Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sad Pet Surrenders -- Please Help Us Stop Them

Sad Surrenders can be easily avoided by owners
By Joanna Dunn Samson
as seen in the "Aiken Standard", April 13, 2014 issue

I was manning the desk at the Aiken County Animal Shelter one afternoon when a car pulled up to the curb in front of the Main Administration Building.  The driver, a woman, emerged from the front seat with a leash in her hand, and the passenger, a man, gets out and opened the back door.

My heart sinks.  An overweight black dog - a lab mix - is sitting in the back seat, panting anxiously.  The woman clips on the leash.

“Come on, June,” she says, “let’s go.”

June is having none of it.  She backs up in the seat.

The man tries to coax June out of the car.  Uh huh.  No way.  June hunkers down; her panting increases.

For the next 5 minutes, I watch a heartbreaking tug of war that, in the end, June inevitably loses.  Dragged out of the car, June follows her owners reluctantly to the Intake Door.  The owners pay a $20 drop-off fee and go home.

June is led to the Adoption Building to join 30 other dogs waiting to be adopted.  

I keep harping on this number, but it can’t be repeated too often: 4800 animals were consigned to the County Shelter last year.  4800!  Despite our success at increasing adoptions, fosters and transfers – we were unable to save them all.  Not even close.

Why do owners surrender their animals to a shelter?

In a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population and Policy, the top 7 reasons dogs and cats are surrendered are: moving, landlord not allowing pet, too many animals in the household, costs, personal problems, inadequate facilities and no homes for litter mates.  Only 3% of dogs were relinquished for biting.  96% of the dogs had never had any obedience training. 

Of course, life happens and sometimes surrender is the only option, but it should always be the last option, because in Aiken County, there is a 70% chance (based on last year’s numbers) that a dog you relinquish to the shelter will be euthanized.

There are common sense things you can do to avoid surrendering a helpless animal to a shelter and an uncertain fate.

If you rent, check with your landlord before you bring a pet home.

Do not take on more pets than you can afford: additional pets = additional expenses.

Train your dog so it becomes a well-behaved family member.  There are easy, no-cost training programs online.

If you must move and can’t take your pet, or if you are having personal problems, ask responsible family and friends to help, or call local rescues who might be able to find a foster family for your pet on a temporary basis.

Neuter your pets.  Do not bring more unwanted animals into this world.

There are people who suffer when they are forced to surrender their pets – like the Army recruit deployed overseas who sobbed when he turned over his beloved Luci to Animal Control - but all too often, surrender is a callous and unnecessary option.

P.S.    By the way, there is a happy ending for June.  She is being fostered by a loving family who tells us, “she is an angel,” and will be on her way to a new home next week.

One more down, 4388 to go. 

One of those lovely animals is waiting for you.  Don’t wait - adopt today and save another life.

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at

Aiken County Animal Shelter:  Statistics Jan. thru Mar. 2014

Animals received         746

Animals saved 411
(adoptions & transfers)
Animals euthanized 431

We saved 57% so far, but don’t get your hopes up: breeding season has just begun.  Intake numbers are much higher during the summer months.

Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

RAMBO   Chocolate Lab, male, 8 yrs old, 61 lbs  Only $70 

MODI  Domestic short hair -- male -- 2 yrs. old, 8 lbs  Only $35

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Join The Ride ... Save Some Lives
By Edie Hubler, FOTAS Director
As seen in the "Aiken Standard" 4-6-14 issue

If my dog Zeus only had a thumb, he’d hijack a Harley, strap his pal Meg on the back, and tour around with the wind whipping his long, silky hair.  But alas for Zeus (and good for all the other drivers on the road), he cannot drive a motorcycle.

But you can -- along with Hailey, M.Y. and Hope, three young Aiken girls who are passionate about saving as many adoptable animals that they can.

They have joined the FOTAS Ride to Woofstock campaign to raise funds for the FOTAS’ Fix-A-Pet spay/neuter program, which will provide financial assistance for those community citizens who may need a little help.  This year’s Woofstock Dogs, Cats & Music Festival will be held at the new Aiken County Animal Shelter on May 3rd.  

Hailey, M.Y. and Hope aren’t actually riding motorcycles to Woofstock (although other FOTAS supporters will be); instead, they will be “virtual” riders.  Here are their stories.

Hailey Ardis is the granddaughter of Clay and Carrie Killian, who regularly walks dogs with her grandma at the County Shelter.  Nine year-old Hailey put a blue wig on her uncle’s willing dog, snapped a photo and formed Hailey’s Goal for the Animals.  Hailey’s original fundraising goal was $300, which she surpassed quickly.  She has continued to raise money, even donating some of her allowance.  

Four year-old M.Y., the daughter of a friend of Linda Soyars’  (a long-time FOTAS volunteer), decorated her tricycle, corralled her dogs Coco & Yuke for a photo op and formed her own virtual riding team, M.Y. Groovy Riders.  She also has reached her goal, but willingly accepts more donations to her team effort.
M.Y. and her dogs Coco and Yuke, getting ready for their Ride to Woofstock for Spay/Neuter
Nine year-old Hope Dyches frequently walks dogs and socializes cats at the Aiken County Animal Shelter with her aunt, Rebecca Reindl.  In fact, I see her at every FOTAS event -- that’s how much she cares.  Her team is called Hopes Friends & Family.  Her goal is lofty -- $1,000 is her “hope”.  

Through the efforts of Hailey, M.Y., Hope and a score of other volunteers, FOTAS hopes to raise $20,000 for the FOTAS Fix-a-Pet spay/neuter program.  Solving the County’s enormous unwanted pet population through spay/neuter is a long-term proposition – most experts agree it takes at least 10 years to see a significant drop in those numbers – so FOTAS is increasing its resources dedicated to that effort.  In the meantime, we will be working feverishly to adopt out to the growing Aiken community as many adoptable pets as possible.

Join the “Ride to Woofstock.”  You can do it on your own or with a team.  You can ride for real or you can ride “virtually.”  You can sign up with an existing team, like Hailey’s Goal for the Animals, M.Y.’s Groovy Riders, or Hope’s Friends & Family.

Plus, if you and your riding team raise at least $300, you will be eligible to win an iPAD mini.  This is easy, folks. 

Challenge yourself!  See how far you can go and how much you can raise.  

Remember, it’s not what you ride, it’s what you ride for.  Ride on, my friends, ride on.

Visit or for all the details. Or you can contact FOTAS at 803-514-4313.

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at

Aiken County Animal Shelter:  “By the Numbers”

Mar. 24, 2014 - Mar. 29, 2014

16 dogs and 1 cat adopted

Year to Date:  

146 terrific pets adopted


Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

OLIVIA   Boxer,  female, 2 yrs old, 40 lbs  Only $70 

CLARK  Domestic long hair -- male -- 3 yrs. old, 11 lbs  Only $35

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Morning After
By Joanna Samson, FOTAS Director
as seen in the Aiken Standard 3-30-14 issue

By all accounts, the Grand Opening Ceremony for the new Aiken County Animal Shelter on Sunday was a great success.  

Over 300 people attended the celebration. Six dogs and one cat went home with their new families.  Even the weather complied: by 2:00 the rain had stopped and the temperature had risen.

It was a wonderful day, and I was honored to be a part of it.

Now that it’s over, the difficult and frustrating work of dealing with the County’s overpopulation of unwanted animals must continue.  The stakes are high.

Here are the grim, cold facts:  In the last fiscal year, 4794 abandoned animals passed through the County shelter’s doors. The County and FOTAS were able to save 1581 of those animals.

Do the math, folks:  67% of the animals that came to the shelter had to be euthanized, many of which would have made someone a great pet.  And although 67% is a significant improvement over the 90 – 95% numbers of the past, it is still a dismal number.

“I am worried,” says Annette van der Walt, the County’s Adoption Coordinator, “that people think because we have this brand new facility the overall picture is rosier.  It’s not.  Yes, it’s a healthier environment; yes, adoptions and transfers have gone up, but the intake numbers are so much higher than the adoption/transfer rates.”  She shakes her head.  “That’s heartbreaking.”

In the 45 minutes I was at the shelter last Tuesday, a woman surrendered a lively Jack Russell cross because she was, well . . . too lively.

Then, a man surrendered 15 puppies from two separate litters.  When Sandy Larsen offered the man an opportunity to participate in the County’s low cost spay/neuter program, he dismissed her with a shrug and left.  No doubt, he’ll be back one day in the future with another 15 puppies for which the County and FOTAS will have to find homes.

“It’s been a hard day,” said Brandon Anceume, one of the kind custodians, staring glumly at the intake papers on the desk.  “They just keep coming in.” 

Is spay/neuter the answer?  Yes, it is.  But here’s another cold, hard fact: most experts believe it will take 10 years of a rigorous spay/neuter program to see a dramatic drop in the local intake numbers.

We just can’t wait 10 years!

Today, the County and FOTAS are still obligated, both legally and morally, to care and find a home for those 4800 animals.  

What can we do now?   You are the answer.  Adopt!  Adopt!  Adopt!

Thinking of getting a kitten for your kids?  Adopt from the County shelter.

Thinking of adding a new dog after your beloved canine companion has passed?  Adopt from the County shelter.  

Thinking of adding another dog or cat to your family?  Adopt from the County shelter.  

And now that the adoption experience at the new shelter is peaceful and upbeat, there is no reason to go anywhere else.  Please take advantage of the ½ price adoption special in effect until the end of this month.  Cats are $20 and dogs are $35.

Every time you adopt from the County shelter, you save the life of one of those 4800 unwanted animals, and that, my friends, brings us one animal closer to our goal of never having to euthanize another adoptable animal in Aiken County.
at the grand opening last week, Linda Boatright adopts Tom Brady,
with FOTAS volunteer Bob Gordon and Shelter Chief Bobby Arthurs

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at
Aiken County Animal Shelter:  “By the Numbers”

Mar. 18, 2014 - Mar. 23, 2014

15 dogs and 4 cats adopted

Year to Date:  

129 terrific pets adopted


Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

ANDY   Shepherd mix,  male, 10 mos. old, 72 lbs  Only $35 

GABLE  Domestic long hair -- male -- 8 mos. old, 5.5 lbs  Only $20