© 2009 Allie Phillips

This story from Erie County, Pennsylvania about the soaring number of cats entering shelters is tragic. These cats have a certain destiny of being euthanized and really points to a bigger problem. It’s easy to blame the shelters who have to euthanize because they ran out of space, or they don’t have enough adoptive homes. These are shelters who witness every day people bringing in their pet because the family is “moving” and has chosen to  not take their pets with them, or there is a new baby in the house and they don’t realize that kids and pets go together, or they have gotten tired of the pet and want a younger pet. The shelters are not the problem …. it’s the people. We need to start a mass education campaign in America on three simple points to help get this tragedy under control: (1) We need to stop treating animals as property and disposing of them like our latest Starbucks cup. We need to bond with our pets, spend time to get to know their unique personalities, and spend less time with our Blackberry. If people are bonded to their pet, it will take an absolute tragedy (such as death) to part them from their companion. We see this with people who have lost their jobs and homes, and victims of domestic violence who are living in their cars with their pets. It is the bond that decides whether the pet stays at home or dies in a shelter. We need a compassion campaign to kick start how we feel about animals. (2) Mandatory spay-neuter is controversial, costly in difficult economic times, and difficult to enforce with minimal resources. But if your pet is not sterilized, the off-spring are filling up already overcrowded shelters. Search the internet for low-cost services in your area if its a financial barrier to getting your pet spayed-neutered. And (3) leave feral cats in their natural environment. You can trap-neuter-return them so that they don’t overpopulate. But taking them to the shelter because you think they will be safer indoors at the shelter is a guaranteed death sentence. These cats are unsocialized and cannot be adopted. They thrive being outside. And they will take up space for a more adoptable cat. Although there are many other ways to reduce the sky-rocketing euthanasia rates in shelters, we need to do something to get these points across. Please re-post this because we need to open the eyes of people to the senseless loss of lives occurring every minute of the day in our animal shelters. It’s an unacceptable shame that together we can turn around.

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