Sunday, December 23, 2007

A shelter story and Happy Howlidays!

It's 40 degrees and finally feels like holiday weather. I have short hair and don't particuarly like cold weather, but you've gotta admit Christmas feels better when frost is in the air.

The New Year is fast approaching and there are some exciting plans afoot. WAG will be starting their education programs soon, teaching more kids about ways to help animals. There are some very enthusiastic children in our county and it's great to see their interest in animal issues.

Big news on the homefront with the planning of our new government animal shelter. The Walton County Commissioners have recognized the need for a new shelter and the SPLOST tax approved by voters in 2006 will provide much-needed money for the facility. But the funding has both a good news/bad news aspect. Only $750,000 has been approved for building the facility. Will that be sufficient? Depends on how you look at it.

The current facility, built in the late 1980's, is grossly overcrowded. An insulated, metal building housing more cages was was added in 1997. Still, crowded cages are common, as are respiratory infections and other typical hazards of animal overcrowding.

Walton County Animal Control saw nearly 3400 animals come through their doors in 2006. To have sufficient space, government and industry recommendations are for a minimum of 3-4 sq. ft. per animal. Under those calculations, the shelter's current usage requires a building of 10,000 - 13,000 sq. ft.

Looking toward the future, our predicted growth of animal population calls for 15,000 - 20,000 sq. ft. to adequately maintain a healthy environment.

The county's current plans are for a shelter of approximately 8,500 sq. ft.

Certainly, slicing the government pie is never easy and there are plenty of departments in line for handouts. Animal control is one of many projects planned. But this situation begs the question - Although we desperately need a new facility, is building a strcture too small for our current needs a wise expenditure?

County officials have met with WAG leaders and other interested parties to discuss our concerns with the proposed project. Tweaking the plans may help to squeeze out some much-needed space, but we'll see what the future holds. This is our best shot at a new facility, so it's vital to maximize every square inch of space offered.

More on that later. In the meantime, I got a big hambone and new chewtoys waiting on me under the tree. Merry Christmas to everyone and Happy New Year!

Til Later,


Friday, December 14, 2007

My Story

Before I tell you about anything else, let's talk about me. After all, isn't that what blogs are for?

I'm a 5-year old authentic American Original canine Some people might call me a plain brown dog, but only if they're idiots. I hate to brag, but am actually pretty smart. I've trained people to give me treats when I do stuff like shake hands, crawl, roll over and jump. It's funny to watch them - they seem to get so excited when I do tricks like that.

My dad left my mom before I was born. I moved out when I was pretty young. Frankly, a lot of that time period is a blur. I just remember one day when I was about a year old I ended up dirty, skinny and wandering aimlessly with a heavy chain hooked around my neck. Somehow I got the chain wrapped around a tree in some brush in front of a house. It was a hot day and I was pretty thirsty, so I started barking. And although I was glad to see someone come out, I was afraid to let them get near me. The water was appreciated, though.

Long story shorter, these folks were finally able to unhook the chain and encouraged me to "go home." Ha! I was - they just didn't know it yet.

I decided to lay low and hang out in the bushes for a few days. Since the people were offering me food, so I felt the least I could do was help guard the house. So I stayed in the bushes at the bottom of the driveway, barking whenever strange cars came up. It was still a little too dangerous to come out, though, so I just stayed behind the brush. Looked kinda like a barking bush. This earned me the dubious nickname of "Shrub."

Thankfully, my shrub days are long behind me. I share a home with several other dogs and we allow a couple of cats to live here, too. Life is pretty good.

But I haven't forgotten my homeless days. I wonder what happens to others like me who aren't as lucky? The future isn't too rosy for the offspring of dogs like my mom. I don't know for sure, but she probably had more pups after me who also needed homes. Dogs can have at least two litters a year of 5-6 puppies each. In only a year those puppies are having puppies. That's a lot of extra dogs floating around out there.

And you wanna talk promiscuity? Let's talk about cats. The girls have heat cycles all spring and summer, so they can pop out kittens like an assembly line. It's disgusting. And since they can start having kittens as early as 4 months, they stay pretty busy. I'm all for mandatory spay and neuter for all of them. In my opinion, the world just doesn't need anymore cats.

OK, maybe one or two, just to aggravate.

I'm glad that some people are finally looking into making things a little better for animals like me. There are a lot of well-intentioned pet-owners out there who may not have a lot of money, so helping them get pets spayed, neutered or vaccinated is probably a good thing (although I'll never be totally convinced about the neuter issue). And letting people see the faces of available pets in shelters through newspaper or television is a great way to find them homes.

Anyway, that's my story. I thought it would be helpful to give you an idea of what it's like being a "plain brown wrapper." Dogs like me are usually overlooked in the shelter cages because we're too big to be lap dogs, not purebred, and not always cute and fuzzy. Grrrr.

But I think better times are ahead.

Til' later, Buddy

The 1 in 10,000

There are 10,000 new blogs created each day. Two of those are actually interesting.

This one may be interesting because I am a dog. A mixed breed. Or as some may rudely call me, a mongrel. You can call me Buddy - everyone else already does.

OK, perhaps dogs don't type. Perhaps I'm dictating this to my secretary. Perhaps I'm channeling this through my owner. Perhaps my owner prefers a handy pseudonym. Whatever.

I hope you find this an interesting read. But remember, in blogs, as in life, there are no guarantees.

Since any form of communication is a good one, we’ll at least utilize this Wag Tale blog to spread news, information, and, perhaps, a few outright lies. The little white kind, of course.

Welcome to the world of WAG – formally known as Walton Animal Guild, Inc. Our simple goals are to prevent animal cruelty and end the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals in Walton County, Georgia. However, like most goals (lose weight, quit smoking, save money), there are many steps to take before success is realized.

One of those steps is gaining solid community support. Since the success of an organization is in proportion to how needed their services are, let’s take a look at what animal services Walton County currently offers:

1. Outdated, underfunded and undersized government animal control shelter.

2. No evening or weekend hours at shelter.

3. High shelter euthanasia rates.

4. No humane education.

5. No community-supported low-income spay/neuter programs.

6. No targeted low-income pet health programs.

Until now, there has been no "voice" for animal issues in Walton County. But there won’t be any changes planned or funded until governing officials feel there is a demand. If we don’t speak up, there is no demand. So it is our responsibility to be that voice.

Over the next few entries I’ll post some info on where we are, a "Walton County State of the Animals," so to speak. And while it won’t all be good news, there are certainly a few positive trends.

Here are a couple - Walton County is growing at a fast rate and becoming much more urbanized. Our population in 2006 was nearly 80,000. Officials predict a 75 percent population growth between 2000 and 2015. These new residents are typically well-educated, with higher incomes and an expectation of better services.

Pet ownership is at an all-time high. An estimated 63 percent of US households own at least one pet, according to the Pet Product Manufacturer’s Association, and spending on pet products has increased significantly. Record numbers of baby boomers, singles and young couples are monetarily indulging their four-legged family members.

Put those two facts together and you have a population of educated, savvy voters that place an importance of animal services.

Time for a change, perhaps?

'Til Later, Buddy