Friday, September 27, 2013

County Rescues Address Animal Issues Through Teamwork

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

There is a horse standing in a kill pen with a thousand other horses; he is destined for a slaughter house. The abrasion and swelling on his hind leg indicate an infection.
“He’d probably have ended up on someone’s dinner plate anyway,” said Jim Rhodes, executive director of Equine Rescue of Aiken.

This thoroughbred race horse got lucky, and he is on his way to Haven Hills Farm, home of Equine Rescue.

Last week the SPCA Albrecht Center held the inaugural fundraiser, “Lana-PAW-looza.” It featured a candlelit twilight walk, themed party booths with drinks and food competing for best-in-something; the air filled with live music, and a silent auction was safely housed under-roof. The rain started at walk-registration and dampened the grounds but not the spirit of the walkers. Then the skies opened up right when the party was about to begin. The attendance at this fabulous event had to have taken a hit.

A woman rescues five stray cats, has them all fixed, and five more show up, two obviously pregnant. The woman is on Social Security and is caring for her 94-year-old mother. She is happy to help homeless cats, but they all need to be spayed and neutered before the cat colony is out of control. She calls the Lenny’s Brigade hotline, sponsored by Friends of the Animal Shelter Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (FOTAS/SNAP). A volunteer helps trap the cats and get them fixed at the Albrecht Center’s clinic.

Aiken County, in a public/private partnership with FOTAS, is well on its way to providing the county communities with a true community animal shelter. It is due to open in the next few months as a temporary haven for adoptable animals and a destination for all animal lovers. The drive to move as many dogs and cats out of the current tragically inadequate facility grows ever more urgent as the intake numbers continue to overwhelm adoptions and transfers.

So? Where is the teamwork and why might you care?

Equine Rescue of Aiken has committed to providing two large animal paddocks at the new county shelter. The project is estimated to cost about $15,000; of which Jim has raised $11,000. The paddocks will be girded with no-climb fence so they can serve double duty as dog play yards when unoccupied. But they will also allow the county to impound large animal cruelty cases. Currently there is no facility for the abandoned, starving horses some county residents have to see every day.

Equine Rescue also rescues dogs and cats and gets them fixed at the SPCA Albrecht Center. SPCA Albrecht Center Executive Director Barbara Nelson donated 500 bales of hay to Equine Rescue. Rhodes’ feed and hay bill runs about $2,200 per week. Help covering that expense frees up cash for the new paddocks.

FOTAS is leading an impassioned fundraising drive to fit, furnish and finish the new county shelter, but they also recognize that there is no facility alone that will ever be able to accommodate current intake numbers of unwanted animals. Spay/neuter is the ultimate answer. Thank God, the SPCA is rapidly growing into its capacity to do 12,000 surgeries a year. This, too, takes money, lots of it.

FOTAS/SNAP agreed to help with the Lana-PAW-looza fundraiser on the condition that those funds SNAP raised go to the spay/neuter clinic as a credit. The Albrecht Center agreed, and there is now more than $3,000 in that account. SNAP in Wagener and the Valley are up and running, Windsor is ready to launch, and there is something blossoming in new Ellenton. Go SNAP!

Animal Advocacy is a community project. The major shelters and rescues are leading the way, but success still depends on each and every one of us concerned about animal welfare in our communities. Here are a buffet of ways to help right now:

• If you did not attend Lana-PAW-looza, send $25 to the SPCA Albrecht Center:

• Join Equine Rescue’s Hay & Feed Drive right now for $10 per month:

• Buy an honoree paver for the new county shelter:

• Send a check for FOTAS/SNAP to P.O. Box 2207, Aiken, SC 29802.

Aiken County is enriched by our domestic animals: horses, dogs and cats. We are their stewards; they depend on us, serve us and teach us about love. There are so many avenues to show them you care. Please choose at least one.

Retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist and servant leader.