SOLDIERS going off to the Persian Gulf war have enough to worry about without worrying about their pets. Yet, reports from around the country note that some service members have had no alternative but to turn over their pets to an animal shelter where euthanasia may be inevitable.
In this area there is help for the service member and his pet.
John Collins of the Catonsville area volunteers to the American Legion support group for families of people in Operation Desert Storm. His special assignment is finding temporary housing for pets. He will, he says, find a place for the pet of a service member going overseas.
He would like some help from volunteers. ''I want those who can and will give foster care to service members' pets for an indefinite period of time,'' says Collins, who raises and trains German shepherds and Rottweilers with his wife, Betsey, in Collinswood Kennels in Baltimore County.
Those who will volunteer should call him at 788-6149. Give your name, address, telephone number and brief specifics on the answering tape. Collins will get back to you.
Specifics should be what kind of housing you can provide and where the pet will be kept. Also what kind of pet you want to keep. ''A person with one small Chihuahua would probably want to keep one small dog and not a large one. Or they may have a cat and would prefer one cat to keep,'' he explains.
The project will need guidelines, he says, such as veterinary care for the pets. He hopes veterinarians will also call and offer free services.
''All of this is in its initial stages but it should and it will work,'' he vows.
Virginia Estep, administrator of the Animal Welfare Society in Columbia, 8556 Davis Road, (phone 465-4350) is helping Collins. She will also take calls from potential volunteers and she will keep the pets of service members, space available.
(Estep and Collins have already helped a service member. Read the story in Pausing With Pets in tomorrow's Accent section.)
The Humane Society of the United States sent letters to all shelters asking that help be given to service members' pets by providing care, volunteer sitters or any help possible.
A survey of the major animal control shelters, human societies and SPCAs in Howard, Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties plus Baltimore city found fewer than 10 pets turned in by service members. However, one shelter spokesman felt that some service members who turned in pets may not have acknowledged their military status.
Jan Worrell, administrator of Anne Arundel County Animal Control, 7409 A Building, Baltimore/Annapolis Pike, (phone 222-6690), says, ''We are practically next door to Fort Meade and have not had one service member's animal turned in to us. The shelter will refer service members to Collins. However, I also have two volunteers who are ready to handle any such needs,'' she says.
Susie Ross at the SPCA, 3300 Falls Road in Baltimore (phone 235-8826), says no service members have turned in pets. ''We will keep pets for them, space available and will give Mr. Collins' number to potential pet sitters as well as service members,'' she says, ''and we will keep in touch with any service member whose pet we keep.''
Lloyd Ross, director of the Municipal Animal Shelter in Baltimore at 301 Stockholm St., (phone 396-4688 or 4689), says no service members' pets have been turned in. ''We will cooperate fully with Mr. Collins and will also keep the pets of service members until Mr. Collins can be notified,'' he says.
Pets kept in shelters are in jeopardy, according to Nicki Ratliff, director of the Humane Society of Carroll County, 2517 Littlestown Pike in Westminster, (phone 848-4810). ''There is a disease factor coming from the strays being brought in which have not been properly inoculated. And, there is a lack of space. Also, companion animals should not be kept indefinitely in cages. We will gladly refer service members with pets to John Collins,'' she says adding that no service members' pets have been turned in there.
Tahira Williams, administrator of the Howard County Animal Control, 8576 Davis Road, directly next door to Virginia Estep and the Animal Welfare Society, knows of only two animals that have come in from military personnel. ''We can only keep an animal for 10 days but would have no problems holding the pet briefly until we can contact Mr. Collins and arrangements can be made,'' she says. Joanne Stock, 313-2780, is the person to ask for at the shelter.