There's a calico cat, surrendered to a shelter because the owners can't take care of her anymore. It's summer, which means most shelters are filled to capacity. Adoptions can't come fast enough, rescues can't pull animals fast enough, and so every day, animals are euthanized. This calico cat is one of them. Her papers say that she is sweet, well-behaved, and shy. She did nothing wrong. At 5-10 years old, she could easily have spent another 10 years in another loving home. But there was no room, and she ran out of time.
I wish I could say that I was making this up, but I watched all this unfold on on of the rescue groups I follow on facebook. Someone wanted to pull the calico, but they were minutes too late.
While I'm extremely grateful that our local humane society is no-kill, this is the reality of many, many shelters out there - when they run out of room, animals have to go. Otherwise healthy, happy animals will be killed. It's not an exaggeration, it's simply what happens, and it's heartbreaking.
It has to change.
I'm not saying that we should pull all the at risk animals from shelters and overcrowd our houses. It's better to take good care of the amount of animals you can care for than to take poor care of too many animals. Also, the problem is much larger. There are behavioral and cultural changes that need to happen, over time, to make a lasting impact.
For starters, make sure your own pets are spayed and neutered. Litters of puppies and kittens are cute, but to be honest, this is only exacerbating the problem. Go into any shelter this time of year and find out how many kittens they have. The average cat has litters of 4-6 kittens and can have 3 litters a year. That's potentially 18 kittens that need a home, from just one cat. Imagine how fast the problem grows when those kittens have kittens, and so on.
If there are feral cats in your area, you don't need to have them taken to the shelter, where they will likely be euthanized because they are not adoptable. Many places have TNR (Trap, neuter, return) programs that will take care of the reproduction problem. Feral cats are great for controlling pests, and kept in check, are actually beneficial for the environment. If you live in an area without one of these programs, consider going the extra mile and talking to vets and shelters about starting one.
If you have an animal that absolutely needs to be rehomed, please don't take the animal to a shelter that euthanizes for space. Surely that animal, your companion for whatever length of time, deserves better. Don't gamble with your pet's life just because you can't care for him/her. If there's a no-kill shelter in your area, start there. For dogs, there are often breed specific rescues that may be able to take your dog in. Rescues are often great alternatives to shelters because the pet will be fostered in a home, which is far less stressful. Some shelters will ask for or require a donation or fee to help cover the cost of caring for your pet while they find your pet a permanent home. This is a small price to pay, considering.
Stray cats in particular may not need to be taken to a shelter. The average lost cat wanders a much smaller area from home than a dog, and is better about finding it's way home. A cat taken to a shelter has a very small likelihood of being reunited with their family. The odds are actually much greater that the cat will find it's way home. If necessary, consider putting out food and water for the cat while you try to locate the owner. It's still a better alternative than dropping the animal off at a high kill shelter.
If the only shelter in your area is a high kill shelter, not all hope is lost. More shelters are turning towards the no kill model, but it takes time. On the whole, shelters will need more space and money to be able to care for the pets, and they'll need community cooperation. That's right - shelters can't do it alone. It takes a village to save and care for animals. If the cause matters to you, see how you can get involved, whether through donating time, resources, or money. Any little bit helps.
I admit that this is a cause close to my heart. If our local humane society had still been euthanizing for space as it had a few years earlier, my Gwen never would have stood a chance. Now, their save rate is currently at 97% for the year, which is phenomenal.
We can do better by our animals, but it takes effort. It takes people willing to step up and work for change. But it's not impossible. Animals who are healthy need not die because their owners can't care for them. We can do better. We must do better.