SEBRING — When Highlands County Humane Society employees found Murphy, a mixed-breed dog, abandoned a year ago at the organization’s shelter, the canine was emaciated and suffered from heartworm disease.
“He was in need and we took him in and we did what we needed to do to help him,” Judy Spiegel, president of the Humane Society, said Wednesday.
A year later, Murphy is good health, and is a loving, and beautiful animal, she said.
But for many other abandoned dogs and cats, the outcome is far different.
Recently, someone dumped some kittens at Highlands Hammock State Park, Brian Pinson, the park manager, said. Several days after that, it appears that a car ran over one of the cats, according to a report on the Facebook page of the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park. At the Humane Society shelter, it’s not uncommon for a dumped animal to end up being run over by a vehicle, Spiegel said.
“We see dead animals in front of our facility all the time,” she said.
It appears that the problem of abandoned animals is increasing, Spiegel said, adding that she’s seen more pets being dumped this year.
And Pinson said the problem has increased at the park.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that the most common reason people give for giving up pets is that their new residence won’t allow for pets. Other reasons involve behavioral issues with the animals, a person no longer having the time to care for the pets and illness or death in the family.
Spiegel said the economy plays a role in people abandoning animals. But a more common factor is that people buy a cute puppy, but can’t deal with the animal when it becomes an adult, she said.
They find out the Humane Society shelter is full and don’t want to take it to Highlands County Animal Control because they fear the dog will be euthanized, she said.
But the dogs may die a far worse death if abandoned in the woods, Spiegel said. The dogs have trouble finding food and water, she said. If they become incapacitated they can endure a lot of pain before dying, she said.
“It’s like taking a person in the middle of the Sahara desert and saying, ‘go and survive,’” she said. “Dumping an animal is the worst thing you can do for it.”
On the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park Facebook page, similar views are expressed.
“Last night, (July 23), someone dropped off a few kittens and some dry food and left them,” one status post said. “When we find these animals we have to trap them and remove them, often to a kill shelter because of the overcrowding at no-kill shelters.”
Even if those dumped animals aren’t trapped, the domesticated dogs and cats may have problems finding food, the posting said. And when the former pets are successful they kill native animals to the park, the positing said.
“We are a great place to visit, but the pets don’t want to live here,” the posting said.
Pinson said a volunteer adopted some dogs abandoned at the park, but indicated that’s not the case in many instances.