News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012
AIKEN, S.C. -- It's been a rough year for man's best friend.
Local shelters have seen an increase of pets coming in, and experts say the economy may be to blame.
Bobby Arthurs, the chief enforcement officer at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, says money is one of the main reasons people say they can't keep their pets. Either they can't afford to feed them or they can't afford to pay for the vet bills.
"We're trying to do everything we can to reduce the numbers coming in, but unfortunately, the numbers have been really high this year," he said. "Citizen surrenders have been very high."
With pets flooding in and the economy still sputtering, local shelters are feeling the burden.
"We're at our max right now, probably 150 dogs, 40 cats," he said.
Which is why animal lovers like Jess Swearingen are trying to do something to help.
"We talked and talked about it, and finally we got tired of talking and said let's do something about it," she told News 12's Laura Warren.
She and her husband recently started an animal rescue in Aiken County called L.E.A.S.H: Leading Each Animal Safely Home.
Her husband, Lars, says, "Originally we started it as a search and rescue to help people find their lost pets. Then we got a call about a special dog named Reno."
Reno was starving and abused when they rescued him, and now, he's one of the sweetest puppies you'll ever meet.
"Someone needs to rescue them give them a chance to be loved, to have a home," Swearingen said.
The thought of hundreds of animals being euthanized right in their own county is one reason they started the rescue.
"379 dogs were euthanized in June -- 379 dogs out of 422," Swearingen said.
And that was just at the Aiken County shelter alone.
"We need more spay and neuter programs, but ultimately, people just have to be more responsible for their animals instead of leaving it up to us to make the choice," Arthurs said.
The Aiken County animal shelter says they have a lot more programs in place than they used to, including vouchers for discounted spaying and neutering, along with microchipping programs, but despite those programs, the number of pets coming in is still skyrocketing.
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