Colleton County Animal Services has its plate full

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Colleton County Animal Services is a major operation. Led by director Laura Clark, CCAS encompasses the animal shelter, animal control and mosquito abatement. But the most heart-wrenching division is the animal shelter.

With the efforts of Friends of the Colleton County Animal shelter (FoCCAS), most of the animals who end up there are rescued and given a chance for a forever home. Very few are euthanized, and those that are put down are too ill to recover or too vicious to be rehabilitated.

One of the saddest experiences for Clark is daily having to pick up dogs and cats whose families don’t want them anymore and surrender them to the shelter. These animals have been with their families for years and don’t understand what is happening. They are frightened and some become aggressive.

Owning an animal is not that different from having a child in the home. They need care, proper food, vaccinations and attention. Most dogs have the same mental capacity and ability that a human toddler has to understand things. So why would owners give them up? But about 6-7 people a week give up their dogs to the shelter.

While puppies are certainly adorable, they will eventually grow up. They won’t remain tiny forever, so if those considering bringing a dog into their home need to understand that this is not a temporary event — animal ownership requires dedication and hard work. For those unwilling to be that responsible, then owning a pet is not for you. Volunteering at the animal shelter might give you an idea about whether owning a pet is the right decision.

Another sad issue for Clark is dealing with animals whose owners have let their numbers get out of hand and are unable to give them proper care.

Recently, a large number of dogs and cats from Cottageville came into the shelter from a situation where attempts at breeding the animals for sale resulted in unmanageable numbers.

The consumer demand for puppies and kittens couldn’t keep up with number of puppies and kittens being born. The breeder didn’t have the means to have the adult dogs and cats spayed or neutered. Fearing arrest, the owner didn’t contact anyone for help. He also worried that his animals would be euthanized if he called the shelter. Caught up in a vicious cycle, the owner could no longer care for his animals, and they were beginning to suffer.

“Family members noticed that the situation was growing worse and wanted to do the right thing, but they didn’t know what the right thing was. They were afraid that the puppies would be put down. But they finally sought help for the pets when they began to notice that some were underfed, sick and injured,” said Clark. “Neighbors had even discovered that one of the dogs had died. They called animal control, which rounded up most of the dogs and cats and took them to the shelter. They all needed deworming various medical treatments, vaccinations, spaying or neutering and rehabilitation,” she said.

Some of the dogs had bite wounds all over their bodies from having to fight for the small amount of food the owner was able to afford and put out for them. “They were just trying to survive, a natural instinct for them,” said Clark.

The dogs and cats went to the shelter, and three large pythons went to the Edisto Serpentarium. Efforts are still underway to capture the rest of the animals at the residence in Cottageville.

“The owner hugged each animal and cried as we put it in a cage to take to the shelter for treatment,” said Clark. “He never intended to hurt or mistreat any of the animals; he loved them all and his intentions were good. But it happened anyway. He got in over his head and then didn’t have the means to take care of them.”

There were 14 puppies and 10 adult Staffordshire terriers (pit bull and bulldog mix) dogs taken into the shelter, the hardest to adopt out due to their unfortunate and often misunderstood reputation. All shelters are full of pit bull breeds.

“If you have a friend, family member or neighbor in this situation, the right thing to do is to contact the shelter. We don’t divulge information; we just want what is best for the animals,” Clark said. “We want to help. No one will be arrested, but if the irresponsible behavior continues, we will go before the magistrate to stop the situation from happening again. We take in 1,200 dogs a year; each animal must be vaccinated, chipped, spayed or neutered, and dewormed. It costs over $100 per dog. Do the math. This is not just a shelter problem … this is a community problem. Not spaying or neutering animals places a tremendous burden on everyone in the county. It’s expensive,” Clark said.

Right now, the shelter has approximately 230 cats and 70 dogs needing homes. These animals have been abandoned on the side of the road, had their family move away and leave them behind, were given up because they became inconvenient, left in the woods after hunting or taken from irresponsible owners.

The number of shelter animals is growing daily; they need forever homes. Not everyone can adopt a pet, and some pet owners can only afford one or two animals. But everyone can help the shelter and the animals trying to find homes by donating to FoCCAS or the Colleton Animal Shelter.

Large donations are desperately needed and appreciated, but so are the small $5 ones.

“We want to be known as an ethical shelter, and we want to be responsible and dedicated to our animals. But the community needs to help, too,” Clark said. “We do everything we can to offer adoptions and spaying and neutering as inexpensively as possible across the entire county, but all of this costs money. None of the outlying towns and communities, as well as the City of Walterboro contribute, and even the county cut our budget by 5% — so these animals’ lives depend on help from the community.”

To donate to the shelter, message FoCCAS on Facebook or take a donation to the shelter on 33 Poor Farm Road off Green Pond Highway. ed by director Laura Clark, CCAS encompasses the animal shelter, animal control and mosquito abatement.

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