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Galax man speaks up for shelter animals

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By April Wright, Reporter

A Galax man pleaded with city council last week to extend the number of adoption days for animals awaiting their fate at the regional animal shelter in the city.

More than a month ago, Eric Garrison said he made trips to the animal shelter to feed the dogs treats. Garrison said he spent less than a minute at the shelter, throwing the treats through the cages from the outside and never striking up a conversation with the shelter's staff.

"In my eyes, I just wanted to give the dogs a little pleasure before they get killed," said Garrison at Galax City Council’s July 7 meeting. "This may be a minor matter to you, but this means something to me."

The next time Garrison went to the shelter, it wasn't during the hours of operation, causing problems with the city and the shelter's staff.

"I saw the workers cleaning cages and asked if I could throw dog treats," Garrison told council. "They didn't have to open the cage door for me. I just wanted to toss the dogs a treat."

The shelter's workers refused to allow him into the facility during that time, telling him he was not welcome at the shelter during those hours.

After calling City Manager Keith Holland to voice his concerns about the situation, Garrison was confused that Holland didn't support his actions.

According to Garrison, Holland also said it was against the city's policy, and that the animals are fed only by the workers.

Garrison said he asked Holland to show him the policy. However, Garrison said Holland then admitted it wasn't policy, but rather his prerogative.

After talking on the phone with the city manager, Garrison said he received a call from the Galax Police Department. He said he was told that, if he returned to the shelter, he would be arrested.

"These are not throw-away animals," Garrison told council members, asking them to extend the number of days from the time an animal is admitted to the shelter until they are euthanized. "God put humans on this earth and he put animals on this earth."

These animals are given only two weeks before they are put to sleep.

Holland said he would talk to the shelter's staff to see about extending the number of days. Also, because the shelter is a regional facility, Carroll and Grayson supervisors would also have input in the situation.

"We are concerned," said Vice Mayor Willie Greene, noting that the city just allocated money to a spay-and-neuter program, which disperses funds to cover the cost of the procedures.

Garrison continued with his experiences of the shelter.

The sight of one dog in particular, Garrison said, was quite disturbing. The animal was covered in swollen ticks.

Although the shelter's staff told Garrison that the animal had been sprayed for ticks, the dog was in the same condition two days later. "They said it takes a while for the spray to work, but these dogs don't have time for that spray to work," said Garrison.

Keith Barker, assistant city manger, noted that the quality of care has never been an issue for the shelter. A state veterinarian inspects it on a regular basis, as recently as two weeks ago.

"I don't want to see these animals suffer before they get killed," said Garrison.

Lazo sympathized with Garrison. "This is a terrible situation down there, very horrific," said Lazo. "I went down there a few years ago to see the animals about three times a week, and I got so depressed that I almost couldn't go to work for two weeks.

"There are people that care," said Lazo. "Maybe with your help, we can come up with a solution."

To solve one issue, Greene urged Garrison to only go to the facility during hours of operation.