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Dogfight bust, cat hoarding leads to packed animal shelter in Orlando

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Over the past year, Orange County Animal Services has made some great strides in upping their visibility in the community. I’ve seen billboards, heard radio station promotions, gotten many emails with announcements of special events, all focused on raising awareness in the Central Florida area of the availability of the many wonderful dogs, cats and “others” that are sheltered at OCAS. And, in response, the community has stepped up their adoption rates. So it really has been a triple win, for OCAS, for the animals, and for the new adoptive families. In fact, according to Dil Luther, Division Manager of OCAS, for approximately 90 days

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not a single animal had to be euthanized due to lack of space at the shelter.

That is a wonderful statistic. I remember when there were more than 12 pages of dogs listed on www.ocnetpets.com, where OCAS lists their available animals. I can’t remember how many pages of cats were there, but I’m sure there were more than 12, and with 21 animals per page, it sure added up.

And the increase in visibility paid off. The number of pages of listed dogs reached a low of 3, which means 63 dogs available for adoption. Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There were definitely still animals that were not posted on the webpage, animals in isolation or quarantine for various reasons - health, age, pregnant, etc. They could be adopted, but you had to search them out when you arrived at the shelter, or be on the “rescue-only” email list sent by the rescue coordinator. Many of these animals, due to donations from the public, were able to be taken in by rescues. So, again, the public stepped up to the plate, with many of the donors not even in the Florida area!

And even better news from OCAS - at a recent board meeting they revealed that they have hired a third full-time veterinarian! She starts on July 7th.

But recent actions by some citizens in Orange County have led to a dark turn of events, causing the shelter to, once again, be pushed to bursting. For all the efforts the staff had been making, these were two unexpected TKO‘s.

First, there was the dog fighting bust in Apopka, FL this past May. There has not been a dog fighting ring bust in our area for many years. Local law enforcement had been informed about the fights by concerned neighbors, and had been investigating the home for approximately two months. They were biding their time until the word went out on the street that one such heinous event was scheduled. And they swooped in, arresting 26 of these disgustingly twisted individuals.

I invite you to scan through their sordid mugs. I would have loved to have posted their addresses here as well, but the legal system doesn’t allow this information to be given out - in order to “protect” these criminal’s homes from being broken into while they’re incarcerated. Do you believe these animal abusers really deserve protection?

When the police arrived they discovered a pretty sophisticated operation, with more than 40 attendees from Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties. Unfortunately some of them escaped into the darkness. The Police Chief said the fights were a big moneymaker, and that the man who lived in the home, Adelle Dawson, was going to make between $7,200 and $8,000 that night until police made the bust.

The home was set up with treadmills in it for the dogs to run on. There was bait in the form of raccoons and puppies. They also found horse steroids, blood boosters and other drugs used to try to make the dogs stronger and better able to fight. They also found two children, ages 5 and 6 living there. The children were removed from the home.

One dog was in such bad condition it had to be taken out on a stretcher. All the animals were relocated to OCAS, including the ones these killers had left in their cars. The final tally was 35 dogs taken to OCAS that evening.

Just as a point of information, in 2012 there was a proposed Amendment to the Farm Bill. Amendment 2363 sought to prohibit attendance at an animal fighting venture, including dog and cockfighting. It would impose a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine for attending a cockfight or dogfight and a maximum of three years in jail and a $250,000 fine for bringing along a child. Amendment 2363 passed with a vote of 88 to 11. 88% of ALL senators agreed that animal cruelty should be punished, that dog fighting and cockfighting are wrong and criminal. Here are the 11 individuals who voted AGAINST the amendment: Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Jeff Bingaman, Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham, Jim Inhofe, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Jeff Sessions. Remember their names when it comes to election season.

The Apopka dogs are all being held at OCAS pending the decision of the court system regarding their custody. They are currently unavailable for adoption or rescue, but in the meantime, the dogs are being temperament tested. Mr. Luther has told me that the testing revealed that most, if not all of them are actually people-friendly. They are “salvageable” and therefore adoptable! He believes that they are “not the typical high-dollar dogs you‘d imagine when you hear the words dog-fighting ring.” In other words, they are not the same “bred-for-killing” canines found at Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels bust, though I know that even the Vick dogs were able to be rehabilitated. Per Mr. Luther, most of the Apopka bust dogs were “probably taken from Craigslist ads, found on the street, or from backyard breeders. Many of them were in just pitiful condition when they arrived” at the shelter.

I imagine that for some of these dogs, this bust might actually be their second chance at having a better life. At least they will not be forced to fight till their blood is spilled, their throats torn open, while the sub-humans watching the battle scream in exhilaration and excitement. And the attendees to this event… they’re so ignorant of how despised they are that they actually called OCAS looking to reclaim their dogs. Please - call again. Show up. There’s a nice room that a friendly policeman will escort you to. They’re waiting for your call.

The next blow to OCAS efforts to diminish resident headcount came in June, when more than 30 cats were taken from one home in the Pine Hills area. We are right in the middle of cat and kitten season, and the addition of these 20 cats and 6 kittens, though many of them are healthy and adoptable, though fearful, pushed the number of felines available at the shelter to over 300. This must be catastrophically stressing the care available to each animal, and I’m including veterinarians, kennel workers and volunteers in this quantification.

According to Mr. Luther, this was the second large grouping of animals the shelter received in a 30-day period.

In an effort to reduce their feline over-population, for the month of June OCAS waived the standard adoption fee of $40 for all cats who were 6 months and older, calling them “certified pre-owned cats”. Many were owner surrenders, with lots of love and life left - including 8 of their “nine-lives”.

Many of their now almost monthly adoption events run along similar lines. Animals receive spay/neuter, initial vaccinations, microchips, deworming, rabies vaccinations, FLV and FIV testing and Adoption Welcome Kits, which always include a fresh bag of food for their new family member. Their current $17.76 adoption special runs through the month of July. From July 1 to July 6 they reduced dog and cat adoption fees to $17.76. To show special thanks to those who have served or country, military families will be able to adopt for free the whole month of July!

However, all their efforts can’t diminish the fact that there are simply too many animals being housed at OCAS, and in all the other kill shelters around the country. The numbers of owner turn-ins to OCAS has dramatically increased over the past 40 days, and the number of people willing to adopt just can’t keep up with the number of animals in search of their furever homes. The headcount on Ocnetpets.com of shelter guests is 8 pages of dogs and 6 pages of cats. More than 300 animals, if you include the Apopka dogs and the ones in iso and quarantine.

This is why I agree with Mr. Luther, when he told me that increasing the availability of low-cost spay and neuter and controlling the local backyard breeder network is the only way to get the population down. I will applaud every effort the shelter and the City of Orlando takes to head us in that direction. That must include strongly regulating the backyard breeders in our area, mandating and enforcing spay and neuter regulations and shutting down the sale of animals in retail stores as they have done in many cities this year, including Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles and at least 20 municipalities in FLORIDA!

As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We will never run out of dogs and cats. Stop contributing to their destruction by adding to their population. Orlando - your turn has come.

I believe the best breed is adopted. Don’t you?

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