Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?

A pair of Persian kittens wait patiently at a shelter for someone to choose them.

People try to convince me that it’s a great idea to get a dog or cat from a breeder or a pet store if they have their hearts set on a specific type of animal.

I’m never able to let these comments slide without at least giving my input. I have had some success changing people’s minds when I calmly lay out the facts.

A vast selection of animals is available for adoption in the shelter system. About 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebred. You will find purebred cats in there, too. And if local shelters don’t have the particular dog, cat, rabbit or other domestic animal you desire among the hundreds in stock, there is an abundance of breed rescue groups specific to almost any type of animal. They usually house animals in private homes throughout their network of foster parents, and they are almost always overloaded with discarded family pets.

To find breed rescue groups in your area, just Google the breed’s name, along with the word “rescue” and your general location. You can also try, a popular website listing animals of all shapes, sizes and ages. Be informed – ask questions to be sure you don’t find yourself supporting a breeding operation that is adding to the problem.

If you don’t live in a big city, you might need to drive one or two hours to pick up your animal, but that’s a small commitment compared to the second chance at life you will be bestowing on the rescued pet you decide to bring home.

Perhaps you chose to buy a dog or cat from a breeder or a pet store in the past, not knowing all the facts. Please don’t feel guilty about it. But once you know how bad it is out there for homeless animals, responsibility sets in. I have seen the coolers full of fur corpses, the incinerators, the gas chambers. Euthanized animals – estimated to be four to nine million animals in the U.S. alone – are sent to rendering plants to be melted down and turned into makeup, tires and fertilizer. As those of us in animal rescue are painfully aware of, there are simply not enough available homes. On the bad days, it rips our hearts out.

Until we put a visible dent in the epic overpopulation crisis, we need to stop the unfettered proliferation of pets, many of whom are turned into trash. The state of California alone spends $300 million housing and caring for animals dumped on shelters and disposing of the carcasses of cats and dogs who don’t get adopted. Nationally, an average of 50 percent of animals in shelters are euthanized, though that number can climb to more than 80 percent.

If you aren’t part of the solution, the chances are good that you are part of the problem. Which do you aspire to be?

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