In 2018, the Baldwin County Animal Shelter was forced to euthanize 254 animals, 150 cats and 104 dogs). Of these, only 25 healthy and adoptable dogs and two cats were euthanized for space.
Baldwin County Animal Shelter (BCAS) is required by law to take in every owner-surrendered or stray animal from the county. However, due to the shelter’s limited space and funds as well as pet overpopulation, some of these animals don’t find homes.
The shelter also has a limited staff with only three full-time and one part-time staff. One of these staff members is Rebecca Lanier, the shelter administrator who has been working at the BCAS full-time since 2016.
“It’s gotten better since when I first got there,” Lanier said. “But I can’t say no, I can’t walk away. The shelter, it consumes you, and not a lot of people realize that. It’s living, breathing animals. You can’t walk out at five o’clock if something’s going on or if something comes in at 5:05. It’s always something.”
The BCAS took in 1,118 total animals in 2018—608 canines and 510 felines. Out of these, the shelter saved 763 animals with 123 adopted, 588 transferred to rescues and 52 owner reclaims.
In 2018, 28 dogs were euthanized for behavior, biting issues or being feral. Cats were euthanized for similar reasons, with a total of 45 feral cats and two cats with behavior issues. Others, 28 dogs and 102 cats, were euthanized for illness or injuries.
“Euthanizing an animal is the last option,” Lanier said. “Typically, we don’t euthanize unless we absolutely have to. Reasons would be for bites because that’s a liability to release them back to the county.”
Factors that cause an animal to be on a euthanization list include the animal’s selectivity with other animals, food aggression or aggression towards children. Animals with these issues like are less likely to be adopted or be taken by a rescue. Once the shelter is full, animals on this euthanization list are the first at risk.
Along with employees, GC’s Shelter Buddies has made an impact on the shelter. Since the club’s creation in December 2015, volunteers have logged over 6,000 hours.
Jake Einig, the former president of Shelter Buddies, conducted a study on Shelter Buddies’ impact. According to this study, the hours logged by volunteers correlates to favorable outcomes for the animals—adoption, rescue or returned to owner.
After 3,008 of recorded hours in 2018, Einig found that dogs had a favorable outcome of 80.77 percent, and cats a favorable outcome of 59.44 percent.
“I think everyone that goes can see the impact it has on the animals,” said Einig, a senior business MIS major. “Especially if you go back for a month, week after week, you can see how this one dog who might be really timid or aggressive at first slowly comes out of its shell and learns that not all people are against it and care about it.”
Anyone bringing an animal to the shelter must show a val
id Baldwin County driver’s license, which ensures that all stray or owner-surrendered animals are from the county. Next, animals are scanned for microchips.
“Legally, we are only required to scan for a chip once on intake and once again before euthanizing,” Lanier said. “However, I take it a step further. I like to scan for chips three times, and I like to do it every other day for the length of our stray hold [five business days].”
This is because microchips can move once they are in a dog’s body. Lanier said she recommends pet owners to scan their dogs at least once a year to see if the chip has moved.
Lanier also wants to start programs in the future to educate the Milledgeville community on the importance of spaying and neutering to prevent unwanted homeless animals.
“It’s amazing what people don’t know,” Lanier said. “I want to find a way to get it out to the public.”
She plans to put up fliers at the health department to inform low-income families of the low-cost spay/neuter programs that the shelter offers. Lanier said she also hopes to implement an education program in local Baldwin County schools that will teach children about the community’s homeless animals.
“I’m trying to come up with ways to come out there,” Lanier said. “The shelter and animal control are trying to show the community that they are not the bad guys and that they are here to keep the public safe and protect the animals of our county.”
Photos by Lexie Baker | Staff Photographer