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My Turn | Loving homes needed before their time runs out

Pam Blackard, a volunteer at Van Buren County Animal Control, recently updated me on how the dogs featured as the Democrat’s Pet of the Week have fared.

I didn’t like what I read. Some had been adopted, others are in foster care. But several of them are “gone,” as in euthanized or whatever word you want to use to try unsuccessfully to pretty it up.

The fact is that when someone drops off a dog at animal control, not just in Van Buren County, but anywhere, they are not likely to have a happy future. Let me say that again: Dogs surrendered to animal control are not looking at happily ever after.

The numbers are staggering. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters take in 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States. Approximately 3-4 million of these innocent animals are euthanized.

One of the featured dogs, B-Dub, apparently was euthanized the same week he appeared in the paper. Another, named Rambo, was scheduled to be Pet of the Week, but was euthanized, I’m told, for being the aggressor in a fight with another dog when he was accidentally let out of his cage. Wonder if Rambo was warned of that policy when he was taken in?

The woman with 60 dogs I wrote about a couple of weeks ago kept referring to Van Buren County Animal Control as a “humane society” and thought new homes would be found for all her dogs.

I finally said to her, “We don’t have a humane society in this county. We have animal ‘control.’” Realizing what that meant, she started shaking her head, saying, “Oh no, no, I would never sign my dogs over for that!”

As it turned out, through the efforts of April Westling of Loved Me But Left Me animal rescue, the elderly lady’s dogs will be saved.

As I watched Westling crawling under the trailer trying to coax out the dogs and getting a head count on just how many she would be dealing with, I was amazed anew by this young woman who gave birth to her third daughter in February.

For some reason, Westling seems to be a lightning rod of controversy. The local pressure was such that, in my opinion, the county ordinance on animal control was rewritten with her in mind. She does not have a 501(c) (3) and she can no longer deal with county animal control. I think the ordinance should take a little less interest in how often litter boxes are cleaned and how much per pound the dogs should be fed and more interest in how to help find homes for them, and in funding a low-cost spaying program.

Personally, I don’t care if Westling has three eyes and green skin if she saves dogs. One complaint seemed to be that she makes money off the dogs. I don’t know if that’s true, but I hope it is. She gets a fee for transporting them to rescues and homes, mostly on the East Coast, where spay and neuter laws are such that there aren’t nearly as many dogs there.

Let’s don’t even get started on spaying and neutering, which is, of course, what we need in this county — low cost, that is. Why can’t we seem to make that happen?

For the record, I’m not trying to take potshots at our animal control director Pam Hopkins. She does what she can with what she has to work with. She needs more to work with; more space for the dogs; more rescues to call on; and mostly she needs to be heading up a no-kill animal “shelter” instead of animal “control.”

Back to Westling, she already has spent more than $800 on veterinarian care for these dogs and has a long way to go. There is a fund at her vet’s office that can help take care of expenses. If anyone would like to help, just mail a check to Dr. Nancy Solis, Thousand Hills Veterinary Service, 7020 White Drive, Charlotte, AR 72522.

Back to saving our dogs, did you know you can sponsor a dog so someone else won’t have to pay a fee for it? It only costs $25 for county residents to adopt a pet from animal control. There is a constantly updated Facebook page featuring the dogs, and animal control’s phone number is 745-2121.

Anita Tucker is editor of the Van Buren County Democrat. Her e-mail is atucker@vanburencountydem.com

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