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Hunt for vet at PAWS continues, when solutions are needed most

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Recruitment efforts continue to try and secure a veterinarian for the PAWS facility on North Avenue, in what would be a major step in cutting back the cyclical impact of kitten and puppy seasons.

Interim Animal Control Director John Blalock said he has been working with county officials to see how to “sweeten the pot a little bit” for a potential veterinarian, who would ensure that any animal leaving the shelter, whether being adopted out or taken in by a rescue, is sterilized.

Blalock has been checking to see what county benefits could be offered to incentivize someone to take on the job through the National Spay Alliance — county commissioners approved a 12-month contract with the Dalton-based group in late February. However, the potential for benefits comes with legal strings attached since they would not be a county employee, but it is something being looked into, he said.

The trouble of finding a veterinarian is not specific to Rome, Blalock said. He added that he has been told of shortages nationwide, with veterinarians opting for sunny beach locales to set up shop, young graduates focusing on specialty work or those nearing retirement stressed with a lack of time as they are tied up in their own practices. Also, the job here is essentially doing the same thing — sterilizations — all the time.

What this veterinarian will bring to PAWS and the community is a marked reduction in the number of animals involved in reproduction cycles, and, therefore, taking the immense pressure from the barrage of new animals each season off the shoulders of the shelter, especially as it focuses on turning away from euthanasia, and rescue groups, which struggle to keep up with finding homes for all of the animals it takes in.

When the rescues, which account for the vast majority of animals being taken out of the shelter, are full, it keeps more animals in the possession of PAWS and forces an intake stoppage, to maintain the population at a certain level. Also, during busy seasons the animals picked up by officers fill up the shelter and overcrowding becomes a serious issue when dozens of animals — 81 cats in two days recently — are surrendered over the span of days, Blalock said.