Lowndes County has a history of animal welfare that is not glorious; in fact, it is abominable. Not long ago, in the year 2000, a dog, puppy, cat, or kitten entering the Lowndes County Animal Shelter was destined for death or, in polite company, we might euphemistically but incorrectly say, “euthanized.” During that year, ninety-one out of one hundred animals were doomed to be killed in Lowndes County. I know some folks do not appreciate my bringing up the past, but seeing how far we have progressed as a community during the 2000-2023 timespan is essential.

In 2000, animal rescue organizations were not as solid or pervasive as they are now, and they did not have the strong relationships with our shelter that they now have. Out of a whopping 5,217 animals entering our shelter that year, only 175 animals were adopted or rescued through our shelter or rescued through animal rescue organizations, and 4,753 were killed or euthanized! Yes, you read that right! Ninety-one percent of all animals entering our Shelter in 2000 were disposed of without much thought for the sentient animals.


In 2023, live intakes into our shelter were down to 3,549 and 1,668 fewer than in 2000, and still too high. We need the cities, counties, and communities to pull together to reduce the intake into our Shelter. Sadly, 995 animals were euthanized in our Shelter in 2023, plus an additional 362 animals were euthanized at the request of their owners, with 458 animals adopted through our Shelter and 1,333 animals pulled from our Shelter.

Yes, that is 1,791 saved that might have otherwise been euthanized without the hard work and close relationship between our Shelter Team and the top three animal rescue organizations that pulled such a remarkable number of animals from our Shelter.

While our current live outcome numbers from our Lowndes County Animal Shelter are not as high as we would like, and we are not yet truly on our way to becoming a “no-kill” shelter where 95% or higher of eligible animals are live outcomes, still we have much to be grateful for in Lowndes County.

I want to be a cheerleader for Ms. Linda Patelski, the Director of our Lowndes County Animal Shelter, her dedicated team of Shelter employees, and the Animal Rescue Warriors, who work collaboratively, with dedication, cooperation, and hard work, demonstrating their love for animals by both our Shelter team and our Animal Rescue Warriors.

“It takes a village” is cliché at this point. Still, it sums up how important it is for all of us, from politicians, our Shelter Team, our Animal Rescue Warriors, and, yes, our public, especially our public, to do our part to work together, in unison, to do right for animals.

In 2023, 1,334 animals were pulled from our Shelter or rescued, primarily by three Animal Welfare Warrior organizations: Valdosta-Lowndes Humane Society in First Place, United Saving Animals Rescue, commonly called USA Rescue, in Second Place, and Paws Furever Homes in Third Place.

If you have not donated, sponsored, fostered, adopted, or volunteered with these folks, my foundation, or other animal rescue organizations, I encourage you to do so. As someone referred to me and my foundation when I started, “They’re the real deal!” They are remarkable, and our Shelter Team also successfully adopted 458 animals through our Shelter. This means the public is willing to drive to an inconvenient industrial area for many of us and save innocent lives.


We are so much better than counties that do not have a shelter and have few, if any, animal welfare officers, and animal welfare is consigned to Animal Rescue organizations, such as Michelle Lane Dupree’s remarkable Echols Animal Rescue, located nearby in Statenville, Georgia.

Similarly, Ms. Patelski’s Shelter Team has a strong relationship with animal rescue organizations, and the proof is in the animals pulled and thereby rescued by Animal Shelter-Animal Rescue organizations working together, certainly for the benefit of the animals, but for the benefit of the community also.

Likewise, our Lowndes County Commissioners, led by Chairperson Bill Slaughter and County Manager Paige Dukes, are not at war with our Animal Rescue organizations like some counties where the relationship is unpredictable on a good day.

Just by the fact that Lowndes County has broken ground and is in the process of approving bids for the construction of our new Animal Shelter. I have reviewed the plans for our new Shelter with Mr. Chad McLeod, the Director of Engineering Services for Lowndes County, and it will be a remarkable addition to our animal welfare efforts in Lowndes County. We are far ahead of many other South Georgia counties, and though Lowndes County needs to take more steps to regulate animal welfare, it is a shining star in South Georgia.

Please note that I have referred to the Lowndes County Animal Shelter not as “the Shelter” but as “our Shelter” throughout to make a point. Our Shelter reflects our community as a cheerful and not-so-positive village addressing animal welfare issues.

We have grown noticeably since the olden days of 2000, a mere twenty-three years ago, and we can be proud of our community’s journey forward. With tighter animal welfare regulations regulating spaying and neutering and more help from our cities and county to obtain grants and dedicate precious Lowndes County resources to animal welfare organizations, we can continue to move forward as a progressive South Georgia county where there is a high probability that animals will either be adopted out of our Shelter or pulled and rescued by animal welfare organizations that work hand in hand as partners with our Shelter Team with one purpose in mind at all times, to save as many animals as possible.

The Burton Fletcher Foundation for Animals, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit relying on donations from the public, is an animal rescue organization focused on advocacy for animals in need, especially in Lowndes County, and an ongoing public promoter of spaying, neutering, fostering, and adoption, rather than buying our furry pet pals, and serving as an award-giver, publicity generator and cheerleader for South Georgia and North Central Florida animal shelters, animal rescue warriors, whether acting individually, in teams, or through formal animal rescue organizations.

We need researchers, writers, editors, award certificate creators and designers, copyrighters, and fundraisers. Saving lives is more than the activities inside our Shelter. It also involves a lot of challenging work from volunteers like us who prove our values through our actions. Please help us help the animals we love in our incredible South Georgia cities and counties.

Currently, the Burton Fletcher Foundation for Animals has our Third Annual Animal Welfare Heroes 2024 Contest ongoing through noon on Feb. 15 for nominations of individuals and organizations, whether in animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, or from one person to a team who works together. The rules for this contest can be obtained directly through the foundation’s website in the Contest Section, www.BurtonFletcherFoundation.org. “We are a little charity, doing big things, with great heart!”

Burton Fletcher, JD, MBA. President, Burton Fletcher Foundation for Animals, Inc.

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