I managed an animal shelter in Detroit, Michigan for nine years before moving to Santa Barbara in 2004. Each and everyday in Detroit, I was overwhelmed with what I experienced. On a daily basis, over a hundred animals would be turned into our shelter for reasons such as “moving,” “new baby,” or “my spouse doesn’t like cats.” As a result of us being unable to adopt out 100 animals per day, of the 50,000 animals that were taken in each year a gut-wrenching 30,000 of them had to be euthanized.
Most people blame the animal shelter for euthanasia; but it’s really not the shelter’s fault. It mainly comes down to ignorance and irresponsible pet owners creating an abundance of pets needing permanent homes.
Overpopulation is the single greatest threat to domestic animals today. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4-5 million cats and dogs are euthanized annually in our nation’s shelters simply because of lack of homes. This breaks down to one animal being euthanized every 9 seconds! In addition, it is believed that much of the neglect and cruelty endured by animals is a direct result of overpopulation.
Three things you can do:
1. Spay or neuter your pet.
If you are a pet owner, spay or neuter your pet before they reach the age of sexual maturity.
The chances of your pet developing mammary or testicular cancer decrease if you spay or neuter before sexual maturity. An added benefit to you as the pet owner is that certain undesirable behaviors may be altered with spaying or neutering. For example, animals tend to roam less, and fewer males will mark their territory once they are spayed or neutered. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your female dog or cat going into heat!
2. Own your pet for life.
If you own a pet (or are owned by your pet) remember that pet ownership is a lifetime commitment.
Many of us pet owners will get married, have children, move, start a new job, etc., throughout our pet’s lifetime. Even though these changes may occur, it should not be a reason to give up your pet. Studies have shown that regardless of the reason given when an animal is surrendered to a shelter, behavior problems are the underlying issue 80 percent of the time. For example, a person may have had house-soiling issues with their dog or cat for months or even years and never corrected the problem. Then once that person moves, they decide the pet has to go.
If your pet has a correctable behavior problem, try to get professional advice and training before you opt to hand over your pet to an already overpopulated shelter.
3. Before you shop, ADOPT.
If you don’t own a pet but would like to, choose an animal shelter over a pet store or an ad in the paper. There are many shelters in the Santa Barbara area alone with hundreds of pets looking for loving homes. Even if you’re looking for a purebred, you may find one at an animal shelter. Studies have shown that close to 30 percent of homeless animals in shelters are purebred.
What’s great about technology today is if you don’t see what you’re looking for at a local animal shelter, you can go online! Go to: www.petfinder.com and you can search by area, breed, size of the animal, etc. Rest assured that all animal groups listed on petfinder.com are IRS-certified 501(c) (3) organizations.
Celebrate National Shelter Appreciation week by helping to prevent the number one threat facing our pets - overpopulation!