"Susan [Wade] was an original board member of the Humane Society, so she was involved [with the Etowah Valley Humane Society] even before I was," said Kathy Farnon, a Cartersville resident, who spearheaded LAW with Wade in February. "We both have always just said, 'Humane Society puts the Band-Aid on it. They get the animals out to rescue. They do what they can and they do a great job of it, but you've got to get some laws. You've got to get some regulations.' So over the years, we've just talked about it and finally decided we would get a group of people together who have similar interests. Some are past Humane Society involved people, some have never been involved in the Humane Society [who] just have a love of the animals and want things to be better for them.
"So we thought this was a group that could maybe get some laws changed. We'll start local and then hopefully maybe can go even bigger. [First we] will bring in low-cost spay/neuter," she said, adding while they recommend pet owners utilize the services of a private veterinarian, low-cost mobile sterilization clinics provide valuable assistance to help prevent unwanted litters. "... We have looked into many [operations] and the one that has been very receptive to coming and helping us is Wally's Friends. It's a group out of the Chattanooga area. They have been coming as far down as Calhoun for years. This is a group that they transport the animals from our location, back to Chattanooga, do the surgeries, keep them overnight, check them over the next morning, bring them back and the owners' pick them up the following morning."
Assisting in its efforts, LAW members will support Wally's Friends by taking appointments that will be placed via phone, 770-655-3836, registering pet owners at 7 a.m. on the day of the procedure at the Tractor Supply Co.'s parking lot -- 10 Ryan Blvd., near U.S. Highway 411 in Cartersville -- and unloading and distributing the animals the following day at the same location at 9 a.m.
Wally's Friends will join two other mobile spay and neuter services that already are operating in Cartersville. While Budget Vet conducts sterilization procedures once a month at Tractor Supply's parking lot, Project CatSnip sets up in the vacant lot north of The Storage Key -- 1310 U.S. Highway 411 in Cartersville -- once or twice a month. Neuter and spay fees for the three clinics span from $25 to $50 for cats and $35 to $60 for dogs, with the cost increasing for heavier canines. For volunteer opportunities with the LAW group, individuals need to call Wade at 770-386-0520 or 770-548-4806.
To schedule an appointment or for more information about each group's services -- which often include vaccinations -- and fee structure, contact the mobile clinics at Wally's Friends, 770-655-3836 or www.wallysfriends.com; Budget Vet, 770-679-1730 or www.mybudgetvet.com; and CatSnip at 770-455-7077 or www.projectcatsnip.com.
Welcoming the support from animal advocates like the LAW members, Bartow County Animal Control Director Debbie Elrod sees firsthand the overcrowding issues resulting from a lack of spaying and neutering. Along with unwanted litters of kittens, she said the agency is reporting high numbers of owner-surrendered animals, where individuals can no longer care for their cat or dog due to finances or a change in location.
"Sitting in the window where I sit every day and [seeing] the number of animals that are being turned into my facility, [I] hear [pet owners say], 'I cannot afford to take them to get them spayed or neutered.' I'm game for anything that's going to help until I'm given a reason to see why that person or those persons should not be involved," Elrod said. "... People, they get cats, they don't get them fixed. And the big thing you hear is, 'I simply cannot afford it.'
"So they don't get it done and they end up with a litter of kittens that they can't find homes for, so they end up bringing them to my facility. And then three months later they're back with another litter of kittens because they still haven't been able to afford to get that cat fixed and can't find homes for it. So we end up with it again. Unfortunately, the number of animals that come into my facility outweigh by far the number of people that are looking to take on those responsibilities."
With euthanizations conducted every Tuesday morning, Bartow County Animal Control put down 3,963 dogs and cats in 2011, which was more than 1,000 less than previous years.
"[The Etowah Valley Humane Society] does a great job," Elrod said. "They're here every day pulling [animals]. They're over here taking pictures. They're posting them. They've got outside agencies that they're working with all over the place statewide. They do transports. They do everything to get these animals out of here and try to find homes for them but people just don't understand. Somebody walks in the door and says, 'Hey, I got 19 cats I need to give you.'
"I had a gentlemen walk in here a few months ago [who was] moving. He's like, 'I've got 46 cats I need to give you.' ... Well, you know, the Humane Society got every single one of those cats a home. Believe it or not, they all tested feline negative," she said referring to the feline leukemia virus. "They were all in great shape when they were looked at. And they were able to get homes for every single one of them but that's just once in every blue moon that that happens. ... It's not unusual for me to take in 40 cats in a day, not at this time of year."
Pleased that more low-cost sterilization opportunities are available, Etowah Valley Humane Society Director Bryan Canty said this is one step in curbing the overall pet overpopulation problem.
"Educating the general population to responsible pet ownership [is important] and that entails properly spaying and neutering their pets as well as keeping them up to date on their vaccines and adhering to your local leash law," Canty said. "The other [component] is just raising awareness of the plight of pet overpopulation and what type of cost the government incurs from having to not only intake those animals but process them and ultimately euthanize them as well.
"But we're looking at something that's going to take place over a period of time. It's not anything that can be solved overnight and that's why we're putting the emphasis on Homeless Pet Clubs in the schools to get the kids involved because they are the next generation of pet owners. It teaches them [responsibility] and it also brings them together with a common love for animals. And we're finding that groups that would normally maybe not associate so closely with each other are coming together and are being kinder and gentler to each other."
For more information on the importance of spaying and neutering or pet adoptions, visit the EVHS' website at www.etowahvalleyhumane.org. Its website also provides a link to Spay Georgia, www.spaygeorgia.org, which offers pet owners certificates for low-cost spaying and neutering at more than 120 participating veterinary clinics across Georgia.