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Petition asks North Augusta animal control for better vetting, transparency

January 28, 2019

NORTH AUGUSTA — A petition to the North Augusta City Council has been circulating online regarding vulnerable animals in the city and, as of Friday, 5,933 people have signed the Change.org petition, called “Stop Convenience Killing Homeless Pets In North Augusta, SC.”

The petition was started by Friends of North Augusta Animals, or FONAA. Tyler Galles, President of FONAA, said the organization has nearly 400 signatures on a paper petition.

He said FONAA believes the requests are “reasonable, low cost, and could be completed in 2019 with appropriate action by city leadership.”

FONAA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization advocating for animals in the City of North Augusta by working with the city, rescue groups and the community.

FONAA’s petition requests six things from the city, including veterinary services, collaborating with Aiken County’s animal shelter, permitting onsite volunteers, promoting spay/neuter and registration programs, more transparency on the annual report, and only euthanizing animals if there is no space and all rescue partners have had the chance to save the animal.

During a City Council meeting in Sept. 2017, Council unanimously passed a resolution regarding a rescue partner agreement, allowing animal rescues to pull adoptable strays from the city’s animal control facility on Claypit Road.

Mary Lou Seymour, rescue coordinator with Shelter Animals Advocates, one of the partner rescues, spoke during this month’s City Council meeting, addressing many of the issues mentioned in the petition.

Seymour said the citizens of North Augusta “are not receiving quality animal control services.”

One of Seymour’s comments related to the lack of veterinarian services animals receive prior to rescues being able to pull them from the facility, saying the cost of vetting a healthy animal is $200, and Shelter Animals Advocates adoption fee is $150.

“Obviously we lose $50 per animal. It’s very hard to get rescues to pull from North Augusta because they can go to any other shelter around here and pull a fully vetted animal for $35,” she said.

While speaking, Seymour pulled out a stack of papers, saying they were veterinarian invoices from the animals Shelter Animals Advocates pulled from the North Augusta facility. Seymour said they totaled $11,112.62.

Seymour said North Augusta’s facility was a “palace” compared to a neighboring county’s facility, but said North Augusta animal control hasn’t made any of the simple changes they have asked for.

One request on the petition asks the city not to euthanize animals if there is space to hold them, or before rescues have had a chance to pull them.

“We have been told that they won’t kill the animals because of space, however, around September when they were having all the hurricanes, we had two animals in there, Bud and Barley,” Seymour said to Council. “Nobody else would pull them of course, and we asked the animal control (officer) if he would hold them for a few days because we could not transport to our northern rescue, so our kennels were full. And he said ‘no.’

“There’s plenty of space in that pound.”

Galles said city officials have said animals are only euthanized based on space, but the kennels have never been full when animals are euthanized.

“FONAA is petitioning to immediately put in place a more flexible policy for euthanasia that was based on available space and gave all the rescue partners more time to arrange for fosters of potential adoptions,” he said.

“This is an action the city could immediately take for little to no cost, and would be of great help to the rescue efforts in North Augusta.”

North Augusta’s animal control department is run by Officer Mike Strauss, who is a trained veterinary assistant, but also works as a public safety officer, firefighter and first responder.

Galles said FONAA does not support any negative rhetoric towards Strauss, and said the current facility is not the issue.

“FONAA does agree the current animal control facility is clean, and well maintained, and disagree with some public perception that the facility is deplorable,” Galles said.

“FONAA concerns are more with the policies listed in the petition ... including the lack of vet care provided, the 72 hour rule, no volunteer program, no support for spay/neuter services, and no set public adoption hours,” he said.

For FONAA’s information go to the group’s Facebook page.