Holly Woltz

Doc Holly

Being a veterinarian isn’t always hearts and roses. It’s wonderful to meet great people with great pets and to share relationships for decades. We rescue pets from the brink of death and extend their lives with good medicine. We hug kittens and smell puppy breath.

However, it takes a toll on us when we euthanize beloved pets, and their humans collapse when saying goodbye. The agony of their goodbye lingers with us.

It takes a toll on us when we see neglect and abuse.

This is a chapter of veterinary medicine that is swept under the rug, but it’s time to take a stand against people who are cruel and thoughtless. It’s time to call out people who do not spay and neuter and continue to have litters of puppies or kittens. It’s time to confiscate those lonely dogs living their life on a chain. It is time to levy fines and award jail time to those who cruelly and viciously harm animals.

And change is beginning! This past week S.C. Governor Henry McMaster visited the SPCA Albrecht Center to sign a new animal welfare bill. Among other things, it requires our magistrates and municipal court judges to receive training on animal cruelty issues. It provides payment to organizations that are holding abused animals whose owners were arrested for animal cruelty (sometimes taking months for cases to settle). It shortens hold times for stray animals so adoption happens quicker. It helps disperse funds to poorer S.C. counties for spaying and neutering.

However, it stopped short on addressing cruelty and neglect cases. Perhaps one day, when political posturing and heated dialogue lessens, these issues can be addressed. Still, the bill is a big step forward for better treatment of S.C. pets, so I rejoice.

Last Wednesday at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, they celebrated transporting 16 dogs up north to new owners anxiously and happily waiting for them. As the vans and trailers left the premises, the staff reentered the shelter to find 40 new animals had been “dropped” off.

How frustrating. And yet, they continue their work with a smile and daily renew their efforts.

Their veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Levy, is no stranger in dealing with animal abuse. She has mastered new skills in amputation of limbs, even ears, with dogs hurt in dog fights. Her perfect running skin sutures sometimes resemble a patchwork quilt as she saves a pet knifed by a human. Numerous hands and hearts work at rehabilitating a dog that’s never lived outside a 2x3-sized crate (for breeding purposes) or saving one that is starving to death because the owner just didn’t want to spend money on food.

I marvel that not only do they not say an ugly word to these humans, but they also do not punch them. I believe I would be tempted to do both.

What about these ridiculous reasons they’ve heard for relinquishing pets?

• Has a bark with too high of a pitch or barks too loudly.

• Wants to be patted too often and is too needy.

• Doesn’t bark at strangers.

• Scratches the door when needing to go outside or come inside.

• Too mellow and will not play catch.

Just when I think I’ve heard (and read) all the ways that people are astoundingly cruel, vindictive and neglectful towards their pets, I find something new. This time it is a story about Kai and his amazingly stupid (and cruel) human. You may have seen Kai on Good Morning America this past Friday.

Kai, a golden retriever in Alberta, Canada, who weighed 170 pounds, was taken to a veterinarian in March 2018 to be put down. His owner complained “He’s having a hard time getting around”.

Instead of putting him down, the veterinarian contacted a rescue group who matched Kai with a foster mom. He is now a trim 70 pounds and has been adopted by his foster family. She said on Good Morning America that she thinks the reason the vet decided to find a different path for Kai is his personality, saying, “He was always extremely loving. Extremely.”

How stupid can you get? You are the reason for your pet’s obesity, and instead of trying to correct the problem, you chose death for your loving pet. I can write no other words – except to thank the Aiken County Animal Shelter for all they do. May you continue to accept and care for the pets who are hurt, relinquished, abandoned, tied to trees, starved, beaten, knifed or shot, neglected, lost, alone and afraid. You are amazing.

Dr. Holly Woltz (Doc Holly), Chief of Staff at Veterinary Services, has practiced veterinary medicine for 30 years and specializes in senior care. A former teacher and writer, she enjoys talking and writing about the human-companion animal bond and its importance. Visit her at www.aikenpetvet.com.