By: Joel Allen

Hello, folks! Well, another month has blown by and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Don’t forget to let “Doggie Claus” know what your babies want for Christmas! This month, I have been to the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter because I have been seeing on Facebook a lot of OTIs.

So, what is an OTI?  This is an acronym the animal shelters use meaning “owner turn in.” We are currently having an overflow of this happening at the animal shelters causing serious overcrowding. It is heartbreaking for many that work the shelters and the owners themselves. Some owners, sadly, just don’t care and yet many others do. I am going to share with everyone what a few had to say.

One volunteer had this to say: “Some of the ones that are turned into us I am okay with because they are moving and can’t take them with them. But the ones that come to us and turn in their animals and don’t care, that really gets to us.

“There was a Lady who brought in King, and she was crying because she could not keep him due to the house she was renting had been sold by its owner for profit and no place would allow her to keep King because he is a pit bull. We’re going to find a boarding place to hold King while she tries to find a place that will let her keep him. She, the lady, has asked us to do that. Those kind of things break my heart. Those things I understand because they are beyond her control.”

There are other situations, though, that can be avoided. Some people don’t care enough to try, and in my opinion, they lack planning on their part in these events. No one should get a dog if they are not willing to keep them and plan on a lifetime commitment. Yes, I agree that unforeseen circumstances can lead to giving up your animal, and if what I am saying angers some people, well, perhaps those people should look at themselves and think about what this article is really about.

Another volunteer said: “OTIs have definitely been on the rise. I think it’s difficult, and sometimes the owners don’t reach out for help and they do dump them. For us, it’s frustrating. We would rather they come to the shelter and turn them in whether we are full or not. We will always accept them. I think it’s kinda sad. So, if the owner can’t afford one and they see one free on Facebook, but they can’t get the generic vetting done through a feed store or a vet, then they should not get a dog, in general.”

Limestone County, as of right now, has no programs for support, such as food banks for animals or spay and neuter programs for the over population of dogs or cats. Because of the lack of needed programs, the local shelters are overrun with strays and owner turn-ins. The staff at these places are exhausted at times, and it takes a toll on them emotionally.

Another volunteer went on to say: “It’s not a priority to keep a pet. I can’t keep a dachshund but I’m smoking or drinking a beer. It’s just not their priority. One dog my son has, the man died and the family just turned it in. You see it on Facebook every day, owner passes away and family does not want it.”

In the event something were to happen to me, I have prepared for my babies to be cared for as I would want it done. A lot of people do not plan for this, and the dogs pay for their lack of planning. After all, we are never promised tomorrow; we should always have a plan for the animals we love and that are depending on us. I will add this, if anyone gets one of my babies (as I refer to mine) and neglects them, well they better hope and pray God does not allow me to wait on them at the Pearly Gates because we are going to fight!

Another volunteer said: “There’s a lot. Most of them we’re seeing are strays but we are seeing a lot of OTIs too. Owners are saying they are not able to afford food or are getting evicted. We had a nine-year-old pit bull, owner turn in.” (And she is still there!)

Folks, I know someone out there can afford to adopt or maybe even foster for a time. Some people have never had a dog before. In my opinion, that someone, whoever they are, will find they haven’t lived yet until they have a dog. Go find that nine-year-old pit bull at the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter! I challenge anyone to try adoption or foster care and take the picture of the animal when they are picked up. Then in two weeks or sooner, snap another photo and see the difference two weeks can make in their appearance.

After interviewing a few volunteers at the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter, I saw a rescue van pull up to pick up the most needy dogs and try to ensure their future “furever” home could be found. I spoke to one of the rescue volunteers. She brought up that there is a lack of spay-and-neuter laws here in Alabama. They have seen a lot of need and are doing their best to remedy the situation.

Well, folks, I want to leave everyone with one or two thoughts. Opt to adopt or try to foster one of these animals. When going to the shelter to find the one or two animals in need, please look at even the old ones and the quiet ones that curl up on their beds and ignore everything. The ones that do this usually have given up or are just majorly depressed. They will surprise anyone willing to give them a chance.

Yes, here I go beating my Bible on someone’s conscience: Proverbs 12:10 “A righteous man regardeth the life of his animal; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

PSA:  The Athens-Limestone Shelter is in need of a volunteer to help with the video interviews of their dogs for adoption. I had the pleasure of seeing a video on one of their dogs up for adoption named Carter. By doing this, it is my opinion that everyone can see these dogs that so frequently get overlooked and see the potential you all are missing. Plus, videoing the dogs is better than still pictures. Please, won’t you volunteer to help? Ask to speak with Priscilla or April when you go by. I hope someone will volunteer for this.

By: Joel Allen