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Recent Opinion Blog Posted in the Daily

Posted on 2 March, 2011 at 11:51 Comments comments (309)
A new approach to animal control
2011-02-28 18:59:19
While additional bureaucracy is not usually productive, Onslow County’s newly created Animal Services Department may be a rare exception.

The new department replaces Animal Control, previously housed under the county’s Health Department, which controls a full menu of health-related services that range from restaurant inspections to vaccinations to septic tank permits.

In its former guise, Animal Control has served mostly to house animals that were turned in or picked up until either their owners claimed them, they were adopted or they were killed. Because so many dogs and cats entering the kennel are unwanted, the vast majority is put to death.

Animal Control also investigates animal cruelty and neglect cases, something that, given the vast scope of their work and limited manpower, has often proved overwhelming for the small division. County authorities are hoping that revamping the department will allow deeper insight into those cases.

The county’s new approach appears sensible, particularly in one regard. County Manager Jeff Hudson says that the department will incorporate volunteers into its structure — something that has not been fully explored in the past, but has much promise.
Onslow Animal Control
Volunteers are usually individuals who bring both enthusiasm and passion to their chosen causes. In many cases, they have spent years educating themselves in the field. Harnessing this depth of knowledge for the good of the county and its furry residents can only bring a win-win to the effort.

Animal proponents have long pushed for changes in the operation of Animal Control that could result in the elevation of the level of care and reduce the number of animals that end up passing through the shelter’s doors.

Trap-neuter-return programs, or TNR, for example, have been shown to not only reduce the number of feral cats in an area, but also reduce the number of animals put down. It’s also cost effective. There are additional ideas that could benefit both the taxpayers and the pets born in or brought to this area.

New ideas could help shape Onslow’s animal control into a more positive proposition.

No one is suggesting that the current employees of Animal Control haven’t done a good job with what they’ve been given, but certainly this is one area where Onslow County can do better. By throwing the doors open to new ideas and new voices, the county shows it is poised on the threshold of a more humane era, and that’s good for everyone.

Mike McHugh Column on Sheena, Poster Dog of the South

Posted on 24 January, 2011 at 13:32 Comments comments (0)
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Make sure animals are included in goodwill of the season
December 19, 2010 5:30 AM
The message of this column isn’t an appeal to the caretakers of Monte, Sunny, Jay-Jay, Peaches, Gizmo or Shadow or all the other animals who share a home or, in Jay-Jay’s case, is provided with a comfortable stall with responsible people.
No, the message of this column is about less fortunate animals that only wish to share their existence with a human being and all that’s required in return is that they are comfortably housed, adequately nourished and treated humanely.
Sadly not all animals are afforded these basic needs. Meet Sheena, a beautiful husky/lab mix, found exhausted on the front porch of a home near Onslow Pines Park recently. The residents of the home discovered the frightened dog had been peppered with buckshot.
This poor dog’s story was relayed to me by a caring individual named DottyAnn Harding, who founded Onslow County Partners for Animal Welfare, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Fortunately for this furry creature, some kind people such as Harding and Joe and Helen Flood from Casey’s Place of Jacksonville entered its life. Sheena was taken to a veterinarian by Harding for further examination, where it was determined that in addition to being shot, she suffered trauma to her pelvis from an earlier accident. She seemed to have recovered from that ordeal but now had acquired kennel cough.
How some heartless individual decided to use her as target practice and laced her flesh with steel pellets is beyond comprehension.
I can’t help but be reminded of the dialog from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” between Faber College elitist Douglas Neidermeyer and fraternity pledge Kent Dorfman in the campus horse stalls when the former comes upon the latter about to do harm to the bridled horse.
Neidermeyer opines to Dorfman: “What kind of man hits a defenseless animal? I’ve got a good mind to smash your fat face.”
I’m sure many of us who love our animals would concur with Neidermeyer, at least on that point.
Hopefully for Sheena, her worst days are behind her. Her status, however, as a foster care pup is tenuous at best. The family caring for her is telling Harding that they are unable to house Sheena much longer. Sheena’s life hangs in the balance — out of her control and left entirely in the hands of people who only want to do what’s right for her. Ironic in a way when you realize it was some thoughtless person who got the dog into this avoidable mess in the first place.
Sheena’s case is very fluid and evolving as I write this column. Let’s hope her outcome is positive.
But for every animal such as Sheena that emerges from an environment of neglect or abuse, there are far too many more that never make it. You only have to take a quick visit to the local animal shelter and look into the eyes of the frightened animals inside their cold, steel cages to understand the magnitude of the problem: Animals that at one time seemed to be the “perfect pet” or were cute little kittens or puppies that required nurturing entered into an environment where the human companion was neither equipped to raise a pet or had barely the basic skills to sustain their own existence and consequently threw up their hands in defeat and abandoned their pet.
People need to understand the commitment they’re about to enter when they take on the notion of bringing an animal into their lives. It’s something that happens throughout the year but is prevalent during the holidays when people see that adorable little puppy and imagine how thrilled their 3-year-old child would be on Christmas morning romping with the furry friend. (Hint to parents: Very few, if any, small children have the capacity to accept the enormous responsibility of providing the care and attention a pet requires.)
For those pet owners who have adult dogs or cats, I hope you’ll make a New Year’s resolution to provide for their care throughout the year and maintain their safety by keeping them leashed — in the case of dogs — and within your confines. There is nothing more disturbing than seeing a dog or cat lying dead on the side of the road.
Above all, please spay or neuter your animal. The number of litters an average dog or cat can have in her lifetime is frighteningly high and only adds to the number of animals put to sleep each year at the local animal shelter. In 2009, the Onslow County Animal Shelter accepted more than 7,207 cats and dogs, of which 2,230 were returned or adopted, leaving 4,695 to be euthanized. That’s so sad.
Let’s hope Sheena finds a loving and caring home and her story of abuse and survival serve as a reminder that our pets are to be loved and need care.
As good stewards of their lives we all need to be reminded of the proverb that says it succinctly: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.”
For more information on Sheena or how you can help other animals in foster care or in need thereof, please call DottyAnn Harding, president and founder of Onslow County Partners for Animal Welfare at 484-883-3552.
Swansboro resident Mike McHugh is an advertising account executive with The Daily News. Readers can e-mail him at [email protected].

An email that I submitted as a letter to the editor

Posted on 15 January, 2011 at 8:44 Comments comments (295)
      Thank you for contacting me in the hope of finding placement for your dog because of your future deployment. I am going to try reaching back to you in the hope to reach the hearts and minds of our military that I so love and respect.  The reason I am doing this is because you obviously love your dog for this is the first time I have had someone trying to re home their pet giving a rescue group a several month time frame in which to do so.  I will continue to post out for your dog in hopes we can find placement, however the bigger issue is one that I am sure you and others on the base perhaps are not aware of, as I and many others were not aware.  My goal is for change and being of the military you can be of great influence by just asking others to email this information to their friends, contacts and perhaps commanders. Perhaps someone on the Base would help us put together a video or plan of action that would bring to light the terrible reality of what is truly going on here in Onslow.  Perhaps this could be my point paper.

     I have had the pleasure of having a dog most of my life and I know the comfort, love and  joy that they bring .  I see the young military people alone, with their friends or families enjoying life with their pets as we all do.  However, the difference that not only makes them great, but can also bring tragedy is that they are military and are often called upon to leave their pets to defend our country.  I was once a part of this military life living mostly in the Middle East many years ago. What I would like to expose to them is another harsh reality here in Onslow that perhaps they are not aware of concerning the pets they must leave behind.

Jacksonville and Onslow County are greatly influenced by the presence of our military bases and the tax ratables that they bring to our community.  But being that they are military, their lives are very transient and that's why the retail businesses prosper and, at our community animal shelter, animals suffer.  At one time, our politicians made an agreement with the military to handle or help control the problem of their pet population.  What do folks think happens to all the pets of this very large community upon deployment or discharge.  Yes, pets are turned into the shelter in every community, but I never realized the extent of this tragedy until I moved to the South and realized the shame of what happens to the animals here because of laws not passed or, if passed, not enforced to prevent such tragedies.
  Here in Onslow we kill close to 5,000 dogs and cats EVERY YEAR at a cost of approximately $700,000.00
. Perhaps there will be more concern when it tops the magical million dollar mark. Not only is this a problem caused by all the animals brought over by the military to the shelter for disposal that in most times ends in the death of the animal, but is also caused by the uneducated or uncaring folks who let their unsprayed and unneutered pets run free reproducing year after year litter after litter resulting in a frightening geometric progression in the number of helpless and innocent animals.
Did you know that an unsprayed female and her mate and all of their offspring, producing 2 litters per year, with 2.8 of the litter surviving, can produce 11,606,077 animals in 9 years?
And God forbid that any of our local hunters contribute by licensing their animals, no that's the responsibility of all the other folks in town who find the hunting dogs in great population in the shelter, tied to a tree or left to die or just plain shot in the head.....`cause that dog don't hunt’.  Do you really think a hunter is going to rescue his dog from the shelter when it is going to cost over $100.00?  Oh yes, and how do we explain to our children why all those dogs are lying dead along the highway or narrowly escape hitting one ourselves.
Yes, the entire county supports their love of the hunt!

     We are fortunate here in Onslow that  we still do not have a gas chambers in which animals are stuffed in to die; however, it has been expressed to me by an official in Animal Control that he wishes he still had this means available to him.  But we still do heart sticking.
     Did you ever see a pregnant dog at the shelter or very young puppies or kittens?  No, because they are a liability, they are killed immediately along with any female dog that goes into heat while being housed there.  If you are wondering why they don’t vaccinate, it is because their stay at the shelter is generally two weeks or less before they are killed if not adopted. The cats and kittens do not share in this time luxury, their stay at the shelter is just a matter of days before being killed.   Why should they incur the expense of vaccinating the animals at the shelter when they are going to be killed during the two week stay they are there.   So therefore the risk of the puppies dying from diseases, one of them being Parvo, is very high because of them not receiving vaccinations. 
     Many in the rescue community work with surrounding county shelters because they do vaccinate their animals and therefore they can hold them longer and actively work with rescues in providing spay/neuter vouchers at little or no cost. There is even an organization in Onslow called Friends of Pender.  Does that seem somewhat strange to you?  Why do people who live in Onslow help the shelter outside our county and not the one in our county?  The reason is some of the reasons previously mentioned.  The other shelters vaccinate and welcome volunteers, have fundraisers, actively work with many rescues and transport services, apply and receive grants because of their efforts and low kill rates.  They are pro active, not reactive in their rescue efforts.
     There are a few great folks at the shelter who try and work with rescues despite the overall attitude of doing the opposite by the management.  This attitude is probably the result of the unending amount of animals brought into the shelter every week and of being reactive and not proactive. How can other shelters that are substantially underfunded with substandard facilities make such a difference in the lives of the animals in their charge?  When they make a call of help out to their community the funds and gifts are overflowing.   At Onslow, even though they are rabies certified vaccinators, no low cost rabies clinics are held.  Plans are far in the future to establish a low cost spay and neuter clinic to have an impact on the population explosion in our county.
     There simply are not enough rescues, fosters or people to adopt these animals.  Contact the Politicians who pass the laws for our community and demand a change!!!!! Enact laws for mandatory spay and neuter at low cost clinic, rabies vaccinations, and licensing and control large volume and back yard breeders.  Ban stores from selling animals from puppy mills that make their profits off the suffering of these animals.  As of Jan. 1, 2011, Illinois pet stores now must disclose information regarding every animal they sell and will no longer be able to hide the fact that they purchase their dogs from puppy mills or large puppy brokers.  Lets us do the same here in NC.

     There are many simple reforms that we are currently presenting to the Director of the Health Department and some of our devoted county commissioners, but we need the support of our community.  After all, you are the folks paying for it - approximately $100.00 per dog for the two week stay, if he's lucky, at a shelter that discourages volunteers.  Why is that?  Because they want the volunteers to scrub out the cages and not take the dogs for a walk.  Besides who could handle every Thursday 25 to 35 dogs being marked for death and killed the following Friday morning. I believe that the cats have a much shorter cage life than the dogs as they are being sold to laboratories.
     Please go to our web site and to the page LETTER FROM A SHELTER MANAGER to get a small understanding of just what is happening here in our very small part of the world.  Standing together we can make a difference for the change that is needed.  Remember you elect the folks who make the laws for our community and are charged with enforcing them.  If you don’t like something, change it!  Every year I read letters such as mine hoping to let our community be aware of these problems, but there is no change.  Will you be the change to make the difference? There is a grass roots meeting on the 18of January at the Auditorium of the Health Department in Jacksonvill612 College Street, Jacksonville, NC 28540e .  Please be there at 6:30pm.
DottyAnn Harding
President & Founder
OCPAW Onslow County Partners for Animal Welfare, Inc
 (Face Book) Onslow County Partners for Animal Welfare