“Since I was probably four years old, I’ve always wanted to take care of animals,” said Catoosa veterinarian Donna Jo Painter. “I was always bringing home (injured) animals that I found, to make them better.”
The Catoosa County Board of Commissioners on April 2 appointed Painter to the position Fort Oglethorpe veterinarian Aubry Walker previously held, minus the title, for 19 years.
Her basic responsibilities will be to administer medical care to animals at the county’s shelter, order medications for the facility, act as a liaison between the shelter and other county veterinarians, organize rabies clinics and be on-call should an animal-related emergency arise.
“I hope to help make the shelter more friendly to the public so they’re not afraid to come,” Painter, a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine, said. “Shelters seem to have a bad reputation because of what they do. It’s seen as a place where bad things happen, and I want to change that about the Catoosa County Animal Shelter.”
Painter looks forward to working with Catoosa County animal control director John Pitner to educate the public about the need for spaying/neutering pets and also on projects like the new Paws Park for dogs.
Pitner believes Painter will be a great help to the county’s animal control department as it strives to increase awareness of animal issues in the community.
“I think she’s probably going to be the best benefit we’ve got around here,” he said.
Painter, who has been employed at Animal Medical Center of Fort Oglethorpe since last August, feels the biggest challenge she faces as a veterinarian is convincing the public about the importance of spaying or neutering pets.
“Some people just don’t know about the reproductive cycle (of animals),” she said.
The veterinarian plans to work on developing outreach programs, such as shelter volunteering and foster care, to assist the shelter in raising its profile.
“Community service is important to me,” she said.
Working with animals just five to 10 minutes per day in obedience train-ing can make all the difference on how an animal behaves, Painter said.
“I want to conduct educational programs at the shelter for children, teaching pet care and also pet obedience classes,” she said. “One of the rea-sons people turn over their animals is behavior problems, and it’s not so much that the animal’s bad, they’re just not trained and people don’t know (how to solve the problem).”
Through grant programs, Painter also hopes to be able to establish an immunization program for all of the puppies and kittens that come to the shelter.
A Salem, Va., native, Painter, 39, surrounded herself with animals grow-ing up. As a child, she was an in-demand pet-sitter.
“Everyone always wanted me to take care of their animals,” she said.
While attending high school, Painter worked with area veterinarians and volunteered with a large animal veterinarian during her college stint in Kentucky, she said.
Later, while attending veterinarian school at Auburn University, Painter worked for a researcher, where she was responsible for about 100 dogs, and was an emergency resident veterinarian at the school during her senior year.
“I was on duty every other night,” she said. “I learned a lot, and it was a great experience.”
Painter also worked on a shelter medicine program as a school elective at the Lee County Animal Shelter in Opelika, Ala., at that time.
Painter holds a master’s degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University, a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Auburn University.
Following graduation from veterinary school at Auburn, Painter moved to Ringgold last July with her five dogs, all of whom were strays or rescued from shelters.
Painter does not foresee any conflict with her job at Animal Medical Center and her responsibilities for the county. She said the facility’s staff has been very supportive of her choice to do both