderful dogs. That is what the “Adopt A Shelter” concept is all about.

Recap: In last week’s “Pets”- “Veronica: The Voyage of the Beagle”, Last Hope Animal Rescue was asked to help this struggling WV shelter and their many discarded Beagles and Hounds. The email plea sparked by “Sparky” came from a caring LI teacher who adopted Sparky, another needy Beagle after he’d been saved by the WCAS director. So inspired we drove to Delaware to get Veronica from a rescue transport. Last Hope has already placed this sweet Beagle with a family. Inquiries began before we got back with her. (To read the column, see Post “Pets” 12/9/09 online.)

Why Adopt This Shelter: Veronica is just 1 Beagle; Wetzel Co. Shelter is just 1 overwhelmed rural shelter, but both are symbolic of the countless highly adoptable dogs in the South who don’t stand a chance unless we “redistribute”, change callous attitudes and preach the importance of spay/neuter. Desirable dogs follow the laws of supply and demand. Yes, there are homeless dog problems on LI, and we are not forsaking them. We have a Pit Bull plethora, languishing in our shelters. Though it is difficult to find responsible homes for Pits, our local shelters have bigger budgets and better support. Meanwhile the same dogs that would be adopted in a heartbeat here are quickly euthanized when in overcrowded, understaffed Southern shelters. No one there wants them.

Comparing West Virginia to Long Island demographically is unfair in an “apples to oranges” way. However, the ratio of residents to impounded dogs- Wetzel County Shelter (pop.17,000) took in 400 dogs last year while Babylon Town (pop. 212,000) accepted 900+ dogs during the same time- demonstrates the WV dog surplus.

I am ineptly trying to be diplomatic. Homeless pets are a low priority wherever county funding is sparse. In poor rural areas, a dog’s value is tied to his ability to put food on the table. If the Hound can’t hunt, he’s history. As stated last week, “shoot, shovel, shut up” is the country folk way to eliminate “worthless” dogs. When Rosy Cozart, a registered nurse, took over Wetzel Co. Shelter 8 years ago she faced unfathomable obstacles. She has instituted many improvements and reached out to distant rescues to rehome these deserving dogs, but her shelter is cramped and her staff skeletal. Most of the impounded dogs are housed outdoors, 2 to 3 to a kennel. Dogs mustn’t fight, even those previously starved for food, or they can’t stay. Despite tight funds, all WCAS dogs leaving for homes or rescues have been altered, vaccinated, and heartworm tested. That is a huge achievement. The temperaments tend to be excellent because shelter survival is dependent on their getting along with others.

Wetzel Co. Shelter has about 30 dogs (and about the same number of cats) at a time, accepting 400 to 500 dogs a year The neighboring county doesn’t have a shelter so, in essence, WCAS covers both because people fabricate where they find dogs. This is similar to nearby LI shelters picking up the feline slack of N. Hempstead which refuses to accept any cats. (If we had a dime for everyone who ever lied at a municipal shelter counter, we could build Wetzel a state of the art facility.)

Take a Wetzel shelter photo tour (www.petfinder.com/ shelters/WV63.html) and then picture this: WCAS only has 2 employees a day- the director and a part-timer, so busy it is hard for them to answer the phone. Rosy has added 2 additions and more outdoor kennels to make more room, but without additional staff to care for the dogs properly she refuses to tie dogs to stakes and warehouse them. As she laments: “I can’t keep them if I can’t give them proper clean shelter and attention. It is so sad.” Each forced euthanasia decision kills a little bit of her.

I can’t stop thinking that we took the Beagle “Veronica” but left her buddy, “Archie” behind. Archie is so housebroken that he can “hold it” over 18 hours. What Beagle can do that? Then there is “Axel”, a 1-yearold longhaired Doxie. It never ends. If only we could wave a wand to find them homes. As disheartening as slow adoptions are at LI shelters, it is frustrating not to be able to help the WV dogs allotted so little time to catch someone’s eye.

Ways to Adopt Wetzel Co. Shelter: Monetary gifts can indirectly hire more staff by offsetting veterinary expenses, making the Wetzel dogs more comfortable, buying food and supplies and financing transports. Folks with corporate connections may be able to have merchandise sent. WCAS always needs dry and canned pet food, clay litter and bleach- all expensive to ship.

WCAS just received 501c 3 tax-exempt status for a Wetzel Co. Animal Shelter Supporters, Inc. fund (WCASS). A $$ donation of any size will help tremendously. Wetzel animals travel an hour each way to Parkersburg for spay/neuter and a new monthly van takes residents’ cats to Wheeling for low cost spay/ neuter. The address for donations is: WCASS, Inc., RR2 Box 57, New Martinsville, WV 26155.

Most of the WCAS dogs live outside so the Kuranda Beds which can be donated right on the Petfinder website are a luxury. (Oyster Bay Shelter dogs and cats love Kuranda Beds too.)

Bookmark the WCAS Petfinder list to notify other NE or purebred rescues that WCAS is “rescue friendly”. Some might want to drive legs of pet transports. The Delaware Alliance (daawgs.org) is a liaison for delivering WCAS dogs to other states.

The last idea comes from Michele Krause the high school teacher who alerted Last Hope about Rosy and her WV wards. Her school’s Key Club plans to start a service project seeking donations for WCAS and a responsible pet care campaign. Hopefully the W.Tresper Clarke Key Club will network with a Key Club in WV as a “Hands Across America” approach to bring these important messages back home. Education is the Key to compassion.

For Adoption: The Oyster Bay Shelter dogs must think I have abandoned them. I haven’t. “Venus” # 826 is a well-behaved Lab mix. Her owner moved. “Ernest” # 777 a handsome beige cat is the official greeter in the lobby. The shelter (677-5784) is located on Miller Pl, Syosset.

Dogs: “Radar”-#790-Shepherd mix pup; Bearded Collie type #807; “Romeo”#603-American Bulldog.

Cats: white declawed spayed Persian #829; “Salem” #668-black kitten.

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