shia tzuIf you find yourself in a situation with pets you feel like you can’t keep anymore, the answer isn’t to take them out back and shoot them in the head.

That’s a message police and animal control officials are sending in the wake of the Jan. 19 incident on Brander Pass in Peachtree City, in which Richard McAllister, a man in his 70s, is accused of executing four pet dogs he reportedly claimed to no longer be able to support. McAllister was arrested by Peachtree City Police on Jan. 21 and charged with four misdemeanor counts of Cruelty to Animals.

According to Lieutenant Mark Brown, McAllister wasn’t charged with a firearms violation, because the shootings took place inside the man’s garage and not outdoors. However, McAllister was taken to jail on his Cruelty to Animals charges.

Fayette County Animal Control Director Rani Rathburn says there is indeed a pet over-population problem here and in other communities around the country, but she says the problem is people, not pets.

“People are getting pets, and down the road somewhere they are choosing not to care for them,” Rathburn said. “People are not being responsible.”

Rathburn says she first recommends that people look at their pet situation and look for options that don’t involve getting rid of the pet at all. Obedience training, for example, can help an annoying pet turn the corner and be pleasant.

In cases where people genuinely can’t afford their pets any longer, Rathburn recommends people call their local humane society or animal shelter, because there is likely a way to supply those families with free pet food. She noted that there is also grant money available for vaccinations and other medical treatment in qualifying situations.

If there are other reasons people need to be rid of their pets, Rathburn recommends putting them up for adoptions but to be patient.

“They need to reach out [to animal shelters and humane societies] and give them time to find placement in a foster home,” Rathburn said. “If people have a pet they can’t care for, they need to understand it is not going to be a quick fix. There are options, but it is not a quick solution.”

And that brings up the topic of pet adoption, which is a favorite for Rathburn. She says she and her staff are knowledgeable about pet breeds and can help families find the right one at the right age for the right home.

Rathburn said the adoption process starts, of course, with filling out an application and then being interviewed about pet ownership history. She said her team will want to meet the whole family who will care for the adopted pet, and she recommends families spend time on campus visiting with prospective pets to see if they are an appropriate match.

There are age limits. Rathburn says, for example, a family with children under four years of age will not likely be allowed to adopt a pet under six months old.

“Before you get a pet, you need to understand the long-term commitment and the financial responsibility,” Rathburn said. “You need to foresee lifestyle changes and have a backup plan for your pet.”