Last updated: July 04. 2014 12:08AM - 687 Views
By - mflomer@civitasmedia.com

Contributed photoAllison Sweatt of Richmond County Animal Advocates gets a hug from Tito on June 13. Tito was taken to Wisconsin to be placed in a home.
Contributed photoAllison Sweatt of Richmond County Animal Advocates gets a hug from Tito on June 13. Tito was taken to Wisconsin to be placed in a home.
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ROCKINGHAM — July is the cruelest month if you’re a dog in Richmond County, according to Richmond County Animal Advocates founder Allison Sweatt.

“The week of July Fourth every year, we literally get flooded with animals,” Sweatt said. “It’s summertime and nobody wants to adopt or foster these pets. They actually dump them, so they don’t have to worry about the dog while they are vacationing, and a lot of times these are the same people who show up a couple of weeks later posting ‘lost dog’ notices on Facebook and elsewhere. It’s a shame.”

Sweatt said there is a special place on the advocates’ do-not-adopt list for people like that.

“We don’t publish the list, but once the same person has become a repeat offender, and we know they’ve done this several times, that’s it,” Sweatt said.

RCAA’s 50-plus volunteer workers have placed countless unwanted animals in foster homes and rescue services since the group’s beginnings in 2012.

Sweatt, formerly employed as the rescue coordinator for the Humane Society of Richmond County, left her position to form the 501(c)(3) nonprofit under parent organization Last Chance Animal Rescue of Southampton, New York.

“We basically do whatever we can to get animals out of the shelter and into homes or foster homes, or up north into no-kill rescues,” Sweatt said.

Even the no-kill rescues are unable to save every pet, but Sweatt said that help from Howl on Wheels and Middle Mutt — interstate transportation groups and volunteers dedicated to placing homeless animals — often makes a difference in the lives of even the most hopeless animals’ cases.

“So much of this could be prevented if people would follow spay and neuter guidelines,” said Sweatt. “Here in Richmond County, there are low-cost spay and neuter clinics at least twice a year when it only costs $32 to have the pet spayed and given a one-year rabies vaccine. So many people don’t think they will qualify for the discount because of income, but that’s not true more often than not.”

A family of four, for example, can earn up to $94,200 and still qualify for the low-cost services. A family of two can earn up to $62,040. These incomes, Sweatt said, are relatively high for the area. Based on that, most people would qualify.

One of the most popular reasons people drop animals off at the shelter, Sweatt said, has to do with the animals’ behavior — at least, according to the owners.

“A lot of times, it’s really the people,” Sweatt said. “If you bring your dog here saying, ‘He bites and growls at the kids,’ my question is ‘Why is your 3-year-old being left alone to pull the Rottweiler’s ears?’ Mostly it is people not knowing how to behave with animals, and rather than training everyone in the home how to deal with them, they’d rather just get rid of the pet.”

The American Kennel Club advises people to protect their pets during Fourth of July celebrations, suggesting dogs be brought indoors if fireworks will be going off nearby because “dogs can be startled by the loud noise of fireworks. Should your dog get scared, escape and run away,” owners of dogs without microchip identification technology could lose their pets forever.

Visit the AKC website for more responsible dog ownership tips at www.akc.org

Contact reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673.

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