ANIMAL ADVOCATES: We surely can save them all

  • Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:15 a.m.

“We can’t save them all” is a common assertion among those who live with the reality that thousands of companion animals are killed in our shelters every year. They die because we have not dedicated the time or resources needed to make the killing unnecessary.

Here in Aiken County, thanks to the massive shelter-based efforts from organizations like the SPCA or FOTAS, the rhetoric has assumed more of an advocates tone. The goal aligning these commendable programs strives to “never have to euthanize an adoptable pet.” But if the definition of “adoptable” is subjective, or if it rules out all the treatable and trainable animals typically sentenced to die, then it is merely a more evolved form of “We can’t save them all.”

The No Kill Equation starts with the premise that we can save them all, and that moral reasoning obligates us to do it; that is, save every healthy and treatable domestic animal. The No Kill movement is sweeping the country, adapting its approaches to every community and jurisdiction it captivates. And now there are No Kill advocates working among us, with quiet determination, across Aiken County.

Shelter Animal Advocates are leading the way for Aiken County to join Charleston, Spartanburg City and Greenville county shelters in the No Kill Nation. The organization is led by “Three Mutts-kateers” who rescue (mostly) dogs deemed “unadoptable” at the County Shelter; these are heartworm-positive dogs, injured dogs, sick dogs, black dogs, “ordinary” dogs, old dogs, ornery dogs, etc. Here is an example:

A Good Samaritan found Luke, a poodle mix, in the county and took him in for a few days, then turned him in to County Animal Control as a stray. While in the shelter, emaciated Luke could not keep his food down. Shelter Animal Advocates stepped in and pulled Luke for one of their partner rescues organizations up north and placed him with a local foster home.

After several days in foster care, Luke was still regurgitating his food, no matter what kind of food they tried, even with pre-meal medications. A vet was consulted and suggested it could be either a tumor or “mega-esophagus,” a condition in which the muscles of the esophagus lose their tone and are no longer able propel food into the stomach.

There are numerous tests that could have been done, but the surest way to determine if it is mega-esophagus is to feed the animal sitting upright, then hold it upright for 15 minutes after eating. If the food stays down, it is mega-esophagus, which is a manageable condition.

“Our foster home followed these instructions to the letter, while Luke’s rescue organization began preparing a ‘Bailey Chair’ for him to ‘sit’ in to eat when he arrived up north,” recalls Mary Lou, Shelter Animal Advocates foster coordinator.

Luke kept down his food, began putting on weight and was transported to his rescue up north. He was adopted into a forever home that has experience with special needs dogs and two young boys who love Luke very much. Luke lives with love.

In the last year, Shelter Animal Advocates have saved 193 “unadoptable” dogs, 84 of them since Jan. 1. Of those 193 dogs, 48 were heartworm positive, another treatable condition in most cases.

If you are an animal-lover, and you want a dose of real purpose in your life, call Mary Lou at the Aiken Foster Network hot line at 803-275-0841. They need you.

Foster placements are short term, tailored to the capabilities of the foster family, and fully supported with food, meds, toys, etc.

Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc. (PAWS) is another emerging 501(c)(3) member of the No Kill Aiken County family. PAWS founding purpose is two-fold: unwanted animal prevention, and well-homed animal retention.

Spay/Neuter Your Pet (SNYP) is PAWS’ very accessible, very low-cost spay/neuter service (including transport) the heart of the PAWS mission. Humane confinement, food bank, disease prevention and easy return-to-owner (RTO) through microchipping, are some of the other components of PAWS’ mission as a No Kill Partner.

In March alone, 40 dogs and 10 cats were referred, funded and some transported to the SPCA Albrecht Center’s high-volume clinic for spay/neuter surgery by PAWS volunteers. PAWS is deeply grateful to its initial generous donors, who see the need and are ready to be part of the solution.

PAWS welcomes fund-raising initiatives and will be coordinating with local communities to have a wonderful variety animal-advocacy programs as part of community events: off-site adoptions, pet training demos, health promotions for heartworm, rabies, spay/neuter and diet.

If you are interested, energetic, creative, lonely, talented, bored or just want more reasons to feel good about yourself, call Joya at 803-634-0564.

We can save them all. Working together to take better care of our animals makes us better people, and better people make better communities. Join us. (PayPal coming soon!)

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, and co-founder of FOTAS, Inc. Contact her at 803-634-0564 (text) or email

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