Many people that live on the western side of Tennessee have become “accidental” pet owners.
Late night dumping of unwanted dogs is a regular occurrence in this area. One resident in this area has 13 dogs because of these drive-bys. People either have the choice of letting the animals starve, get hit by a car, or take them in. They choose to accept them in their home.
The problem with this is that these residents have bigger hearts than their wallets. They have become closely attached to their numerous pets, but they cannot afford to sterilize or vaccinate their pets. These owners even scrape by to provide food for their numerous pets. Even county governments lack funds and do not maintain animal shelters or require licensing or enforce rabies requirements.
Veterinary experts say that this combination of pets and poverty creates unhealthy conditions for oversized animal populations and poses a risk to human health.
Dr. Bob Sumrall, a veterinarian in nearby Henderson, in Chester County, estimated that more than 75 percent of the thousands of dogs in the county alone have not had rabies shots. â€œThis poses a definite health risk,â€ he said.
From New York Times:
â€œA lot of poor people here end up with lots of dogs and they get a feeling of hopelessness, they donâ€™t know what to do,â€ said Sherrye McKinnon, who works for pet-rescue groups in the region.
The Swetmans live on a back-country road near Finger. They keep two dogs in their cluttered concrete-block house, two tethered to trees and the rest in three wire pens. They somehow eke out $26 a week to buy two 50-pound sacks of dog food.
â€œIâ€™d do without food myself before they do,â€ Ms. Swetman said. But they say with some despair that veterinary care, which can run $100 a year per animal for vaccines and $100 or more for spaying or neutering, is far beyond their reach.
A clinic was set up in Selmor’s National Guard Armory in mid-June. This HSUS sponsored program sends volunteer veterinarians and students to Appalachia, Indian reservations and other areas to sterilize and treat pets when people cannot afford to pay for these services themselves.
â€œWith every animal we prevent from having a litter, weâ€™re making a difference,â€ said Tammy Rouse, Appalachian coordinator for the volunteer service. Inside the hall, three veterinarians and 28 veterinary students spent 15-hour days sterilizing up to 50 dogs and cats a day and provided vaccinations, deworming and other treatments.
But the volunteer service faces a Sisyphean task, Ms. Rouse said.
â€œItâ€™s like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing artery,â€ she said. â€œSpay-neuter has to go hand in hand with education and legislation.â€