Every summer it's the same problem at the McDuffie County Animal Shelter. The pet population booms, and pet owners can't - or won't - handle all the new cats and dogs.
So many strays or abandoned pets are brought to the shelter that it fills to near capacity. The diseased animals have to be put down to keep from spreading sickness to others.
But this summer, the equipment at the shelter proved inadequate for the disposal of those animal remains. County Commissioner and local veterinarian Darrell Wester asked for and received a new freezer to keep up with the higher summer volume of euthanized animals.
The remains of euthanized animals are frozen to make disposal cleaner and more pleasant for county road workers who are charged with transporting them. High temperatures and increased volume made that difficult with only one freezer, Dr. Wester told commissioners at a meeting last month.
"The body temperatures are much hotter than what ours are," said Shelter Manager Gail Newsome. "...In the meantime when the temperatures are kicking 100 degrees outside, that even makes it worse because that freezer is trying to work double time to get those temperatures where they need to be."
By last week, Ms. Newsome said the county had purchased a freezer to supplement the one already in place. County Manager Don Norton was also considering the purchase of an air conditioner for the shed that houses the freezers to help in the process.
Ms. Newsome said these measures should take care of the problem on her end. But she said if pet owners followed a few simple common-sense principles, her job handling unwanted pets would be much easier.
"It just resorts back to people not taking care of their animals, or people abandoning an animal or moving off and leaving them on properties," Ms. Newsome said, adding that pet owners should enclose their animals in a fence with proper water and shelter as well as having them vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Ms. Newsome said a specialty license plate is available at the county tax office for $25 that promotes spaying and neutering. Of that fee, $22 goes directly to vets to sterilize animals which will keep the population down.
The shelter currently keeps healthy animals longer than the required three days to try and get them adopted. If strays are spotted, residents can use a catch cage provided by the shelter to trap and transfer the animal to the shelter.
The McDuffie County Animal Shelter is open from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and is cleaned on the weekends. The shelter's phone number is 706-595-0463, and an answering machine catches all calls that come in after hours.
"We're trying to get animals back into a good home, somebody that is wanting to take the responsibility of a pet and someone wanting to give a pet a good home," Ms. Newsome said.