ANIMAL SHELTERS & RESCUE
Many shelters import dogs from offshore and trade "stock" with other shelters while pleading for more donations and tax-payer funding. Animal control has seized healthy, well-cared for purebred animals - for instant resale!
Too Many Shelter Animals?
Number of animals brought into shelters: 6-8 million
Number of animals “humanely euthanized” by shelters: 3-4 million
Number of pets killed on U.S. highways: 6.6 million
Number of pets owned in the U.S: 142.7 million
When gathering these 2008 statistics, I included only dogs and cats, and numbers are based on annual totals. Since dogs and cats are closest to us and the animals most likely to inspire emotion and provoke legislation, I only included them. I relied on the most obvious sources; the Humane Society of the United States, local shelter publications, and a few on-line sites devoted to such topics.
I included the number of animals killed on highways (again, dogs and cats only) to point out just one of the alternative methods for disposal of unwanted, neglected, lost and abandoned pets. There are also the uncounted numbers of animals not included in census figures; they are part of widely varying estimates of feral animals that never make it to shelters, homes, or highways.
What do the numbers mean? As we all know, numbers don’t lie. Or do they? Like an obedient child, maybe they just say what we want them to say. Should they be accepted at face value, or should they be questioned and investigated? Should they be relied on at all? How important are numbers anyway?
Of the 6-8 million animals brought into shelters, how many are owner surrenders? How many of those are “we’re moving”-“he growled at my kid”-“she’s too big/barks too much/chews the furniture/can’t housebreak her”. How many are brought in because the owner can’t afford to take a sick, injured, or elderly animal to a vet and they hope that by taking it to a “shelter”, their beloved pet will receive proper vet care or a peaceful death?
How many are brought into the shelter by animal control?
Of those, how many are homeless strays, how many are owned strays later returned to relieved families, how many are rescued from abusive and neglectful owners, and how many are seized in questionable raids instigated by spiteful neighbors, jealous competitors, and ill-informed self-interests?
What about the lucky few who are returned to owners or are adopted out to new homes; how many remain in the home and how many are brought back to take their chances again? Should stray and feral animals be rounded up and destroyed or are limited resources better spent caring for “adoptable” animals only? How much should be allocated to rehabilitate borderline adoptable animals? Should we raise taxes on the general public, or just raise fines and fees for those who are responsible enough to register their animals – or are caught and forced into compliance? Should breeders, pet shops, puppy mills and the guy next door each bear more responsibility or less?
These questions are just a few from a long list which result from any serious discussion of animal control vs. owner rights vs. animal rights vs. business interests vs. ...well, you get the idea.
No matter how simple and clear-cut the topic appears to be, there will always be those troublesome, nagging, irritating questions which smudge up the plan. So is there any way to clean up the mess?
No. At least not in the foreseeable future. The problem of too many animals is not going away, any more than the human tendency to offer advice yet resist opinion, oppose restrictions without allowing accountability, and distrust motives while denying responsibility. We can accept that we have a problem and we all want it fixed, but we don’t want to take a chance of getting trapped in the solution. Any suggestion, however well-meant, is viewed with suspicion. And rightly so. As in any large group of people, there are always those who have ulterior motives sprinkled amongst the majority who are led by honorable intention tainted by righteous emotion.
Most people accept the need for spay/neuter regulations
But... even this brings up issues of enforcement, differential licensing, privacy concerns, ethics, motives and more. There are too many land mines and hidden traps scattered in this swamp. There are so many volatile topics being debated by so many passionate people while the body count rises. There is no safe topic and no easy answer.
But there is hope; there are viable solutions being tested throughout the country and time alone will bring the final answers. What looks good on paper may not work in practice, what works in one community may not work in another, and there are always those who will adamantly insist that there is no hope after all. We can stand by and watch these other programs flourish or fail, we can tackle this massive beast on our own and beat it into submission, or we can take the best of what works, allow the possibility that it might work here, and get a running start on ending animal overpopulation and the resultant crisis in our neighborhoods.
Only when rhetoric is stripped away and we are left with the bare bones of harsh reality can we see the face of our enemy. It has often been pointed out that we live in a disposable society and as long as this is accepted as the norm we will continue to see too many animals, not enough homes, and too many disposed-of pets. The ultimate solution lies in changing how we as a society view animals, and how much we are willing to give up to insure that every animal born is welcomed into a responsible home.
We need to begin with ourselves; how much do I care? What is it worth? One More Statistic: "A total of about 1.3 million died in all of America's wars from the Revolutionary War to the present-day Global War on Terrorism."
Having spent the past few days living with statistics, that kind'a helps to put those other numbers into perspective. Every American feels saddened and appalled by the numbers of soldiers who die for a cause, but because I used the most conservative numbers for my article, it emphasizes the need for immediate attention to another numerically big problem.
How many shelter pets must be euthanized before we declare ourselves inhumane?