Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stop the Killing – Causes

If the killing is to stop, people have to be aware the problem exists, as well as its causes.  While many try to place the blame solely on overpopulation, this is not the case.

There are two causes.  One is irresponsible owners and it is a multi-faceted issue.  If owners were more responsible, then maybe the number of animals entering shelters would be reduced.

Failure to make the lifetime commitment owning an animal requires.
·         The puppy or kitten has grown and is no longer young and cute.
·         The puppy or kitten was gotten for their child, who has now gone off to college and the parents do not want the responsibility.
·         The cute little puppy got a lot bigger than they thought it would.
·         Decided the puppy or kitten cost too much in food and vet bills.
·         Making the wrong choice in regards to breed, shedding, activity level, etc
·         Decide they don’t have the time to properly care for their pet.

Failure to properly prepare before choosing a pet.  If you want a new pet, do your homework first.  Research the animal’s needs in terms of vet care, feeding, breed characteristics, activity levels, intelligence, grooming and shedding, size, and items needed (bed, toys, food/water dishes, etc).  Keep in mind that dogs need walks/exercise and yards should be fenced.  Remember there is a time commitment involved.   

Failure to properly train and socialize their dog.  Unfortunately, this often leads to destructive or vicious behavior, either of which can result in the owner dumping the animal.  If a dog is brought to a shelter because of vicious behavior, it rarely escapes the kill room. 

Failure to spay or neuter their pets when appropriate.  People who have multiple dogs of both genders, and who are not legitimate breeders, should have one gender or the other altered.  If you spay or neuter your pet(s), then there will be no unwanted pregnancies and litters. 

Failure to find homes for an unwanted litter.  Bringing an unwanted litter to the shelter should be the last choice after all other options have been exhausted.  Rescue groups and shelters are usually happy to give you advice on how to do this to ensure the puppies or kittens find good homes.

Failure to obey leash laws – better known as allowing their animals to roam freely.  If you choose not to spay or neuter your pet, then keep them at home and don’t allow them to roam.  If your animal isn't allowed to roam, it will not be randomly breeding, bothering your neighbor, their property or livestock. 

Failure to microchip or tag the animal.  If you allow your animal to roam freely and it does not come home, or it runs away for whatever reason, no microchip or tag means you cannot be contacted if your pet is found.  If it isn’t killed on the streets, it will likely end up in a shelter.

Failure to accept responsibility for a special needs pet.  Pet owners surrender their animals who are injured, sick, blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or simply old because they don’t want to be bothered with their care.

Failure to accept responsibility and seek appropriate solutions for the problem.  Dumping your animal is not an appropriate solution.  The decision to bring it to a shelter should be the choice of last resort.  There is help available if you seek it out and ask.  Shelter staff/volunteers and rescue groups are a wealth of information.  There are low cost spay/neuter and vaccination clinics; there are low cost vet clinics as well as veterinarians who are willing to work out payments; there are pet food banks; there are trainers of all sorts who can help with behavior problems.  You can get help with re-homing your pet if you have no other choice but to do so.

The segment of the population who just don’t give a damn.  There’s no way to know how many people there are in this segment, but there seems to be a lot.  They are the ones who have no regard for laws concerning their pets, no regard for the safety and welfare of their pets, and who plain don’t care if an animal they surrender to a shelter lives or dies.

Myth or contributing factors to the number of animals killed each year:

Overpopulation is a myth.  Somewhere between 3 and 6 million companion animals are killed in shelters each year.  Somewhere between 15 and 23 million homes get new pets EVERY year.  There are enough homes available.

Contributing Factor – Abusers and Criminals.  They don’t care about the animals, and when they’re busted, the animals end up in shelters as evidence.  Some of these animals are euthanized for humane reason due to their horrible injuries.  More often than not, the surviving evidence is destroyed after the case is resolved.    

Contributing Factor – Blissful Ignorance of the Public in General.  If you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t protest against or try to change it.  Shelters do not advertise the fact they are a kill shelter.  They do not advertise how many animals they kill each year.  The public in general has no idea how many animals end up in shelters every year or why.  People are misled by the terminology used.

Contributing Factor – Terminology Creates Misinterpretation / Misunderstanding:

·         Shelter – Gives the impression of a safe haven.  Far too many people think that when a dog or cat ends up in a shelter, they will be well cared for until they are adopted, no matter how long it takes.  Most shelters are dismal places, and often animals receive minimal care.  Sometimes, animals are allowed to suffer until illness, injury or starvation kills them.

·         Euthanasia – Tends to make people think the animals die happy and without pain.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The animals smell the death from the kill room.  They become depressed while in the shelter.  They become afraid when it’s their turn.  Gassing, heartstick and injection all cause pain to the animal.  Euthanasia is mercy killing by definition, and few of the animals killed in shelters fall under this definition.

Contributing Factor –Thinking of Animals in Terms of Being Property or Things.  How many times have we heard the phrase “it’s just a dog”?  Many people and even government and businesses consider companion animals property and incapable of any type of emotion.  We read stories about, or even personally experience, animals that have shown devotion, loyalty, fear, and a host of other emotions thought to be solely a human thing.  One of our pack bears psychological scars from past abuse, just I personally do.  Yes we own them according to law, but they are members of our family.

Contributing Factor – Disposable Society.  We are very much a disposable society.  We use all manners of disposable items – tableware, storage containers, and even cell phones.  This has even translated to traditionally non-disposable items where when a newer model becomes available, we ditch the current one and get the new one.  Unfortunately, people also think and act this way with animals.

And finally, the number one cause of death for shelter animals – the shelters themselves.

Shelters kill for no good reason.  Some don’t adopt out any animal, period, and all are killed.  Some shelters kill because “it’s euthanasia day” or because they think no one will want a 10 year old dog or simply because it’s easier than feeding and cleaning up after them. 

Many shelters kill upon intake of an owner surrender.  They don’t advertise this fact, and once you leave Fido or Fifi behind, he or she is taken directly to the kill room.  These animals are never given a chance to be adopted.

 Impossible to adopt or rescue.  Many shelters have restricted times and/or days, which makes it difficult for anyone to adopt or rescue.  At least one shelter allows rescue on only one day each week – and the day changes each week – and rescue groups must call for an appointment.  Some shelters do not make all of their animals available for adoption.  Once the mandatory stray hold (if there is one) is up, the animal is killed.

Shelters kill even when space is available, and even when there rescue groups and/or adopters interested in taking animals.

It’s a Secret.  Many shelters don’t advertise or market their available animals.  Instead they make you visit their facility or their website.  Often, not all of the available animals are listed on the website.  Many shelters do not make all of the healthy and adoptable animals available to those who visit the facility.  Why couldn’t a NYC shelter find a home for a 6 month old puppy in a city of 8 million?  Why do shelters not market or advertise their animals?

And even though shelters do all these things listed above, they will tell you they kill because there aren’t enough adopters/homes.

Blackmail and Lies.  How many times have rescues and crossposters heard “We are completely full.  If nobody takes some of the animals we will HAVE to start EUTHANIZING them” from shelters?  Surely they can’t say they HAVE to start killing when they haven’t even offered the animals to the public for adoption or rescue?  And if they HAVE to kill because they are out of space, it is most certainly not a mercy killing.  Need space?  Let the animals be adopted or rescued.   

It’s a Secret 2.  Shelters don’t want us to know what’s going on behind the doors and within their walls.  They don’t tell you their policy concerning owner surrenders.  They don’t tell you they are withholding adoptable animals from public view.  They don’t want us to know their save versus kill rates.  They would rather place the blame on irresponsible owners and overpopulation.  But if they truly believed this, and actually cared about the welfare of the animals in their care, wouldn’t they make all animals available for adoption or rescue, not kill owner surrenders upon intake, and make their kill rates known in trying to wake us up to the problem and get help?

In light of these facts, it is impossible to make an argument that killing shelter animals is necessary.  Not when so many shelters don’t try.  Not when animals are not even offered for adoption or rescue.  Not when shelter days and hours are restricted enough to limit adoption and rescue.  Not when owner surrenders are killed upon intake.  Not when the number of homes getting new animals outpaces adoption from shelters by such a large margin.

Coming Next – Stop the Killing – Part 3: Solutions