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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Op/Ed

A New Day, a New Lake City Humane Society, a New Columbia County Partnership

When I moved to Columbia County just a little over a year ago I found a community of very warm, friendly, down-to-earth folk who love the serenity of a rural society. Add the enhancements of lazy rivers, breathtaking springs, miles of beautiful fenced pastures with horses, goats, donkeys, and steer peacefully grazing in the Florida sunshine. What a glorious place!

Sadly, I also found a community where the treatment of companion animals was several decades in arrears: dogs running at large; dogs on chains; a store that was still permitted to sell puppies from Midwestern puppy mills; no low cost spay neuter clinic; puppies and kittens by the boxful being sold on the side of the road, dumped behind local businesses or in the woods; or brought to the shelter because there are 5,000 irresponsibly produced animals each year in a county of 68,000 people.

We have been blessed in the last twelve months to have received a significant amount of help from individuals and organizations outside of Columbia County to reduce the senseless killing of friendly, healthy companion animals. We no longer summarily kill shelter pets on the fourth day of their stay with us, as was the "normal" prior to 2015. It is time for the citizens and civic leaders of Columbia County, the county that takes in more companion animals to its tiny shelter, per capita, than any in Florida, to make some social changes.

Licensing. I've never lived in a place that didn't require a license tag for pets. Deborah Turcott, Chief Operating Officer, Shelter Medicine Program at UF College of Veterinary Medicine said of licensing, "It is the basis for a responsible pet-owning community."

It is also the only way to assure that our community is protected from rabies.

Municipal funding of Animal Services to assure humane treatment of stray companion animals, prosecution of those who abuse and neglect companion animals, and protection of citizens from dangerous ones is also a societal norm. Targeting resources to prevent birth, and to educate the populace, even if it requires legislation, is how a civilized municipality ends the senseless killing of friendly, healthy dogs and cats.

During the last three months, the Board of Directors of the Lake City Humane Society and I met with each county commissioner and the county manager and his assistant. Some were so flabbergasted that they questioned the intake numbers. None knew that veterinarians are required by state law to report the ownership information of every dog, cat, and ferret they vaccinate for rabies to their local animal services agency.

We gave them a lot to think about.

On April 7, in our ongoing effort to create a humane Columbia County, we presented three items of new business to the Columbia County Commission. During that meeting a committee was formed to review the shelter's budgetary needs. Originally scheduled to report back to the County Commission on April 21, County Manager Ben Scott moved the date to the first meeting in May, which is May 5.

We are working hard to create a kinder, more humane solution for Columbia County's homeless companion animals.

County Commission Chairman Nash stated that there is a "new relationship" between Animal Control/Humane Society and the County.

It is a new day and a new Lake City Humane Society and Columbia County partnership. We are hopeful that the County will come on board with us and continue the commitment to ending the unnecessary killing of healthy, friendly pets in Columbia County. We are looking forward to working together and creating solutions.

Laura J Page is the Executive Director Lake City Humane Society

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