Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lonely, injured dog’s story all too common|[02/12/08]

An injured yellow Labrador, believed to have been hit by a vehicle several days ago, is waiting — amidst pain and confusion — at a local vet’s office for her owner to find her. Georgia Lynn, president of the Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society, is hoping the dog’s story will not only help her find her owners, but also raise awareness about the importance of identification on animals.

“An ID gives the animal a voice,” she said.

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Lynn was notified Monday morning after a call was received from a motorist, who had driven past the dog two or three times and believed the dog was dead. The motorist decided to stop and check the animal, which was on the shoulder at Stenson Road and Mississippi 27. The dog, believed to be about 6 years old, was alive. Dispatchers contacted Lynn, who went to see if its owner could be identified. The dog, with scratches on her nose, soreness and heavy breathing, was sporting a bright orange collar — but no identifying information.

“That collar is not doing a bit of good,” Lynn said. “All it’s doing is telling me it has an owner.”

Because the humane society doesn’t have a staff veterinarian, Lynn took the dog to the Vicksburg Animal Hospital on Baldwin Ferry Road, where it’s being monitored by Dr. Jon Ruggles. Although she stepped up to take responsibility for the dog, Lynn is still hoping its owner will come forward to pay for necessary treatment. She expects to incur hundreds of dollars in costs if they have to go forward with typical care. Ruggles had given a $20 injection to the dog Monday afternoon to help with pain. He planned to hold off on extra treatment even though he feels a chest X-ray, along with other treatment, is needed.

“If she won’t eat or drink, I’m going to have to put an IV in,” he said. “When a dog’s been hit, it can get up to $200 easily just in checking.”

Lynn, too, is waiting before making any decisions.

“The vet can’t legally treat an animal” without someone taking financial responsibility, she said. “We had to put it under our name. We don’t have a vet on staff. It’s such a dilemma, because we’re paying to treat someone’s dog.”

The scenario is becoming too familiar to Lynn, who said the U.S. 61 South shelter receives at least three injured animals each month, none of which they can afford to treat.

“We’ve found at least four to six dogs in the last week. We know the dogs belong to someone,” she said.

Lynn said buying a $5 to $10 tag with engraved phone numbers, an owner’s name and address can save a pet’s life. The ID tags may be purchased at vet’s offices, pet stores or common shops, such as Wal-Mart. Another option is having a microchip — with the owner’s information — surgically implanted in an animal, which costs about $50.

Accidents involving vehicles aren’t the only ones where identification is needed. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornados, could easily leave a dog or cat stranded and far from home. If proper identification isn’t visible, the animal could end up lost — forever, Lynn indicated. And, taking the initiative to have information on a dog or cat could save time in what could be crucial moments. The lab’s story is just one example.

“By the time the lady called it in and we got it to the vet, it was probably an hour,” Lynn said. “What if she could have just picked up the phone and called the owner. It delays treatment.”

Pet owners often leave rabies tags dangling from collars, which can help identify an owner because they bear a number that can be cross-referenced. But, Lynn said that only works if the vet’s office is open. And it doesn’t help the person locate the animal’s owner. The humane society will do whatever they can to locate owners of injured pets — from knocking on doors to putting ads in the newspaper. But, they can’t continue to be responsible for everyone’s pets, she said.

“We can’t afford to treat everyone’s animals,” Lynn said.

Ruggles said when a dog or cat is found injured, people should take it to a veterinarian’s office so it can, hopefully, receive care. But, caution should always be taken when dealing with an injured animal — even if it belongs to the person handling it, he added. Once the animal is taken to the vet, the doctors will deal with it on a case by case basis.

“It’s a financial issue. We see a lot of animals. We can’t pick and choose (which ones can be treated for free),” he said. “It’s a realistic world. You have to say, ‘Somebody’s got to be responsible.'”

Being a responsible pet owner in the beginning will lead to a happier ending for a pet in trouble, Lynn said.

“People know the history of their animal. We have no clue,” she said. “It puts me in a moral dilemma. I want to do the right thing.”