NORTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County Animal Shelter doesn’t put down a pet at its owner’s request, but officials feel that some residents may be getting around that rule.
The shelter’s manager, Jeanie Curphey, told the county animal control and shelter advisory committee Wednesday about the rising issue of owners leaving sick or old animals at the shelter to be euthanized.
“We had two animals brought in today that were over the age of 10 with major medical conditions and, obviously, the only option for those animals is euthanasia,” Curphey said. “In the last couple days, we’ve had six of those.”
According to Curphey, it’s against county policy to put an animal down on request. But also due to policy, the shelter must accept every animal, regardless of health, that comes in to the shelter on County Way in north Forsyth.
“In our mind, that’s what we’re doing when someone turns an animal in like that,” she said. “We’re euthanizing on request, because the animal won’t be able to go to a rescue, it won’t be adopted, we won’t even be able to spay-neuter it.”
Due to local laws, county residents are allowed to surrender animals to the shelter at no cost. Board member and local veterinarian John McGruder said that rule was instituted years ago under different circumstances.
“There used to be a large number of animals that were released in Forsyth County,” he said. “There were free animals everywhere and that ordinance was kind of put into place to get adoptions as opposed to putting them out on the road someplace.”
The result of not having a fee is people circumventing the process of euthanizing animals and passing on the expense to the county.
“It would cost an extreme amount of money to even get the animal healthy,” Curphey said. “It’s an expense. We are having to feed and house them and everything and then have to euthanize them.”
The effect is noticeable in the shelter’s euthanasia numbers. In May, the shelter put down 44 animals, which is far above average and the highest number for 2015.
According to Curphey, part of the issue is some people don’t want to face the reality that their animal is in poor health and hope it can still be adopted out.
“It’s an illusion that they live in,” she said. “I understand that it’s hard to take that step and go to your vet … or they don’t want to be the one to put their animal down. A lot of it’s that.
“It’s an easy out for people, it just is. I leave it here, I walk out and my problem’s solved.”
There is no clear way to stop owners from surrendering sick animals, but the board did informally adopt a policy of requesting a donation from those surrendering animals.
“I don’t want people to getting the idea that they can bring their animals in here to just be euthanized like that,” Curphey said. “We’re going to keep encouraging people not to bring their old animals or hyper aggressive animals.”
Also during its meeting, the committee discussed Forsyth’s new large animal holding center, which was formerly the stable for the sheriff’s office’s mounted patrol. That unit was disbanded in 2013.
The stable, located behind Chestatee Elementary School in northeast Forsyth, will house animals too large for the shelter, but which are noncontagious and not dangerous.