Earlier this week, 11 puppies were left for dead inside of a dumpster in Selma, California. Luckily, their whimpers were heard by a man who was outside of a laundromat and noticed cries coming from the alley. He was amazed when he lifted the lid of the dumpster and saw a litter of puppies lying on top of piles of trash. These cute border collie-husky mix puppies are now being cared for by the Animal Compassion Team in Squaw Valley and will be available for adoption soon. Police speculate that the animals were dumped because of tough economic times. Regardless of the reason, there is a 24-hour shelter where the pet owner could have taken his or her pets instead of discarding them in a dumpster as if they were non-living beings. Abandoning pets in California is not only cruel, but it’s also against the law. If caught, the perpetrator could face a fine or imprisonment.

Regrettably, in Santa Barbara, we don’t have a 24-hour shelter. However, at Santa Barbara County Animal Services in Goleta, there are a few overnight cages where animals can be placed if they’re found after hours. The main purpose of these cages is for keeping animals safe when someone finds an uninjured stray animal after the shelter has already closed. Unfortunately, Animal Services is finding out that people are dumping their own pets in these cages. Last week, someone left 14 cats packed into four small cages with a note saying: “Just because I’m suffering, doesn’t mean my animals have to.” While it’s commendable that this person didn’t just dump his or her cats on the street, it would have been beneficial to the animals to wait until the office was open, so that more information could be obtained, such as the cats’ names, medical history, and behavioral tendencies.

Unfortunately, dumping pets is nothing new. Many years ago, before pets were humanely euthanized when they were old or sick, pet owners used to let their pets go into the woods to die. I’ve heard many stories from acquaintances and family members who thought this was the right thing to do at the time. There are also those who think releasing their unwanted pets into the wild is a better option then turning them into a shelter. There are many accounts from those who live in rural areas who claim they are seeing an increase in the number of pets (mostly cats) who are being dropped off on farms and left to fend for themselves. Most people don’t understand the risks that are placed on their unwanted pets left outside. Not only is there danger from predators in the wild, but these animals who once had a roof over their heads and food and water supplied to them on a daily basis, now have to go out in search of it. It should be noted that these are domestic animals I’m referring to, those who have never had to face the daily struggle of survival.

Sadly, the problem of unwanted pets seems to be only getting worse as unemployment rates continue to rise and more people find themselves out of work and sometimes out of a home. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said the number of abandoned animals soared 57 percent last year to 11,586–the equivalent of more than 30 a day. Tim Wass, chief officer of the RSPCA, said the cause was “everything to do with the economics about owning a pet” from paying for food to veterinary bills.

Compounding the problem of tough economic times, animal shelters find that during the early months of a new year they tend to see an increase in animals being turned in after they were received as Christmas gifts. However, Mike Arms, president and CEO of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California, disagrees with the notion that pets adopted at Christmas have a higher return rate. Arms believes that the holidays are a perfect time to adopt a pet. In 1999, in conjunction with 14 other San Diego area shelters, he launched the first Iams “Home for the Holidays” adoption drive. A record 2,500 pets found homes. It’s tough to dispute the success of this adoption drive, as 2,700 shelters representing 11 countries (aside from the U.S.) including Australia, Brazil, India, and Qatar now partake. Since 1999, more than 1.7 million pets have found new homes for the holidays.

Whether pets obtained at Christmas time will be returned this year still remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – if you have to get rid of your pet, dumping is not the answer. You can call your area shelter, veterinarian, or ask a friend, relative, or neighbor to help. If you happen to have a purebred animal, there are hundreds of breed specific rescue groups that will help find a home for your pet. If you live in Santa Barbara and can no longer keep your own animal, take it to the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road. If you find a stray animal (dog, cat, rabbit, or other), take it to County Animal Services on 5473 Overpass Road. Leaving your pet out on the street (or in a dumpster for that matter) is never the solution.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Dorothy, a black-and-white short-hair, had a happy home but her owner fell on hard times and had to relinquish her. This four-year-old feline is shy but sweet, playful, entertaining, and, like many felines, is independent. She is weary of ASAP life with its teeming cat population and overabundant sound and smells. Volunteers believe she will blossom in a loving home into a confident and affectionate lap cat.

To learn more about Dorothy, call the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) at 683-3368 or visit their website at www.asapcats.org. ASAP is located at the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road (just beyond the Humane Society). Regular business hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays.


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