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Don't shop, adopt!

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There are plenty of dogs, cats in need of good homes

By Greg Summers

Nothing hurts quite like losing a good dog. I experienced that just before Christmas, with the passing of Speckles.

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Almost 15 years old, Speckles wasn’t your typical dalmatian. She was a member of our family.

Because of that, I debated long and hard about getting another dog and didn’t do so until the time was right.

However, the one decision I did make was to adopt a dog from Lancaster County Animal Shelter.

It’s kinda like the starfish-on-the-beach story.

You know, the one where heaps of starfish have washed up on the shore and this fella encounters a young man in the distance at low tide tossing them back into the surf before they dry out.

“You must be out of your mind,” the older man shouts. “There are thousands of miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The young man shrugs, reaches down to scoop up another starfish and heaves it into the waves.

“It made a difference to that one,” he said. 

Meet Buster, formally known as Buster Brown. He’s my 22-pound starfish.

After periodic trips to the Lynwood Drive facility for several months, I happened upon Buster in late April. He got my immediate attention because of his rather low-key disposition and shiny, brown eyes.

Unlike the other dogs that barked, whined and whimpered when I walked past the runs, Buster quietly sat there, switching his curly tail.

“We get plenty of dogs like that in here,” said Alan Williams of Lancaster County Animal Control. “When I see them, I want to take them home with me, too, but there’s only so much you can do.”

By April 30, Buster was one of the lucky ones; he had a home.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that almost 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year for no other reason than they don’t have a home.

In fiscal 2008-09, Lancaster County Animal Control euthanized 3,983 of the 4,627 dogs and cats it took in. However, only 163 were adopted. Many were reclaimed or given to rescue groups.

“You’d think more people would care and would want a pet, but I guess they don’t,” Williams said.  

And with a souring economy, there are fears that number is only going to rise, since many owners can no longer care for their pets.

It’s already happening here, said Mary Reimers, president of the non-profit Humane Society of Lancaster County. The group received its 501(c)(3) status in late July, which will hopefully open up the door for some grant funding. The organization pulls in pets from the local animal shelter whenever their time is up to keep them from getting euthanized.

“A lot of people are having to move,” Reimers said. “And where they are moving to, pets aren’t allowed.”

How to adopt  

Adopting a pet isn’t hard. Lancaster County charges a $50 up-front adoption fee, said Freddie Faulkenberry, one of the county’s litter and animal control officers.

Faulkenberry said state law now requires every adopted adult dog or cat to be spayed or neutered within 30 days. The time period is six months for puppies and kittens. Once the procedure is performed and the animal shelter is provided a copy of the receipt, the county treasurer’s office will refund $40 of the adoption fee.

After taking care of the paperwork that day, I took Buster to Faulkner Animal Hospital, where veterinarian Katie Barnes gave him a thorough examination, including a check for heartworms and rabies shots. 

That’s the one downside to adopting a pet from the animal shelter. It’s only on rare cases that officers know the medical history of the animal.

Barnes estimated his age at about seven months and he weighed about 17 pounds. However, I still don’t know what breed of dog he is. Neither did she.

I don’t care, so why should Buster?

We went back to Faulkner Animal Hospital about four weeks later so Buster could become compliant with state law.   

But if you can’t afford that, the local Humane Society has an alternative.

The group has contracted with Crossroads Animal Clinic in Lowrys for low-cost sterilization procedures.

Reimers said August is already booked solid and September is filling up fast. Not only is the fee less, right now, Humane Society volunteers will take your pet to and from Lowrys clinic in Chester County for the overnight stay.

The Human Society also offers $125 adoptions for its foster pets.

While that price may seem steep, it’s actually reasonable. Reimers said the $125 fee includes an initial visit to a veterinarian, rabies shots, heartworm testing and spay and neutering when the pet reaches an appropriate age.

“In the big picture of things, it’s really quite reasonable,” Reimers said.

Another option is Olivia’s Angels.

Set up in honor of the late Olivia Pettit, the Humane Society fund pays for shots and heartworm testing for pets whose owners can’t afford them.

If you haven’t thought about adopting a pet like Buster and can, please do.

There are plenty of starfish out there.

Did you know?

The Humane Society of Lancaster, 126 S. Main St., offers a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. For details, call 285-5683 or visit www.savelancasterpets.org.