AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COUNTY COUNCIL – May 17, 2022
To Newberry County Administrator Christopher Inglese and County Council members Mary Arrowood (Prosperity), Todd Johnson (Whitmire), Henry Livingston (Pomaria), Nick Shealy (Prosperity), Leslie Hipp (Newberry), Johnny Mack Scurry (Silverstreet), and Travis Reeder (Newberry)
The Newberry County Humane Society is 37 years old. Until April 1985 when it was formed, there was no organization devoted to, or even interested in, the humane treatment of lost, unwanted and abused animals in Newberry County. There was zero cooperation from the County government.
There was no humane shelter in Newberry County until 1990 when the Humane Society contracted with a reluctant County government to create one. The Humane Society built the facilities and ran the shelter until 2000 when it was turned over to the County. The shelter was full. The County was not pleased to have it.
The fate of the shelter, and the helpless animals who languish there, has had its ups and downs with the County. The shelter was always full. The number of animals “euthanized” in the shelter totaled around 2000 a year. Imagine that work, if you will, and what that does to Animal Control officers, mostly underpaid women who are there because they love animals.
In December of 2011, salvation came, our good angels sang Alleluia, the light dawned at the end of the tunnel. You get the picture. Under the leadership of County Administrator Wayne Adams, Shelter Manager Leslie Jenkins, and members of the Humane Society, the County Council voted unanimously to support a low-cost, spay/neuter program offered by the brand new Pawmetto Lifeline Clinic in West Columbia.
That plan gives Newberry County residents the opportunity to have their pets neutered for $30 each with the additional cost of $10 for a rabies shot if needed. If the resident is unable to pay even that much, the County picks up the cost. Most of the assistance goes to owned animals and animals being adopted from the shelter. This program is a rare, absolute gift to taxpayers. In the decade since it began, unwanted litters of puppies and kittens were no longer produced, and the number of homeless dogs and cats was dramatically reduced. The shelter was no longer always full.
In August 2018, another spay/neuter opportunity arrived with Pat Peters and Feral Cat Solutions. Until that time, all feral cats trapped by individuals and Animal Control were brought to the shelter to be killed. That number included many strays and possibly the neighbor’s cat. With the support, again, of Wayne Adams, Leslie Jenkins, and the Humane Society, Pat Peters has undertaken TNR on a county-wide basis. From that date until now, she has trapped, neutered, and returned 1,808 feral cats to form stable, non-proliferating colonies.
We are not talking arithmatic here. The numbers multiply in geometric progression. One fertile female cat, her mate, and their offspring, producing two litters per year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter, will reproduce 12 in the first year, 11 thousand in year five, and 11 million in ten years. One fertile female dog. her mate, and their puppies, if none are ever spayed or neutered, become 5 hundred in three years, and 67 thousand in six years. None of them were spayed or neutered, but you can guess many of them were “euthanized.”
Aside from all the numbers, and the continuing efforts of Animal Control officers in rehoming pets, one simple truth is axiomatic. Spay/neuter is the ONLY effective tool, the ONLY effective method of reducing the number of homeless animals in the shelters and in our communities.
Not all areas of Newberry County are equally served. Many of our residents are unaware of the low cost spay/neuter program. We need to advertise the project and improve access in other County towns. Whitmire and Kinards, Pomaria and Little Mountain, Prosperity and Peak and Silverstreet need more information and better access. As long as members of our rural communities find themselves in the drop zone for unwanted and diseased pets, the job is not finished. Spay/neuter is a necessary ongoing project which will never cease as long as irresponsible people are required to do something.
Last year, in the final reading of the budget, three members of the County Council voted to cut one third of the funding for spay/neuter. Their objection was rumored to be that funds were being used to neuter stray cats. The funding for the program was $75,000 dollars. They sought to reduce that amount by $25,000, not because the money was needed elsewhere, but because they did not understand how and why the program works.
The shelter is full again, largely because of the drop in spay/neuter numbers and missed adoption opportunities during the pandemic. A quick visit to the shelter would prove instructive. Come and see what a heartbreaking job Animal Control has to wrestle every day. There are no dog and cat killers among us, or on the Council. We shouldn’t ask Animal Control to do it either.
Jay Booth, President
Newberry County Humane Society
PO Box 485
Newberry, SC 29108