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 OPINION PAGE - JULY 21, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GEORGIA

Letter to the Editor
The Madison County Journal
July 21, 1999

Pet dumping: who's the animal?
Dear editor:
Well, once again a "dog's life" in Madison County has lived up to its name and reputation. A "dog's life" in our county can become a very dangerous and violent existence.
Two weeks ago, pet ownership took on new meaning in our fair county. On Thursday, July 2, a chow-dog mother and her four puppies were dumped near my home. Nothing new to us long-time residents, you say? Well, this was new.
Responsible pet owners recognize pet dumping as one of the lowest forms of human behavior. Over the years, in the remote area where I live, my few neighbors and I have become the adoptive families to scores of innocent dumpees left at our doorsteps.
But, last week's pet-dump was different. It was violent. It displayed a new kind of cruelty to animals that we've never witnessed.
I was horrified when my neighbor informed me that he had discovered the mother and her pups, and that it had been necessary for him to cut the mother dog from a tree to which she was tied, her pups nursing at her side.
Five dogs left without any food or water.
Some person or persons, (a term used loosely here, as I don't believe a person is capable of such abominable behavior) had not only abandoned the dogs, but by leaving the mother tied to a tree, had planned for all five dogs to die a slow, agonizing death of thirst and starvation.
This was premeditated. This had been planned. This was a crime of violence against those dogs. This was something horribly new.
O.K. Right about now I can hear the sighs of all those pet owners out there thinking "Oh no, another one of those animal activists who thinks that pets are people too!" Not so! I'm beginning to think pets are much better than people! After all, in the face of death, that mother dog had not a scintilla of thought to abandon her babies. She would have stayed tied to that tree, nursing those babies to her dying breath.
Those five dogs displayed much more courage and a much higher sense of morality than the diabolical moron who perpetrated their cruel demise.
After five days of desperately trying to find homes for the canine family, my only recourse was to deliver the mother and two of her pups to the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter. The remaining two puppies have become, not surprisingly, too fearful of humans for handling. They remain in their original dumping place, hoping for their family's return. I continue to feed and water them, wondering if I will be able to earn their trust.
As all responsible pet owners in Madison County are aware, pet dumping has become a huge problem. To address the low-lifes that practice pet dumping would be a waste of time.
Pleading with them to stop abandoning their pets, offering them free spaying and neutering falls on deaf ears. Let's face it, anyone who considers dumping their pet as a solution is beyond help.
These irresponsible toadies don't have the capacity to understand the joy and unconditional love our pets bestow upon us. In appreciation for a simple, warm, dry place to sleep, a good meal and, from time to time, a trip to the vet, our pets display much more kindness to us than we show to them, or to one another.
Responsible pet owners understand the ever-increasing need to sterilize our pets. We want to prevent the cruelty and abuse suffered by the millions of unwanted animals abandoned each year and put to death in animal shelters all across the country.
These innocent creatures have not been asked to come into a world where, from day one, they are hit, kicked, yelled at, starved and abused by the only creature on the planet that is supposed to know better. The long-term effects of abuse are devastating and well documented. Yet, there will always be those whose behavior is lower than any animal.
"Madison County needs an animal shelter," seems to be the answer to our pet dumping problem. An animal shelter simply provides the community with a pet detention center, where after a few days, if not adopted, the animals are put to death by lethal injection. This doesn't offer an acceptable solution for those caring souls who find themselves delivering abandoned animals to what is, more than likely, their untimely deaths.
No, Madison County needs something more than an animal shelter. We desperately need more responsible pet owners. And that goes for all of us. If you have a friend whose pet is not breeding stock, ask them why they refuse to have their pet spayed or neutered. If you find an abandoned animal or animals, call your neighbors and the sheriff to see if you can track down the dumper. Now, this might sound like some radical stuff, but we need to get serious about a seriously growing problem.
And ask yourself, when you envision someone dumping their pet by the side of the road, who's the animal?
Sincerely,
Linda Daly
Danielsville



Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 21, 1999

Hybl's PGA trip is awe-inspiring
I don't recall any of their names, not even the guy I caddied for, but I do remember that they all hit the ball beautifully, the shots sizzling off the clubhead, then landing softly by the yard posts on the range. This is what they did for a living and they did it right, much better even than the pro who taught me to play.
I carried a heavy bag for a guy who finished just over par. He said he hadn't been on the Hogan Tour very long, but he seemed like a veteran pro to me. That man abused the ball off the tee, smashing hard, high draws into the fairways at River North Country Club in Macon.
The other caddies in my group knew nothing about golf. They stepped on putting lines, tried to whisper several times during shots.
One caddie whispered to me laughing as we walked down a fairway: "My guy sleeps in his van."
That weekend when I was 16, I realized a hard truth. There are countless golfers with sweet swings and a magical touch on the greens. There are thousands of golfers who can shoot the lights out on any given day. There are plenty of golfers who hold on to big-time dreams, even if that means sleeping in a hot van.
But few ever get a shot at rubbing elbows with the game's elite, at playing in a PGA tour event.
Madison County's Ryan Hybl will get that chance next week when he tees the ball up in the Hartford Open in Connecticut. He earned that opportunity last year, being named "Co-Player of the Year" by the American Junior Golf Association.
The rising senior at Madison County High School - one of the top-ranked students in his class - has gained a lot of well-deserved attention for his golfing accomplishments. And he seems to handle it well, in a self-effacing manner, not letting on that his game is so good.
You have to hope that next week will serve as a prologue to a new book - an eventual career on the PGA Tour for Hybl.
But even if Hybl catches the shanks or chooses to do something else with his life, he's already earned the awe of us all. He's a high schooler who'll compete with the likes of Norman, Woods and Duval.
I can't help but think of those amazing golfers I saw when I was 16 and wonder how many of them are still at it, perhaps still remarkable, but only able to dream of a walk in Hybl's shoes.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
Email Zack: news@mainstreetnews.com



Column
Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 21, 1999

Frankly Speaking
Time to take blank check away
from commissioners

When you give someone a blank check, you can expect to pay big bills. That is what the Madison County Board of Commissioners did when they added a section to the county policy requiring the county to pay legal fees when a commissioner files legal action against another commissioner. By the time this latest round of lawsuits filed by Commissioner Patsy Pierce is settled, the total bill will approach $100,000 in the last three years.
Of course, when you say that the county will pay these bills, you are actually saying that we, the taxpayers of Madison County, are paying through the nose.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin suggested at the last meeting of the board of commissioners that a change in county policy should be studied to reduce the ability of commissioners to sue each other and charge it to the county. I agree. I would suggest that a number of other changes in county policy be revisited; such as the banking policy, the hiring policy, purchasing policy and the county treasurer.
For those of you who do not know, county policy is a document that must be approved at the start of each year that sets out rules for the conduct of the county's business. It includes such items as the number and dates of paid vacations for county employees, which banks can receive deposits of county funds, policy for various departments, competitive bidding on county purchases, and many other things.
Each January, the board meets in a special session to set county policy. Usually, the commissioners review the previous year's policy, make any desired changes, then vote to approve. The entire process takes a couple of hours. The board can then change policy as often during the year as they desire.
I have a problem with this system. This is a very important document. It regulates the expenditure of several million of our tax dollars every year. The time and resources devoted to developing county policy are far too limited to produce a good set of rules.
I would encourage the board to conduct a series of hearings each fall prior to the adoption of county policy for the next year. Because county policy affects how department heads will run their departments, they should be heard at these hearings. Because the county's only responsibility is to provide services to the citizens of the county, we the people should be heard.
Finally, once county policy is set, there should be a required public hearing before any changes can be made. I doubt that the commissioners would have written themselves that blank check to pay lawyers if the citizens had known about the plan and had an opportunity to speak out.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.


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