There are four key pillars which support a successful animal welfare program: spay/neuter assistance programs, adoption prevention and effective animal welfare legislation. ASPCA statistics indicate 880 innocent animals perish every minute of every day in our nation’s kill shelters. That is over five million animals each year. Steps must be taken to stop the slaughter of innocents.
ADOPTION IS THE BEST OPTION
Please adopt a pet, rather than purchasing a pet from a breeder. According to ASPCA statistics, nearly 40 percent of the animals in shelters are purebred. There is no shortage. Consequently, you can save a life and pay a fraction of the cost for the same animal which will likely be spayed and neutered, vaccinated and tested for heartworms, parasites and other diseases. You won’t receive that offer from a breeder. If you are not showing your purebred pet, there really is no reason for AKC certification. Also, consider adopting a mixed breed dog or cat. Mixed breed pets tend to have far fewer health issues. Lastly, if you are interested in saving a life, please consider adopting pets that are difficult to re-home. Adult pets make good family members. You know what you are getting from the start. Often, you may not know how large or what personality your adopted puppy or kitten will have until he or she is grown. Your children will love the adult pet just as much and you needn’t worry about constant supervision of the baby animal and your children.
Animal welfare organizations engaged in the adoption of dogs should consider implementing a, “Save and Train” adoption program. St. Seton’s has always rescued all breeds of dogs so, I will speak only to dog adoption. Statistics put forth by the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA indicate that 95 – 96 percent of dogs are surrendered due to behavioral issues. Our experience confirms this finding. When this organization was formed, our return rate was over 40 percent. We felt we were trying to plug a leaky dam. We implemented a Save N’ Train program. All adult dogs who exhibit behavioral issues are trained by foster/trainer. We also worked hard to match families with the personalities of their dogs. If the family was somewhat sedate, we matched them with a sedate dog. Active families were matched with active dog. The program has been in operation for seven years. Our return rate dropped to less than one percent. The small number of dogs returned was due to a reason other than the dog. In December 2008, our adoption program received an award from the prominent Maddie’s fund.
Sadly, adoption, in and of itself is not the solution. There are five times as many puppies and kittens born each day as there are humans. These numbers are staggering. While it is critical for animal welfare charities to save as many of these orphans as possible, it can resemble trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. Consequently, other measures are needed to combat the epidemic of pet over population problem in our nation today.
SPAY AND NEUTER ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
The only way to we can become a, “no kill” nation is to spay and neuter our pets religiously. The prevention of the birth of unwanted litters of kittens and puppies is the prevention of needless death of unwanted animals. It really is that simple. What is not simple is the underlying cause of pet over population.
There is no scientific proof of the underlying cause of pet over population but, arguably, the causes are intuitive. A lack of resources to spay and neuter one’s pet seems to be a leading cause of this issue. Petsmart charities recently released a study (click HERE) which indicates that approximately 25 percent of the human population lacks the resources to pay for the surgery. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the average number of litters a fertile cat can produce is three per year with each yielding four to six kittens. The average number of litters a dog produces is two per year with each producing six to ten puppies. If we consider these averages apply to each of the kittens and puppies born to these litters, the results are staggering!
Animal welfare foundations need to turn their attention toward funding spay/neuter clinics and, “S.N.A.P” programs. SNAP programs provide the financial resources for spay and neuter surgery for individuals who require assistance. Foundations must provide funding for the acquisition of rental properties or to purchase a property in which to house a clinic. A brick and mortar clinic that employees two veterinarians can spay and neuter approximately 17,000 dogs and cats per year, per the, “Humane Alliance” model of spay/neuter surgery. Currently, only Petco, PetSmart and the DJ & T Foundation fund clinics. Of these foundations, only Petco and DJ & T provide any funding for renovations or procurement of a facility to house a clinic. In this economy, more foundations should step up to provide this much needed funding.
Other Preventative Programs
Many animals end up in shelters due to a lack of resources, especially in this recession. St. Seton’s implemented a pet food bank to help the elderly, hospice patients, disabled and those who are just down on their luck. Disenfranchised groups, especially the elderly, rely heavily on the companionship of their pets. We added veterinary care to this program and, ultimately, this care became a separate program called, “The Lifeline Program.” While there is no statistical data to prove these programs prevent pet euthanasia, our experience documents its success. We received countless calls requesting surrender to our no kill adoption program. People were distraught over the loss of employment and/or their homes due to foreclosure. They could not afford to feed themselves, much less their beloved pet. With referrals to human charities and our support, they were able to improve their situation which, in turn, enabled them to keep their pets.
EFFECTIVE ANIMAL WELFARE LEGISLATION
We desperately need laws, nationwide, that mandate spay/neuter of pets not licensed for show. This legislation must be coupled by reasonably priced resources to acquire spay/neuter surgery. Local governments must consider partnering with animal welfare organizations to implement spay/neuter clinics and resources for their community. The wholesale slaughter is NOT an acceptable means to manage pet overpopulation.
It brings us our organization a great deal of joy to help people and their pets. We are all part of a community. If we each reach out to lend a hand, that improves everyone’s quality of life.
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