Shelter overpopulated

Sarge has been without a home since December 2003. He has had no one to love him, no one to play with him when he is bored, or pet him when he wants affection. His previous owner gave him up when she became pregnant so that the baby would not have to share her home with a puppy. The 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever and Chow mix has been confined to a 7-foot-6-inch by 3 -foot cold cement cell for almost a year now.

According to the Leon County Animal Service Center there are more than 100 dogs and 60 cats in need of owners. For every 10 pets brought to the shelter, four of the pets are unaltered, or not spayed or neutered, and about one in every 10 female pets is pregnant. This accounts for some of the over population of the shelter.

Jean Fornier has been volunteering at the shelter for more than three years. She dedicates 20 hours a week there to socialize the pets and take them on walks. She said she cannot help falling in love with the pets and has three dogs, five cats, and an albino rabbit living in her Killearn Lakes home.

“Of course, we encourage everyone to adopt pets instead of buying them from a shop or backyard breeders,” Fornier said. “It’s important to get these animals into homes because new pets arrive daily. And we just don’t have enough room.”

Fornier explained that most people get animals from the shelter because it is more economical for them. Pet stores and breeders can charge more than $200. The shelter charges $50 for a cat or dog. The cost covers food and toys for the animals; they consider it more like a donation than a fee. There is no appointment needed to come to the clinic and receive a special rate of $50.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 70,000 kittens and puppies are born each day due to uncontrolled breeding. Compare that to the 10,000 human births each day, and it then becomes evident that there are simply not enough homes for all these animals.

“The overwhelming pet population is a serious problem,” said David Hale of the Cross Creek Animal Shelter.

“My office will offer special rates for all animals to get spayed or neutered. We must save these innocent animals from being euthanized because there is no room in the shelters. And the only way to do it is to make sure the animals can’t reproduce.”

More than 4 million animals are put to sleep annually because they were unwanted and only 3 million pets find homes from shelters across the world, Fornier said.

“Every cat or dog who dies as a result of pet overpopulation-whether humanely in a shelter or by injury, disease or neglect-is an animal who, more often than not, would have made a wonderful companion, if given the chance,” Hale said.

“Plus, for the animals that never make it to the shelters, they pose a serious health risk for the rest of us.”

Hale explained that stray animals can get into trash and carry diseases. Since they go untreated, they spread the disease to domesticated animals and other wildlife. Their feces also become carriers of the disease.

Amy Schweikart, 24, of Melbourne, has been coming to the Leon County Animal Service Center every week to window shop.

“I’m not ready to get a pet now, but I want to find the right pet for when I am (ready),” Schweikart said.

“It takes time. The way all the animals look at me with their head cocked to the side and their ears pointing up makes me want to cry. I wish I could take all of them.”

Schweikart has visited the shelter for almost a month now. She has been saving her money to secure the future of her new pet. By next month, she plans to have enough money to adopt and support Sarge.

“He’s just so sweet and perfect.”

Many cities across the United States have shelters that house stray animals waiting for adoption.

Contact Peggy Hurkes at