Animal limit waivers allow families to foster homeless dogs

chwright@macon.comOctober 23, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Regenia Brabham was helping out at an animal adoption event at Macon’s PetSmart last year when someone rushed in carrying a German shepherd that had been shot and run over.

But the veterinarian’s office inside the store couldn’t help. Brabham loaded the dog named Sampson into her truck and rushed him to her veterinarian, who opened on a Sunday to deal with the emergency.

Brabham soon realized the community was missing something, and at that moment, her nonprofit organization Critical Care for Animal Angels was born.

“(Injured animals) need somewhere to go while they’re healing,” Brabham said.

But Warner Robins limits how many dogs can live inside a home. So Brabham and three other Warner Robins residents recently received waivers from City Council with an objective of fostering dogs and taking pressure off the government-run shelters in the area. They maintain that in-home arrangements produce more adoptable companions.

“You’re creating a family member, not just a dog,” said Cleo Mobley, who is fostering a litter of puppies.

All governments in Houston County limit the number of animals allowed in a home to six. Perry and Centerville allow any combination of cats and dogs, while Houston County and Warner Robins dictate that someone can’t have more than three cats or three dogs at any given time.

Mobley and Brabham said they agree with the limits because some people hoard animals.

To exceed the limit, a property owner must receive a waiver.

“We’ve definitely had a lot more (waivers) in the last few months than before,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins.

In Warner Robins, the process begins with an application and a $25 fee. City animal control officers visit a home before presenting a recommendation to the council. The city also requires a sign be placed on the property to inform neighbors where and how to voice any objections.

“So far, we have had no complaints to my knowledge,” Robbins said. “I’m all for trying to keep puppies if we can rescue them and give them homes.”

Robbins said animal control will check on the foster homes regularly, and any signs of trouble will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If the arrangement isn’t working, the city has the ability to revoke the waiver.

Because of Mobley’s desire to work with puppies, the council restricted her to one litter at a time for a maximum for 14 weeks.

“If there wasn’t a limitation or a time frame, I would probably find excuses to prolong it,” she said.

Mobley has taken ownership of three dogs that originally were fosters. She fosters two other adult dogs and the current litter of four on her quarter-acre property. The 8-week-old litter has been with Mobley for a week.

Brabham was approved to foster up to six dogs on her 1.5 acres, which is the primary location for her nonprofit rescue group that aims to rehabilitate injured animals.

Fellow animal lovers Ron and Wendy Ziriak also were approved to foster up to six dogs for Critical Care for Animal Angels on their half-acre property.

Foster arrangements are through a nonprofit rescue group that helps pay for a foster animal’s veterinary and food costs. Mobley mostly fosters animals from rescue group Paws and Adopt and also works with other rescues, including Brabham’s.

In Houston County, stray and abandoned animals that are picked up by animal control officers are taken to the county’s animal shelter, which Warner Robins Police Department’s Animal Control division runs. The city of Perry has its own shelter. Warner Robins Animal Control officials did not return messages seeking comments about the shelter’s capacity and the animal waivers except to email the animal limit ordinance.

From the pound, rescue groups pick out animals for which they will either find fosters or permanent homes. The Humane Society of Houston County has a physical location, while other rescue groups depend on having an available foster home for any animals they get from the pound. These nonprofit groups do not euthanize unless it is the most humane solution for a sick or injured animal.

Brabham said the county shelter is bursting at capacity and has to euthanize animals in order to make room.

“They’ve called me begging me” take to take an animal, she said.

Brabham, Mobley and Debbie Martin, president of the Humane Society of Houston County, said foster homes are a necessary component of rescue groups as a way to save as many cats and dogs from the pound as possible.

“It’s a huge need because the more fosters that we have, then the more we’re able to get from Warner Robins Animal Control,” Martin said. “We have a location, but we can only keep so many here.”

The Humane Society can house 25 to 30 cats and dogs. To make room for more stray and abandoned animals, Martin said her group has to shift in-residence cats and dogs to foster homes, of which the group only has eight now.

Martin said she hasn’t dealt with any foster homes that received animal limit waivers, but some families have said they couldn’t foster because they had reached their limit based on city or county codes.

Fostering is the best arrangement for the animals, the women said. It gives a real-life test run for the type of family an animal needs, allows the animals to socialize with other dogs and cats, and teaches them some of the basic skills and commands.

“When they leave me, they know what to expect from somebody who adopts them,” Mobley said. “They know what kind of home they’re supposed to have.”

Though not the only way to groom a dog for adopting, foster homes help dogs like Sampson prepare for what’s known in the rescue circles as “forever homes.”

Brabham said Sampson was adopted just before Thanksgiving last year, and his new family even provided an education for him.

“He’s healthy and happy,” Brabham said. “He graduated from doggy school and everything.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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