published Saturday, January 5th, 2013

McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center program reaches out to pit bulls


Jessica is a year-old mixed pit bull that needs a new home. Her owner surrendered her to the shelter at the end of November. Her paperwork states she is a "fun-loving, happy-all-the-time" dog that wants an owner with a "great sense of humor and some time to spend with me."
Jessica is a year-old mixed pit bull that needs a new home. Her owner surrendered her to the shelter at the end of November. Her paperwork states she is a "fun-loving, happy-all-the-time" dog that wants an owner with a "great sense of humor and some time to spend with me."
Photo by Tim Barber.
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    Leen is one of 10 cats sent to McKamey Animal Care Center from Hurricane Sandy. Four of the 10 have been adopted already.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

HURRICANE SANDY CAT REFUGEES

About 10 cats rescued from Hurricane Sandy, the devastating storm that clobbered the East Coast in late October, have been housed at McKamey Animal Center. So far, four have been adopted. Call the center if you are interested in adopting one of the remaining cats, such as Leen.

How the program works

Residents of Chattanooga who own an unaltered pit bull or pit bull mix can sign their pet up for a free spay or neuter procedure. Call the McKamey appointment hotline at 305-6502.

All dogs must be vaccinated for rabies at the owner's expense before surgery. Certificates issued for surgeries are good for 30 days.

The following animal hospitals accept the certificates:

McKamey Animal Center, 4500 N. Access Road, Chattanooga, 423-305-6500

Wally's Friends, 155 Unaka St., Red Bank, 423-877-9966

Animal Care Center of Ooltewah, 9124 Amos Road, Ooltewah, 423-910-9936

Shallowford Animal Hospital, 6200 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, 423-892-6671

Animal Hospital of Signal Mountain, 1801 Taft Highway, Signal Mountain, 423-886-7387

Animal Clinic 23rd Street, 2223 E. 23rd St., Chattanooga, 423-698-2401

Animal Clinic East, 1414 Gunbarrel Road, Chattanooga, 423-894-8495

Riverview Animal Hospital, 641 North Market St., Chattanooga, 423-756-6011

At McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center in Hixson, about five dozen pit bulls or pit bull mixes press against their enclosures, eager for attention from anyone walking by.

Their uncropped, floppy ears frame their boxy heads. Their loose skin hangs over well-muscled bodies. Their coats sport a range of colors.

All of them need new homes -- with owners who understand how to live with and handle a breed that has as many advocates as opponents.

Karen Walsh, McKamey's executive director, said pit bulls and mixes are difficult to find homes for. To some pit bull owners, the dogs are active, loving and loyal family pets.

But to others, the dogs are vicious, dangerous animals responsible for mauling deaths and horrific injuries to people or other domestic pets. Some municipalities, including most recently Etowah, Tenn., have banned the animals.

Walsh said the number of pit bulls and mixes has grown because many people want them for protection. Some people try to breed the dogs for extra cash.

McKamey, she said, often ends up with puppies that no one wants.

"It's not a good idea to breed a dog when we already have too many," she said. "We sometimes joke we're a pit bull shelter."

As of Friday, McKamey had 69 pit bulls or pit bull mixes out of 171 dogs -- about 40 percent of the shelter's dog population.

To curb the number of unwanted pit bulls or mixes, McKamey is extending an offer to have these dogs spayed or neutered at no cost to owners who live in Chattanooga.

The shelter received a $55,000 grant from the nonprofit, Phoenix-based PetSmart Charities to pay for 1,000 neutering services at a number of Chattanooga animal hospitals.

So far, 850 dogs have undergone neutering procedures, Walsh said, which means 150 free surgeries remain to be claimed.

The "Bully Blockade" campaign will last until July, or until McKamey reaches its 1,000 goal. Pit bulls are frequently called one of the "bully" breeds because of the shape of their heads and their bulldog heritage, not their temperament or personality, according to McKamey.

Steven Pawlowski, communications manager of PetSmart Charities, said pit bulls and female cats have the highest populations in shelters across the country. The nonprofit targets the most at-risk breeds.

"If we can spay/neuter, obviously that's going to have an impact on the shelter population," he said. "We look at spaying /neutering as turning off the spigot of the homeless pet population problem."

Walsh said McKamey takes in about 8,400 animals a year, half of those dogs. And of those, 42 percent are pit bull or pit bull mixes.

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