But after two months of contemplation, her move proved rewarding — for both her and the dog.
When taken from a shelter by one of the five “foster parents” for the Rome-Floyd Humane Society, Basil, a stray, was malnourished, weighed a little more than three pounds and had tapeworms.
Martinez, of Acworth, said Lee Ann Gray, Basil’s foster parent, was very helpful in the adoption process. “She knew all of his mannerisms,” she said. “He adjusted better than I thought he would. I was very happy with the whole process.”
SOME NOT SO LUCKY
But not every dog or cat meets that fate. Some wander the streets carrying various diseases. Others are captured by Rome-Floyd Animal Control.
Philip Moore, director of the 431 Mathis Road animal control facility, said it sees anywhere from 5,500 to 6,000 animals a year, with the majority euthanized. So far this year, more than 2,000 animals have been put to sleep.
Animals at the facility are held for only 72 hours, by regulation, Moore said. “Most here have a week, no more than two. About one in five gets out of here alive, and that’s bad.”
The euthanized animals are given a drug, pentobarbital, which Moore said puts them to sleep within seconds. He described the method as painless.
WHERE IT ALL BEGINS
The animals at the center have fallen victim to an unwanting owner, a complaining resident or have simply shown up at the back door.
One reason for so many, Moore said, are owners who do not put tags on pets, frustrating efforts by the animal control center to return them to their owners.
The most common citations they issue go to owners who let pets run at large and who do not vaccinate their animals or put a tag on them, Moore said.
Some animals are dumped, even though it is a misdemeanor to do so in Floyd County. “I just don’t see how people can just drop them off and leave them,” said Judy Pierson, a volunteer with the Humane Society who has nine cats of her own, all of which were adopted.
WHAT THE LAW STATES
Rome’s leash law requires animal owners to keep pets restrained to the property or themselves by a fence or a leash. In the county, owners can leave animals unrestrained as long as he or she is with it but must keep them restrained to the property at other times.
Moore said the city is more restrictive on pit bulls, requiring they be muzzled and confined to a five-foot tall fence with a childproof lock. “But it’s not the certain breed of an animal. Just like a child, it all depends on how the animal is raised.”
Moore said he also has seen his share of cruelty, too. “There was a case where a dog was just eaten up with maggots. That was also a pit bull, and he was just skin and bones.”
Ann Turner, a volunteer “foster parent” for the Humane Society, said she found her toy poodle, Missy, and her puppies in the carcass of a deer. “She had the mange ... but we took her to the vet and got her fixed up.”
WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES
The Humane Society and Animal Control preach sterilization.
“We believe that spay/neuter and education are the best long-term approaches to controlling pet over-population and the quality of life for pets and strays,” said Maia Santamaria, operating director of the Humane Society. “We spend over half of the budget on spay/ neuter.”
Santamaria said for every one person born, 15 dogs and 45 cats are born.
“(Spay/neuter) is the only defense that any animal control in this country has,” said Moore.
State law requires that animals adopted from a shelter be spayed or neutered, and Animal Control’s policy calls for new pet owners to sign a contract agreeing to get the animal a rabies shot and sterilized. “But it’s hard to keep after them to make sure they do it,” said Moore.
So he plans to change the policy, requiring adopters go to veterinarians and prepay for shots and sterilization. They will be allowed two days to bring a receipt to the center, proving they have purchased the services.
Spay and neuter charges vary and, with dogs, depend on weight. Prices range from $100 to $180 for a dog spay, and from $80 to $120 for a dog neuter. A cat spay ranges from $90 to $110, and a cat neuter ranges from $60 to $80. If the animal is in heat or pregnant, the cost will be increased.
Santamaria said when funds are available at the Humane Society, coupons are offered to those in “serious financial need.”
“Animals that have been spayed or neutered before reaching maturity have a less chance for breast or prostate cancer,” she said. “They are also usually more mellow.”
A NATIONWIDE PROCESS
Moore said rescue agencies from all across the United States rescue animals from the shelter and usually find out about the animals through www.petfinder.com.
“We find about 80 percent of our animals on the Web, particularly through sites like ‘petfinder,’” said Scotlund Haisley, executive director of the Washington Animal Rescue League out of Washington, D.C., which traveled to Floyd County’s shelter earlier this year and got five dogs.
Established in 1914, the league uses a program called the Shelter Animal Relief Effort to partner with smaller shelters around the nation, rescuing animals, usually dogs, that are “adoptable.”
“Potentially adoptable simply means they’re not aggressive,” said Haisley.
The league takes in many sick animals, Haisley said, and provides them medical treatment and temperament testing. “We use the ShARE program and get animals from shelters who don’t have the resources we do.”
Of the five dogs taken from Rome, four were adopted and one died during surgery. One of those dogs was adopted by Haisley himself. The year-old bloodhound mix named Satchmo is recovering from heart worms, his guardian said.
WHERE TO ADOPT
The Humane Society, at its new 518 Broad St. location, as well as Sterile Feral Inc., 718 Kingston Ave., and The Pet Connection, 1953 Black’s Bluff Road, foster animals until guardians are found. Animal Control will keep animals for the restricted time in which they can be adopted.
Animal Control charges $25 for adopting a dog and $20 for a cat. The spay/neuter contract applies to both animals. If a new owner discovers the pet has a medical condition and does not want to keep it, that owner can return it with refund. But if the owner is simply unsatisfied with the pet, Moore said, there will be no refund on returning the pet.
The shelter’s operational money comes from the county’s general fund. Money from adoptions also goes into that fund.
As in Martinez’s case, animals adopted from the Humane Society are kept at a foster home.
Ann Turner, a volunteer foster guardian with the society, houses 15 dogs. Six are hers and the others are foster. “All are rescued,” she said.
“It’s great to take in a new animal and know nothing about them and then get to know them. They become part of your family,” she said.
Adopters are required to call the foster guardian periodically to ask questions and give updates. “It’s very rewarding when people adopt, especially when you find a really good home,” she said. “Someone out of Chattanooga adopted a Dachshund and has kept in touch with me.”
Turner also said neighborhood kids come to play with her dogs, which she says is a good way to “test their temperament.”
“But you can’t rescue another until you adopt the ones you have,” she said.
Animals adopted through the society are already spayed and neutered.
Cat adoptions are held the second Saturday of every month from 12 to 4 p.m. at the office, and dog adoptions are the third Saturday of every month at the same time and location.
Sterile Feral will host the 2003 Pet Project Saturday, Sept. 13, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at its 718 Kingston Ave. location, and will offer adoptions, a rabies clinic, a yard sale and a bake sale.
ANIMAL CONTROL FACTS
In the past three years, the Rome-Floyd Animal Control Facility has:
-- taken in roughly 18,000 cats and dogs, and
-- euthanized 6,700 dogs and 4,449 cats