Our Love of Pets

Can We Do Better?

Looking in the mirror, staring back at me isn't so much a face as the expression of a predicament. There is an inherent irony that exists within the culture of pet ownership that is often overlooked and can be a bit challenging for those who recognize it and want to do better while the inequities continue to persist.

There is no denying the sadness most of us feel when we watch an animal on film appear to be hurt or killed. Of course sadness is instantly replaced with relief when the disclaimer appears at the end indicating no animals were harmed during this movie. We view posts from friends and family on Facebook of cute furry animals doing something mischievous, and we seem to never get enough of it. We love our four-legged companions yet in dozens of cities across this country and the world for that matter, … we allow animals to run freely outside without licenses and vaccinations, backyard breeders produce more puppies than can be sold, and rabbits are bought at Easter time and then let go when the novelty wears off. Can we make a positive difference in addressing this issue and reduce this tendency to buy before we think to manageable levels? One city did.

When the housing market crashed in late 2008 one of the hardest cities hit was Las Vegas. At its peak an animal shelter in Clark County was taking in 150 animals a day with more than 51,000 a year resulting from home owners who had to move and abandoned their pets in the process. The facility became so crowed viruses spread quickly leaving the operators with little choice but to start euthanizing more than a thousand sick animals, more than half the shelters population, in an effort to stop the spread. This action was met with community outrage prompting the facility to request an audit from a team of experts from the U.S. Humane Society. The results were not promising, leaving the animal shelter with much to do in the way of addressing this problem, which was two-fold: … reduce the number of animals coming in and to increase the number of animals adopted out.

In the years since, the shelter developed and implemented many changes. Various promotions were ran on local TV increasing awareness of this problem, discounted adoption fees were implemented, and a vaccination and spaying program was created to address the feral cat population to name a few. Currently, animals being brought in has dropped by 25 percent, adoptions have increased by 26 percent, and the euthanasia rate has dropped from 35 percent to 30 percent with a promise from the board of directors of the shelter that within five years it will be a “no-kill” facility.

There are many positive changes that can be made when we realize that often “it takes a village to raise a child.” None of this could have happened if it was not for the partnership between the community and the shelter in addressing this concern. “The more responsible we are as pet owners, the less hypocritical we'll appear to ourselves when we look in the mirror.”

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