Carpenter seeks help in humane efforts

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 31, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Lucille Carpenter, a lifelong animal lover, has been working with the Demopolis Animal Shelter for 18 years. In that time, she has seen the shelter improve its facilities and upgrade its services. Unfortunately, the city&8217;s shelter is the only one of its kind in Marengo, Greene or Sumter Counties.

It has become her personal mission to find a group of dedicated and hard working people who will become members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Once a local group of volunteers has become a member of the organization, they will be eligible for assistance and grant money to aid in humane efforts in the area.

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Part of these grant funds are through ASPCA&8217;s Mission Orange, which is an outreach effort focused on creating humane communities by working with one target community at a time. In addition to aiding animal welfare efforts and education in the target communities, the ASPCA will invest $200,000 in these communities for capacity-building and related animal welfare efforts as deemed necessary by community leaders. Currently the target communities include Austin, Texas; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Spokane, Wash. and Tampa, Fla.

Carpenter hopes to make our community a part of the ASPCA&8217;s mission. She recently brought her concerns before the Marengo County Commission, who were very receptive, she said.

Alabama law requires each county to have an animal shelter in place, Carpenter said, but that does not mean there is funding set aside for the creation of shelters.

On average, Carpenter said, her 20-dog capacity shelter space is full with more than 20 dogs. Currently, they have no way to keep cats or other animals the shelter may get calls on.

When asked how successful her adoption efforts are, Carpenter said she has been successful in the past, but there aren&8217;t enough homes for all of the animals.

Another Alabama law, effective in 2006, requires all animals in shelters must be spayed or neutered, both which cost money. Currently, Carpenter has access to funds from the Humane Society that help to pay for such procedures but membership in the ASPCA may help with these costs as well.

Most of the animals that end up in the shelter are with the help of Tommy McClain, dog catcher, who has worked with the city for 27 years. Carpenter said McClain&8217;s job requires him to be on-call 24 hours a day for case calls.

Unfortunately, not all of the animals people call in about or bring in can be accommodated.

One case in particular is with horses, for which the shelter does not have accommodations.

A cursory look into the case files Carpenter keeps is just a glimpse of the cases of neglect and cruelty to animals in the area.

Under state law, a person found guilty of cruelty to animals in the first degree, a Class C Felony, could be subject to up to ten years in prison or a fine up to $5,000. A person found guilty of the charge of cruelty to animals in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor, could be subject to up to one year in prison or a fine up to $2,000.

When asked how often they are able to prosecute animal cruelty cases, Carpenter said, &8220;We could prosecute more, but we really try to education people.&8221;

Carpenter said, in general, she thinks the majority of those who commit animal cruelty are uneducated about what animals might require. She said the cost of keeping an animal and also not caring about the animal also play a role.

When asked about the recent high-profile animal cruelty case involving Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, Carpenter said it should help raise awareness of the problem.

If you would like to learn more about how to help with this effort, contact Lucille Carpenter at 289-2134 after 7 p.m.