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‘It’s sort of a desperate situation,’ animal welfare advocate says of unwanted pets

Animal Welfare Conference touts new license plate to reduce unwanted pets

At the first Animal Welfare Conference of Georgia's new Companion Animal Partnership, animal advocates learned of a new way Georgians can support low-cost spay and neutering programs to reduce the unwanted pet population. Video by Liz Fabian
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At the first Animal Welfare Conference of Georgia's new Companion Animal Partnership, animal advocates learned of a new way Georgians can support low-cost spay and neutering programs to reduce the unwanted pet population. Video by Liz Fabian

When it comes to reducing the unwanted pet population, knowing how to combat the problem with available resources is key.

More than 200 animal welfare workers and volunteers met Friday at Middle Georgia State University to share strategies through the new Georgia Companion Animal Partnership.

“It’s a great opportunity to come together, share our successes, talk about what issues we still have and develop solutions for those issues in the coming year,” said Monica Celizic, of the Atlanta Humane Society, which helped organize the partnership’s first conference.

“Homeless animals really are the largest problem we have here in the state of Georgia,” Celizic said.

Animal advocate Charles Devane drove up from Quitman to learn ways to combat abuse in rural communities in south Georgia.

“I think in small, less educated communities,, you have a lot of problems with animal abuse, ... more dog fighting, more cock fighting,” Devane said. “And you have people who have a mindset that they don’t want their dogs neutered.”

Devane, who is a member of the Humane Society of the United States and founded BARK, Brooks Area Rescue Klub, said the meeting of minds gives him more tools to work with back home in Brooks County.

“We kind of feed off each other and trade ideas,” he said.

Attorney Jessica Rock, of Animal Law Source, said juggling federal, state and local laws can be a struggle.

Rock said smaller communities need help from certified law enforcement to arrest violators of state law.

County and city statutes are often lacking, she said.

“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of teeth, so to speak, in some of those ordinances,” said Rock, whose organization helped Macon-Bibb County draft its dangerous dog ordinance.

Sharing knowledge and resources can be effective in avoiding pitfalls other communities already have conquered.

Ginny Millner, a co-founder of Fix Georgia Pets, hopes a new Georgia license plate will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to add to the fund for spaying and neutering and reduce the thousands of animals euthanized in the state each month.

“It’s sort of a desperate situation,” Millner said. “We have so many ferals, I think everybody knows. Wouldn’t it be great to try to get everybody to chip in and get this thing done, because everybody can help each other.”

Georgia Pet Foundation is sponsoring the new tag that is now available across the state.

The tag is modeled after a similar program in Florida that Millner said raised $700,000.

Local organizations like Butts Mutts out of Jackson and Friends of Perry Animal Shelter, which helped coordinate the conference, are part of the Coalition of Hope that funds spay and neuter programs.

Celizic hopes to make the conference an annual event to help organizations work together.

“We do believe that together we can cure the issue of animal homelessness. No one agency can do it on their own.”

Macon-Bibb County had 309 animal cruelty cases from October 2015 to October 2016, said Sonja Adams, the director of the Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare Center.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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