Progress in animal control

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

Every local government struggles with big issues that have no easy answers. Animal control is a good example.

Because animal control is complicated, controversial, and expensive, it’s a difficult matter to address. We are now taking small steps, and they are multiplied through partnerships that are making life better for people and animals.

Commissioners approved $25,000 appropriations in fiscal years 2021-22 and 2023-24 to help residents pay for spay/neuter services. It has been administered both years by the nonprofit Friends of Lawrence County Animals (FOLCA), and we recently received a fantastic report on the program’s success.

This year’s funds are providing 411 procedures, a total made up of 60% cats, 40% dogs. This prevents the birth of literally thousands of unwanted animals. One set of statistics I found reports that one un-spayed female dog and her offspring can produce 508 puppies in seven years. One un-spayed female cat and her offspring can produce up to 4,948 kittens in seven years. Females have help with that, of course, so neutering males is just as important.

Residents receive assistance based on their income, and discounted operations are being provided with the help of two nonprofits and one local vet. People for Animals is partnering with Lawrenceburg Animal Hospital, and CASA (Charlie’s Angels Saving Animals) is transporting groups of local pets to its Columbia clinic for procedures.

Most requests, FOLCA reported, are from residents on fixed incomes who are taking care of strays and desperately need help with costs. I am so proud Commissioners took this step to help these residents and control our animal population, and I hope they’ll choose to do so again.

Lawrence County Sheriff John Myers is helping our animal control efforts by having one deputy per shift trained to handle troublesome dogs. Their vehicles will be equipped with gear for humane capture and transport to the Animal Shelter in the patrol car’s back seats.

Loretto Mayor Steve McMasters became part of the effort by donating a box truck from McMasters Home Gallery to FOLCA. Fundraising will begin soon to convert it into an animal transport vehicle with temperature controls and a kennel system that prevents injury. It will be used to take dogs from the Shelter to adoption events, so volunteers won’t have to transport them in their cars.

The Commission has supported construction and operation of the new Lawrenceburg Animal Shelter, which has had its share of problems. Today it is at capacity and can only accept dogs brought from emergency situations by city and county law enforcement. Although Shelters around the country are experiencing overcrowding, I believe things are about to get better at ours.

The City of Lawrenceburg recently hired a new Animal Shelter Director who comes with an extremely impressive history of work with dogs and nonprofits.

Ginger Morgan volunteered eight years for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, then worked four years as its Executive Director. During that time, she helped raise $2.8 million to expand that Shelter from 9,000 to 20,000 square feet. With her dog Pete, she started the Visiting Dog Therapy Program at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and in 2008 was named one of “Fifty Women Who Make a Difference” in Memphis.

She most recently served as the Executive Director and President of the Board for the Puppy Up Foundation, helping raise $10 million toward the goal of discovering the common links between human and companion animal cancers and their causes.

She is also my aunt, which amazingly is not part of her resume. I knew growing up that my dogs had to be in tiptop shape for her visits, freshly bathed and nails trimmed, or I would lose the favorite nephew status I am sure I still have.

I’ve always been proud of her passion for dogs, but never more than at the meet-and-greet sponsored for her by the Chamber, FOLCA and City of Lawrenceburg. She spoke about a goal you don’t usually hear from Shelter directors: that the life of every dog that comes to our Shelter will be improved by their time there. With a village of people around her, I believe she can make that happen.

 Read MoreLawrence County TN, Government

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