After almost 7 years of rescue experience, countless stories and hundreds of dogs adopted, I had my first visit to the shelter that I support – Pickens County Animal Control.
The experience was both affirming and tragic at the same time. I am not convinced that everyone in rescue should take the time to visit and animal shelter, even if its only one in their own community and not a traditional “high-kill” shelter that most folks think about.
Somewhat fittingly, Pickens County Animal Control is located on the same grounds as the coroner and the prison – that it is not nearly as well funded as either of those institutions. The coroner and prison have large, sturdy facilities, that are presumably appropriate to the functions that they are to serve. The animal control building and facilities on the other hand are converted barns and other rural farming buildings. Like most rural shelters, Pickens is vastly underfunded. Animal control is unfortunately, not a high priority and therefore not afforded the resources of other government programs. Pickens has one animal control supervisor, an administrative assistant and 2 other officers to cover the entire county, which is 512 square miles. Animal control has an impossible task. They must cover the entire county, care for animals – without the benefit of any adoption hours – and hope that a rescue or owner will collect an animal before the facility becomes overwhelmed and an animal’s time is up.
Despite the rustic outside, once inside, the runs – though very small – look remarkably similar to those of other shelters, with concrete floors, hard plastic palates and seven-foot-metal-gate doors. Despite the similarities, what I could not forget is that this is a converted barn. Climate control is vastly limited, along with any other amenities.
I arrived at Pickens on kill day – the day the animals who’s time is up – are put to sleep. Each animal has a varying amount of time. Animals picked up as strays, but lucky enough to have a collar, have 10 days. Animals without collars have 5 days. And animals who are surrendered by their families, have 0 days. Even arriving as early as 9 am, animal control had carried out its grim duty of euthanizing all animals who’s time had run.
Entering the facility, I was confronted with a bevy of empty runs.
I hurt for the empty runs; runs that had been full up to that day. Runs full of unwanted pets that never had the chance for that happily ever after. The only remaining residents were 2 terrified chihuahua mixes, a lab/mastiff and a lab/ newfie. There were about 16 runs, with only 4 remaining residents.
Despite the sadness that I confronted at Pickens Animal Control, there is hope, though admittedly, I am a glass half full gal. There is hope for rescue for the countless animals abandoned and picked up by animal control. Three rescues work with Pickens and although it still isn’t enough, the numbers are growing and the number of animals rescued is also growing. There will be a time when all the dogs and cats abandoned or picked up by animal control find their happy ending. And that keeps me going.