Cheaha Dogs

Rock, one of 40 dogs on a euthanasia list at Cheaha Regional Humane Society, looks out from his kennel. Jane Cunningham, chairwoman of the shelter's board, said 40 dogs were placed on a euthanasia largely because of overcrowding by stray dogs. Kirsten Fiscus/ The Anniston Star

Chance, a white mixed-breed dog at Cheaha Regional Humane Society, got a second chance to live this week along with nearly 40 other canines, thanks to an outpouring of support from the community.

Shelter staff this weekend put out a plea online looking for people to foster the dogs, for rescue groups to accept them, or families to adopt one. While some of the dogs will still have to be euthanized for being too aggressive, most will live until the end of the week, at which point Jane Cunningham, chairwoman of the shelter’s board, said she hopes all will be in loving homes.

“I hope come Saturday we won’t have any more on the list,” she said as she walked through the kennel.

The shelter is overrun with stray dogs, Cunningham said, which has led to the current predicament.

“We try to keep our dog count at 100 or less,” she said. “The number that we came up with to euthanize was to get us under that and give us enough capacity to do intake for city animal controls. We need at any given time at least 20 cages to service Anniston, Oxford and the county’s needs.”

On Tuesday, some dogs peered out of their cages sheepishly while others jumped up and down excitedly. Many of those on the list for euthanasia calmly peered out of the cages and stuck their noses out for affection.

To compound the issue, many rescue services from Northern states were unable to pay for transportation in recent weeks to pick up several dogs at the shelter because of winter weather, Cunningham said.

“It’s been kind of a perfect storm scenario,” she said. “But in this case, it’s a helpless dog that’s going to lose its life.”

For those rescue services that have reached out to the shelter in recent days the cost of moving the dog can be expensive, Cunningham said.

“Donations have allowed us to chip in to cover those costs,” she said.

Cunningham said the issue with stray animals has dogged the shelter for some time.

“There are shelters that euthanize everyday,” she said. “They just keep it quiet. What the public doesn’t know is not upsetting. We’re about raising the awareness of the repercussions of not being a responsible pet owner.”

In years past state Sen. Del Marsh has introduced bills that would require spaying or neutering of pets, but none has passed. Efforts to reach Marsh on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Republican candidate Wayne Willis, who is running against Marsh in the Senate District 12 primary, said he’s advocating for such laws and has made the effort a central issue in his campaign.

“There has to be some spay-and-neuter laws,” Willis said on Tuesday. “We’ve got to start promoting responsible pet ownership. Until we get owners to sign on, it’s going to continue to snowball beyond relief.”

Several surrounding states have such laws on the books, Willis said.

“I think the first step would be to go to those states and find out what’s working and what’s not,” he said. “It’s silly to randomly pass legislation and make the same mistakes they’re making. The second step would be to pass legislation that is enforceable.”

Jim Williams, the Democratic nominee for the 12th District seat, said Tuesday that it’s not an issue central to his campaign, but he “recognizes stray animals and unwanted animals is way too big a problem.”

“We can’t drive from our house in Anniston to my mother-in-law’s place in Bynum without passing a number of strays looking for food,” he said. “We carry extra food in our car and on occasion give a hungry animal a meal.”

Williams said he’d support legislation on the issue.

“There is no way they can shelter or adopt their way out of this problem,” Williams said of local shelters.

In the meantime, Cunningham said her group will continue to work with people interested in fostering or adopting.

“We never want to euthanize an animal that could be a loving pet,” she said.

​Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.