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Surrendering animals: A pet owner's last resort

 

Dr. Lindsey Pierce of Best Friends Animal Hospital hopes to find a home for this Rottweiler mix, who was abandoned at the facility's hospital Wednesday. Pierce said veterinary offices are ill-equipped to serve as shelters for unwanted pets. Animal shelters, humane societies and rescue groups are the better choices for those who can no longer care for their pets.

Dr. Lindsey Pierce of Best Friends Animal Hospital hopes to find a home for this Rottweiler mix, who was abandoned at the facility's hospital Wednesday. Pierce said veterinary offices are ill-equipped to serve as shelters for unwanted pets. Animal shelters, humane societies and rescue groups are the better choices for those who can no longer care for their pets. Photo by: Slim Smith/Dispatch Staff

 

Slim Smith

 

 

It was a typical busy Wednesday at Best Friends Animal Hospital, which is probably why the veterinary staff was unaware of what was happening in its parking lot on Highway 45 in Columbus. 

 

About 10:30 that morning, a woman pulled into the parking lot close to the building's south wall and tied a dog up to a metal bracket on the building. When the dog pulled free and jumped back into the car, the woman circled the parking lot, stopped and again tied the dog to the bracket before leaving. 

 

The dog's expandable leash allowed him to wander up to the highway, where a customer at the bank next door saw the dog standing on Highway 45, rushed to pull the dog off the road and took him inside the animal hospital. 

 

"I just couldn't believe it," said Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Lindsey Pierce. "For someone to do that, it's just unacceptable. That's just not what you do." 

 

It is also against the law, according to Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton. 

 

"That would come under Section 97-4-2 in the state code," Shelton said. "That section covers neglected or abandoned animals." 

 

It's a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a $100 fine and up to 10 days in county jail. 

 

In the days since the dog's arrival, Pierce and her staff have come to believe the dog was dropped off by the dog's owner rather than someone who simply discovered the animal and brought to their facility. 

 

"He has obviously been taken care of," Pierce said. "He seemed to be well-fed and there wasn't a flea or a tick on him. When we watched the surveillance tape, it was pretty obvious he knew the owner, just by the way he was acting. I have no idea why she would do this. He's a sweet dog." 

 

 

 

What to do? 

 

There are times when pet owners find themselves incapable of continuing to care for their pet, which leads to an obvious question: What do you do? 

 

That is a situation Christy Wells, director of the Oktibbeha County Humane Society, frequently encounters. 

 

"At any time, we'll have anywhere from 150 to 200 dogs and cats that are brought in to us," Wells said. "Some of them will be brought in by the city or county animal control people, but the majority are either brought in by citizens or by the owners." 

 

In the case of the dogs that arrive at the Humane Society, almost all of them were formerly someone's pet. 

 

"For a lot of dog-owners, we're sort of their last resort," Wells said. "Usually, the dogs have been taken care of, so it's not really a matter of the owner just not wanting them anymore. For whatever reason, they realize they can't take care of the pet anymore and want to do what's right. Most of the time, they tell us that they've tried to re-home the dog or cat before coming to us." 

 

Under state law, humane societies, shelters and rescue groups must keep the animal for five days before putting it up for adoption. 

 

"That gives us time to check it out, medically," Wells said. "It also gives us time to see if there are any behavioral issues that we need to know about. Most of the time, the animal is eligible to be adopted, although there are situations where a dog just can't be adopted, either for medical or behavioral issues." 

 

Wells said she believes some owners are afraid to surrender their animals for fear of the reaction. 

 

"That's unfortunate," she said. "When it gets to this point, surrendering the animal is the only right thing to do. For us, it allows us to know the animal's medical and behavioral background. So surrendering really makes adopting out that animal easier." 

 

Although humane societies are not "no-kill" facilities, Wells said the majority of pets turned in do find homes, with an adoption rate of 97 percent. 

 

"No matter how you look at it, the best chance for survival is to bring them in," she said. 

 

 

 

Looking for a happy ending  

 

Pierce said Wednesday was "about the third time" someone has dropped off a pet at Best Friends. Whatever their intentions, it's the wrong thing to do. 

 

"We just aren't equipped to be a shelter," Pierce said. 

 

As for the dog that was dropped off Wednesday, Pierce and her staff have been busy trying to find the dog a home. 

 

"By Tuesday, every spot we have is going to be filled, so we really need to find him a good home," Pierce said. 

 

Best Friends staff calls the dog Tyler and he's become a sweet, if temporary, addition to the hospital -- 82 pounds of puppy enthusiasm. 

 

"He's such a good dog," noted Pierce, who said Tyler is a Rottweiler mix, probably between 1 and 2 years old. "He's playful and sweet. I think he would be a great pet for someone." 

 

Since his arrival, Tyler has tested heart-worm negative, has been vaccinated and started on heart-worm preventative medication. Pierce said if someone wants to adopt him, she'll neuter him for no charge and provide four 1-hour training sessions, also at no cost. 

 

Anyone interested in adopting Tyler should call Best Friends at (662) 798-0878. 

 

"I really hope someone out there will call," Pierce said. "He's a sweet boy. This was a bad story that needs a happy ending."

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

 

 

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