Balancing hope and despair

19 October 2014


By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

It’s not easy writing a weekly column about a public shelter like the Aiken County Animal Shelter.

I could write every single week on the issues of overpopulation of animals in the County due to unplanned and indiscriminate breeding, the need to spay and neuter pets, animal abuse, overcrowded shelter facilities due to off-the-charts intake, or the 69% euthanasia rate, and then attach a photo of a desperate, sick and beat-up animal staring pitifully out of its kennel with a caption like “Why won’t someone love me?”

But that’s only half the picture, and really, isn’t the world scary enough these days without me adding a little Sunday sadness to your lives?

Here’s the other half of the picture: there are so many wonderful things happening at the new County shelter. I could also write every week about that and attach a photo of happy owners and happy dogs, children reading to puppies, Girl Scouts cleaning up the grounds, and dedicated FOTAS volunteers socializing the dogs and cats.

It’s a balancing act – making sure that you, the community, know that your extraordinary efforts and generosity have made a life-saving difference in the lives of the County’s homeless and abandoned animals without creating a false sense of job done, mission complete.

Because the job is not done: the intake numbers at the Shelter are still dismally high, nearly 5000 animals last year alone. It’s like sweeping back the ocean with a broom – they come through the door faster than we can move them out.

And the mission is not complete: 69% of the animals that pass through the County Shelter’s doors are euthanized.

So, I have to remind myself, and you, that significant, steady headway is being made in reducing overpopulation and increasing adoptions.

In September, FOTAS’ Lenny’s Brigade and Fix-a-Pet spayed and neutered 66 dogs and cats in the month of September; funded and organized 3 group pickups of pets and 1 group pickup of community cats from Wagner to be driven to the SPCA clinic, neutered and returned home; and funded 23 supplemental spay/neuter vouchers to qualifying citizens who called the FOTAS hotline.

Regular specials like the Silver Paws Program, $9 for 9 Lives and Back in Black have been wildly successful in increasing adoptions.

The FOTAS/County Heartworm Positive Program is also gaining momentum. In that program, heartworm positive dogs that are not sick are moved to the adoption floor (rather than euthanized), and FOTAS pays the first six months of heartworm medicine for anyone who adopts a heartworm positive dog. So far, 6 heartworm positive dogs have been adopted and saved.

FOTAS volunteer trainers Jay Lyda from Veterans K9 Solutions and Susi Cohen from Palmetto Dog Club work with other volunteers and high-energy dogs to teach basic obedience skills, which makes those dogs more adoptable.

In the past 4 months, Veteran’s K9 Solutions has placed 4 Shelter dogs with veterans to be service dogs.

Sixteen children attended the second Dog Ear’s Listening Program, where young children hone their reading skills by reading out loud to the attentive Shelter dogs.

So you see, lots of good things are happening at the Aiken County Animal Shelter – things that make a difference, things that save lives. We should all be proud of that.

But let’s not rest on our laurels.  Coconut, Rosa, Molly, Fiona, Mary Kate, Ashley, Mama Cass, Melissa, Bella, Onyx, Rufus, Ellie Mae, Chad, Lottie, Deno, Dale, Sassafras, Pal, Carrie, Wally, Romeo and a whole lot more fabulous dogs and cats at the County Shelter still need homes.


FOTAS’ Lenny’s Brigade and Fix a Pet programs funded the spay/neuters of 66 County dogs and cats in need  in month of September!


RUFUS — Male — Chow Chow — 4 yrs old — 42 lbs — $70

MOLLY — Female —  domestic short hair — 4 yrs old —  $35