This is the main hub for the Polk County Bully project, a small charity with a seemingly insurmountable goal—Save The Bullies! While many animal control agencies are on track to become no-kill shelters, Polk County has a dire animal control situation. Intake rates at Polk County Animal Control are so high that a moratorium was placed on owner surrenders because the facility maintains a maximum capacity with just the dogs that are picked up by officers. The largest percentage of the dogs in the shelter is composed of bully breeds—pitbull and bulldog varieties, or any mix that might be perceived as one. An animal labeled as a pitbull cannot be adopted out, except to an approved 501c3 rescue. Without a rescue literally coming to the rescue, these dogs simply do their time and add to the euthanization statistics. Animal Control workers try hard to move animals out and into rescues.
The animal welfare issues in Polk County are complex and long-standing. “Here’s how it works,” Shannon explains. “Polk County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. When the population of people goes up, so does the animal population… and so does the number of puppies. Socio-economic issues create a cycle where the pups can’t be properly cared for, and neither can the mature dogs be spayed and neutered. It’s a mess!”
Angela chimes in. “Only about 7% of the dogs we pull have been spayed or neutered. Many of the females are pregnant. One month, we took in eight pregnant females that gave birth to 72 puppies. That is the rate of the problem.”
Angela and Shannon insist “things do not have to be this way.” In many counties legislation has been implemented with excellent results. Hillsborough County, for example, currently requires owners to register and license their cats and dogs and breeders to obtain permits. They also provide rebate incentives for spaying and neutering. In 2000, before the spay/neuter program, 23,827 dogs and cats were euthanized.