We’re taking you on a ride to show you why Prince George’s County has a pet problem.
Not with the animals.
But with their owners.
“It’s freezing today.”
It’s 18 degrees and Animal Control Officer Tanya Roberts is checking on dogs that shouldn’t be left outside.
“Hi Bubba Bubba.”
She finds a dog with a large, orange paint bucket being used for water.
But the bucket is frozen solid.
“If it’s frozen, that’s a concern,” Roberts said. “That means it wasn’t changed today.”
With a soft heart for the animals and a spine of steel for their keepers, Roberts tracks down the owner at work. He promises to do a better job as Roberts writes up a citation.
“It’s tough!” Prince George’s County’s Animal Management Division Chief Rodney Taylor said. "In the animal field, it’s one of the lowest budgets you come across. It’s one of the greatest needs that's out there."
Taylor said he needs at least 25 officers to operate around the clock. Instead, he often only has two patrolling the entire county who spend much of their time visiting the same animals over and over again.
A good example? Zeke the Fence Jumper.
“Zeke’s biggest problem is ownership,” Roberts said as Zeke and his owner showed off for the TV camera by jumping over the backyard fence. “Not being trained.”
Roberts was there because Zeke got into a fight with a lost dog. Roberts recognized the lost dog because she’d already opened a cruelty investigation into that dog’s owner once before.
But some owners never give their pets a chance.
At a Suitland apartment complex, the management told us a former tenant has disappeared because they’re overdue on rent.
The apartment was empty except for a bed frame, a row of empty liquor bottles and two pit bulls.
Roberts quickly made friends with the frightened animals and explained pit bulls are illegal to own in Prince George’s County.
The two dogs ended up in a large holding pen full of other seized and abandoned animals.
The cold reality?
Most will be euthanized.
"We have to sometimes euthanize animals,” Taylor said. “That's what we dread doing."
Taylor makes no bones about it. In the past year, his staff has euthanized more than 7,000 animals.
That’s up 15 percent from the previous year.
Taylor said too many pet owners “want to make the shelter the dumping ground.” But when “the animals get euthanized,” those same people want “us to take on the guilt, and we say, ‘No. No. No. We want to change that.’”
To combat the problem, Taylor recently recruited a non-profit to spay and neuter not only shelter animals but also privately owned pets. (Click here to see how you can get your pet spayed or neutered for a very small fee.) http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/der/amg/
"You want to decrease the intake numbers so you don't have to euthanize on the back end," he explained.
But some animals, like feral cats, don’t get that option.
Roberts took us to another apartment complex, swarming with wild felines.
She said feral cats are often the sickest animals she sees.
She humanely trapped one with a bad eye infection. Another was starving.
She even captured what the neighbors said is the most elusive cat of all. They call him, “the three-legged black cat.”
Roberts was there because a neighbor called Animal Control after the black cat became badly burned from a car engine it was hiding in to stay warm.
The black cat was missing hair and covered in burns.
Roberts said he has all four legs but one paw was broken so badly in the past, it’s twisted and useless.
"Most likely he'll be euthanized,” she said. “Which will end the suffering. No human could endure the kind of pain these animals do and yet they still keep fighting. It's not fair to them."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
After this story ran, a volunteer from Prince George's Animal Management contacted us and asked that we share the following so would-be adopters can get more information about a particular animal or the Prince George's Animal Management facility in general.
You can contact the Prince George's Animal Management Division at 301-780-7201, or visit the sites below: