Along with rising foreclosures in Newton County, another trend has started to rear its ugly head. Those forced out of their homes sometimes leave animals behind, while people who cannot afford to feed their animals leave them to starve rather than give them away.
According to Newton County Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hoosen, the shelter has not seen an increase in people turning their animals in because they are forced to move or because they can no longer care for them.
Increasingly, Key-Hoosen is finding that people are moving out of their homes - both renters and owners whose homes have lapsed into foreclosure - and leaving their animals behind. The lucky animals are the ones whose owners leave them free to roam the neighborhood. At least those animals can forage for food and water, Key-Hoosen said. Many dogs are being left locked inside the homes or inside of enclosed yards with no way to find nourishment. This leaves them confused and often aggressive when they are found. Depending on how long animals have been locked up without food and water, they may be beyond saving once Animal Control has been notified.
Another upsetting trend Animal Control has noticed is pet owners not feeding their animals. Sadly, it is not necessarily because the owner doesn't want to feed their pet. In some instances, according to Key-Hoosen, they simply cannot afford to feed their dog and themselves and are too embarrassed to ask for help.
"Sometimes it's not that they don't want to take care of the animals," said Key-Hoosen. "They just can't afford to do it. And they don't want to call animal control because they are embarrassed that things have gotten this bad in their life."
Another hindrance for many people is that they believe if they take their pet to animal control, it will immediately be put to sleep - something that is not necessarily the case. Newton County Animal Control does not have to adhere to a specific guideline on how long they house an animal. It all depends on how many animals are in the shelter at that particular time. Another factor would be if the animal is aggressive or has been abused and starved beyond help. In cases such as these, when an animal is not adoptable, euthanasia is an option. Although many believe it cruel, Key-Hoosen points out that letting animals starve is infinitely more inhumane than euthanasia.
"What's worse?" she asked, "Having the animal starve to death and letting them feel confused and abandoned, or allowing them to be someplace where they are warm and have food and water and interaction with people."
Animal control also will work with people who want to care for their animal and are unable to do so and cannot find another home for their pet.
"We will always take the animal in," she said. "And we will try to work with those people who are in desperate situations. We always want to work for what's in the best interest of the animal."
A way to help the animals of Newton County - especially this holiday season - is to consider adopting from the shelter instead of purchasing a pet from a specialty store or breeder. Animal control always has several cats, kittens, dogs and puppies available for adoption. They are also open to speaking with those interested in adoption about just what bringing an animal into the home could entail, both emotionally and financially.
For more information about adoptions, contact the animal shelter at (770) 786-9514, visit www.co.newton.ga.us, or visit from 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. weekdays and from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays at 210 Lower River Road, Covington.