By Pfc. Justin Mills, 3rd Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsNovember 4, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - They cower in cages, afforded only enough room to tremble with fear; their cheeks lined with the trails of so many useless tears. They are innocent; victims of fate, from which there is so little chance of escape. They stare past bars, their sad eyes conveying a desperate plea… "Rescue me."
This sad scene is one that plays out daily all over the world, and one that Spc. Branden Gums, a transportation logistics coordinator assigned to the 90th Human Resources Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Third Infantry Division, has seen all too often since he began volunteering with the Georgia Animal Rescue and Defence in July of 2011.
"People always talk about animals being abused and how bad it is, but very few act on their beliefs," Spc. Gums said. "Serving as a reserve police officer before joining the Army, I often would respond to domestic violence calls only to have the individuals begin abusing their animals right in front of me. It was at that point that I realized I have to do something about this."
In addition to rescuing animals, Spc. Gums also acts as the Public Relations Officer for GARD, helping to educate the community on the proper care and responsibilities associated with owning an animal and sharing the organization's mission statement whenever possible.
"We want to rescue animals from high-kill shelters, abusive breeders and any situation where the animal is unable to care for itself and needs us," Spc. Gums said. "We also work with emergency services to rescue any displaced animals, be it livestock, exotic animals or birds, in the event of a natural disaster."
GARD is a non-profit, licensed no-kill shelter that was founded by Joy Bohannon, JoAnne Bohannon and Philip Rutherford after they relocated to Pembroke, Ga., from Vermont and saw a need due to an abundance of feral and homeless domestic animals.
"I started as a volunteer, but they were killing the animals I was working so hard to take care of, so I decided I can start my own shelter," Joy Bohannon, the CEO of GARD, said. "Now, we average 600 to 800 adoptions a year and we are on track this year to save more than 1,000 animals."
It was this passion for all animals, be they livestock or domestic, that drew Spc. Gums to volunteer with GARD in the first place, he said. He has now become a regular fixture at many of the shelters in the local community, including the Fort Stewart Veterinary Clinic.
"We're only allowed to keep the animals for three days when strays are brought in or pets are relinquished by their owners, so it helps us out tremendously when he comes in," Sgt. Justin Garner, the Non-commissioned Officer in charge for the Fort Stewart Veterinary Clinic, said. "With Spc. Gums coming in to rescue these animals, he keeps us from having to euthanize animals that are perfectly healthy and could be good pets."
Approximately 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year, a fact that Spc. Gums attributes to people not being properly educated before purchasing an animal and not taking the time to spay or neuter their new pets; a problem he is determined to remedy.
"Human error is what keeps us in business," Spc. Gums said. "We are doing our part to counteract this by providing training and holding a rigorous screening process for those who adopt animals from us."
Though he often wishes it wasn't necessary, Spc. Gums said he thoroughly enjoys volunteering cause it affords him the opportunity to do something he is passionate about: saving the lives of animals in need. He has already made arrangements to work for GARD as a full-time employee after completing his service in the Army.
"The unit as a whole supports Spc. Gums by allowing him to volunteer with GARD in his free time, and personally I am so proud and excited to have one of my Soldiers giving so much of himself to help the community," said 1st Sgt. Ronald Houston, first sergeant for 90th HRC, STB, 3rd Sust. Bde., 3rd Inf. Div. "His dedication exemplifies the Army's positive image that the 90th Human Resources Company encourages all its Soldiers to promote by participating in community related events such as this and shows not only his love for animals but for his community as well."
For information on adopting recued animals, contributing donations or volunteering, visit the Georgia Animal Rescue and Defence, at www.gardonline.org.