Friends of North Augusta Animals, or FONAA, is a 501c3 nonprofit that started out of concern for local animals.
Tyler Galles, president of FONAA, said the group is working toward advocacy and education around animals in the City of North Augusta, as well as working as a rescue network.
North Augusta’s animal control department is headed by Officer Mike Strauss, who along with running animal control, works as a public safety officer, firefighter and first responder with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.
In August, Galles gave a presentation to North Augusta City Council about the issues surrounding animals in the city and ways to improve animal control, which include vetting, visibility and volunteers, spay/neuter resources, microchipping, Trap-Neuter-Release and pet licensing.
Strauss, who is also trained as a veterinary assistant, said animal control generally has a high call volume, but that’s to be expected with a geographically tighter group of people.
“Generally in animal control, you’re dealing with domesticated animals, crimes dealing with domesticated animals,” he said, “We could be talking about a dog barking; we could be talking about animal cruelty; we could be talking about dogs without restraints, ill-treatment to animals, stuff like that.”
He said a lot has changed since he started at the North Augusta Department of Public Safety 20 years ago.
“Around ’99 was when the chipping started; that was a big deal," Strauss said. "That was a big turning point for a lot of people because they can add the chips to their dogs, and we can get them back to the people in the same day."
He added that microchips aren’t a “save-all,” because people don’t always update their chip information. Other things that have helped animal control are the internet, where adoptable pets can be posted, and low-cost spay and neuter programs.
“Our population’s been going up, especially since I’ve been here. I’ve been here since ‘95, and you know our population has gone way up; and, actually, the number of animals that we’ve picked up has gone down,” Strauss said.
“There’s been a lot of good things that have happened; we have a low-cost spay and neuter program, you know, to help low-income people.”
He mentioned what he called the “cycle of ridiculousness,” where an owner would have a fertile cat who gave birth to a litter of kittens three to five times a year, and said low-cost spay and neuter programs have helped slow down that cycle.
Other things Strauss mentioned that have helped with animal control are the rescue organizations the city works with, as well as legislation passed by the city.
“In ’96, we passed a three animal rule; (each family is) only allowed to have three animals in the city," he said. "That’s paid big dividends, I think, for the city. That cuts back on hoarding and stuff like that.”
Another step the city has taken is preventing the feeding of wild animals in city parks. He said in parks like the Brick Pond Park, wild animals were getting accustomed to people feeding them, and started coming after people.
Galles said FONAA would like to see volunteers be able to help in the city’s animal kennels, to help socialize and exercise dogs, provide health screenings and give medication.
He also said better intake information would help rescues know about the animals that are being taken from North Augusta animal control, such as the environment they came from, how they behave inside versus outside and how they interact with people.
Strauss said the city’s animal control unit is doing well; they haven’t euthanized an adoptable dog since November, in part because of volunteer organizations like Molly’s Militia and Shelter Animal Advocates.
As for what the community can do to responsibly care for animals, he said to make sure to spay and neuter, as well as think about the future (size of your home, yard, children) because an animal is a commitment.
Galles said the area is always needing people to provide foster care for animals, and stressed that volunteering to help with North Augusta animals can begin at home, by having pets spayed or neutered, and practicing responsible pet ownership.
FONAA can be found on Facebook under a page called FONAA – Friends of North Augusta Animals.