After recently attending a Chesterfield County Council meeting I felt the urgency to write the following;
Everyday I read newspaper articles, hear TV reports, and review postings on social media networks regarding abuse, abandonment, neglect, hoarding, and the senseless deaths of innocent animals that we, the people of this community, allowed to be born into our society.
My experience has shown me that there is an easy solution to the overwhelming population of unwanted animals in Chesterfield County. Enact and enforce effective ordinances and laws regarding the ownership and treatment of domesticated animals, and charge, fine, and prosecute the offenders of such ordinances.
The three ordinances that I feel would make the biggest difference in the overpopulation and abuse of these animals are as follows:
— One, ordinance that calls for all citizens to have their cats and dogs spayed/neutered unless they have purchased a special license/permit to be a breeder of a particular dog.
— Two, ordinance that calls for any citizen of our county that owns, or would like to own more than 4 dogs, to purchase a permit or license. This will give the county or appropriate person(s) an opportunity to vet these owners to verify that illegal activities such as dog fighting, abuse, or neglect are not taking place at that residence.
— Three, ordinance that bans the breeding of any muscle dogs in the county of Chesterfield for the next 5 years; to be reviewed at the end of the 5 year period to see if an extension is needed. I will be writing another piece focusing on our muscle dogs, the most misunderstood and mistreated breed there is.
Our County Council, though, has the idea that we should provide vaccinations, flea and heartworm treatment to our shelter dogs so that the rescues (which pull approx 82 percent of the dogs at the shelter versus the 3 percent of citizens that adopt) would receive healthier dogs and be willing to take more of them. Of course, the Council would have the Rescues to pay an additional pull fee of $40 so that the County could recover the costs of providing these treatments.
From what I have seen the rescues take every dog that is allowed to leave the shelter regardless of health issues. Then, they work tirelessly to treat these animals and find safe homes for them outside of our community, so the issue of healthier dogs is irrelevant, right? Or did I just misunderstand? Why would we want to make it MORE expensive for the only people who do help these abandoned animals get them to safety?
We all know it is expensive to own animals and should not feel that we are doing an injustice to our citizens for encouraging them to be responsible pet owners or to turn their pet’s in. And for those of you that say you don’t want to pay any fees or feel like you should not have to spend a few dollars on a permit, think again. Guess where the County Council gets the money to run this shelter, to pay the staff, to feed and care for the overwhelming number of animals that come into this shelter and to euthanize the one’s deemed not worthy? That’s right folks, YOUR hard earned tax dollars.
And if you think you pay a lot now, wait until this problem gets worse. Wait until the rescues that adopt 82 percent of these dogs leave us because they can’t afford to pay an additional $40 to rescue someone’s unwanted animal. Wait until we are even more overrun with stray animals because no one is willing to step forward and say enough is enough!
But, if we can control the population and enforce sensible, effective ordinances requiring pet owners to be responsible with the animals they own, our future would not include the need for shelters, rescues, and tax money spent supporting the unwanted. These issues would be non-existent because our citizens would be responsible and held accountable to reasonable and humane laws that are enforced by the leaders of our community.
Our shelter workers could spend their days facilitating happy adoptions of the few unwanted animals left, making home visits to ensure the animals safety and care, vetting those in the community seeking a special license to have more than a specific number of dogs and assisting the community in spay/neuter efforts to maintain a happy balance of people and animals. I bet the guys down there would think that’s a great day compared to what they have to deal with now.
Yet, there are people that have asked me “why should I have to pay to own a pet?” Really; how do you not pay to own one? Don’t you feed it and provide basic medical and health care? Don’t you take it to the vet? Okay, so why not charge a $40 licensing or permit fee to any resident that wishes to own more than a specific number of dogs? This is what the Rescue’s will be charged to pull just 1 of the dogs that belong to that citizen who had 13 yet 5 ended up at our shelter, but no where near what the Rescue will end up paying to help bring that dog to health and relocate it.
Why not limit the amount of dogs someone can own without a permit and set a reasonable fine for any resident that doesn’t spay/neuter their pets without having a special license/permit allowing them to breed? This would drastically cut down on the overpopulation we have now. Why not have harsher, more expensive penalties for those that are in violations of these ordinances and laws? These kinds of fines would certainly cover any expenses the few animals that would be coming into the shelter would incur. If our citizens, our neighbors and friends, act responsibly and are held accountable for their actions, we could actually turn a nightmare into a happy ending and a deficit into a profit!
With all this said, I would like to call on our local, elected officials for change regarding the treatment, welfare, and existence of domesticated animals in our community and county. I call upon them to hear our voice and to be our voice going forward. Allow us to assist you in creating these much needed ordinances. The ordinances passed at this most recent meeting, in my opinion, are irrelevant to the growing problem we have regarding these animals and will be ineffective in making any real strides towards changing what is an embarrassing, expensive and unnecessary problem. Let’s gain positive media attention and be known for our good works, creative and effective solutions, not our cruel, inhumane, and embarrassing behavior towards our animals.
Let’s stop disrespecting ourselves and the place we call home and start doing the right thing. Let’s show our children, our future leaders, what it entails to be a good citizen and neighbor. After all, they are only going to learn what we show them and if we show them nothing, they will learn nothing. If we show them how to be involved, how to create change, how to right a wrong and better our community, guess what they will learn: EVERYTHING.
Again, I call on our local, elected officials to be the first in our area to step up and make the necessary changes in our community to provide our animals with a better life and to take the burden off of its citizens and others that our left to clean up our mess. The long term effects will speak for themselves. It may not be easy, but in the end our animals will be safe, our reputation will be restored, our pockets will be replenished, and we will have enacted and enforced a positive change in our community that hopefully will encourage other communities to follow.
I also ask the young people of our community to come forward and take charge. In a few years, we will be the one’s making the decisions here; why not start now? If we are not happy with what is going on in our own backyards, why not change it? Why not run for County Council? Why not volunteer? Why not show up for a County Council meeting if for no other reason than to be another body in support of something positive for our community. Why not ask “what can I do to make a difference?” Why not get involved when someone asks for help?
Below are two of my favorite quotes; what do they mean to you?
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something and I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” — Edward Everett Hale.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein
It is time to think BIG people. The only way change will occur is if we think BIG, work together, and move forward as a community. I believe we can do this even if the rest of the world doesn’t and I’m ready to show them how we do it ‘round here. What do you believe?
— Kathryn Gooden Horton is a registered voter of Chesterfield County who lives in Pageland.