03/14/10 — Pets often suffer abandonment when service members deploy

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Pets often suffer abandonment when service members deploy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 14, 2010 1:50 AM

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Tug is a 10-week-old male pup waiting for a home. He is a rough and tumble boy, ready to play with just about anyone. If you want a pup who will be ready for anything, Tug is your man.

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Sarah is a 3-month-old Labrador retriever-mix puppy waiting for a new family at the county animal shelter. She is a sweet girl, but can be a little shy at first -- eager to say hello, but a little scared, too. She needs someone who has patience and plenty of love to give.

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Luke is a 1-year-old, medium-size Labrador retriever-mix dog with a happy heart and tail who is waiting for a family to love at the Wayne County animal shelter. He is an easy-going guy who has the characteristics of the lab breed -- ready for fun at a moment's notice.

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Puggsley is a 10-week-old terrier-mix puppy waiting for a home at the shelter. He also has a sibling, who is the opposite coloration -- gray with a white patch. They are both happy and good-natured fellows who are looking for homes with love to spare.

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Abby is a 1-year-old boxer mix waiting for a home at the Wayne County animal shelter. Young and full of energy, she needs someone who can show her the ropes and who enjoys an active life. If you have the patience and the inclination, she would be a great companion.

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Samson and Delilah are cocker spaniel mix puppies waiting for a new home at the animal shelter. They are both about 2 months old and ready and willing to join an active family.

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Russ is a 1-year-old male shepherd mix dog waiting for a playmate at the county animal shelter. Full of energy, he will need someone who likes to go for walks and throw a ball, but who also likes to enjoy an afternoon at home.

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Baxter is a boxer-mix dog waiting for a home at the Wayne County animal shelter. He is about a year old and needs a family who can help him put on a little weight and who is willing to share their love with a very serious and earnest boy.

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Beatrice is a 1-year-old beagle-mix waiting for a home at the shelter. She is a small-medium-size dog, with a beagle nose -- and the curiosity and fun-loving nature that are her breed's trademark. She would love to have a home where there are walks, and hugs.

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Annie is a 1-year-old hound-mix dog waiting for a loving home at the shelter. She is very docile, very shy and a perfect pick for someone looking for a companion to enjoy a quiet day on the couch. She is a smaller dog and a sweet girl with a wonderful temperament. All she needs is a home she can call her own to blossom.

Friends and family members are not the only ones left behind when an airman from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deploys.

In fact, Wayne County Animal Control director Vicki Falconer said recent tours of duty for members of the 4th Fighter Wing prompted many to surrender their pets to the local animal shelter.

"We have a lot of deployers come through. They are bringing their animals in and stating that they are leaving tomorrow," she said. "And when I get these animals, I can't guarantee that I'm going to be able to get them out of here."

Nearly 600 animals are brought to the shelter each month and an average of 400 of them are euthanized, a result mostly, Mrs. Falconer said, of people not having their pets spayed or neutered.

But the up-tempo deployment cycle members of Team Seymour face is not helping that number either.

So with the knowledge that most airmen receive "plenty of warning" before they begin tours overseas -- her husband is active duty -- Mrs. Falconer is trying to educate those pet owners stationed at the Goldsboro base.

Her message: There are options other than giving your dog or cat a death sentence.

"I have options. We can try to find forever homes for these animals before the airmen leave if that's what they are trying to do," Mrs. Falconer said. "If not, I might even be able to find a foster family. ... Like in one case, we had a gentleman who was deployed and his orders were extended. ... So now, we're trying to deal with this poor guy in Afghanistan. That's got to be hard on him over there."

And that is another reason why planning ahead is so important, she added. Those fighting for their country are "stressed out enough" without having the fate of their beloved pet hanging over their heads.

So with the help of 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly's wife, Tanya, Mrs. Falconcer has gotten the word out to those gearing up to deploy in the coming months.

Her goal: To find homes -- temporary or permanent -- for animals who might otherwise have to be put down.

And the community, she said, can help in her effort.

Anyone interested in fostering a dog or cat for a to-be-deployed airmen is asked to contact the Animal Control office at 731-1439.

Only then will the county begin to reduce the number of what she calls unnecessary casualties of war.

"Military families, actually, make great fosters. They might not want to get into a long-term relationship ... but they want the opportunity to have a dog or cat in their house," Mrs. Falconer said. "But anybody is welcome. Space is always an issue here (at the shelter)."