I met Lilly, the cute little black kitten pictured, at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. This Riverside county shelter, a modern sprawling building is located in an industrial area off the Bob Hope exit from the 10 freeway. They have an overflow of kittens, beautiful little animals of multiple colors…playful and pawing against the glass, ready for a game. Lilly was an underage kitten and would have been euthanized had it not been for the county’s foster program. A foster family provided a safe haven until Lilly was old enough to be spayed and therefore adopted. Lilly, Animal ID# A0946529, is now 3 months old and at the shelter waiting patiently in kennel T384 for her “furever” home.

Did you know that over half the animals entering public shelters in California, including Riverside county, are euthanized? Estimates run as high as six million euthanized every year. Seven out of every 10 cats in public shelters will not make it out alive. Public shelters cannot turn any away. Private no-kill groups are doing their best, but space is limited. On the one hand, America is a nation of animal lovers who spend billions annually on pampered pets. Yet there is a tragic story for other animals. Recent local news stories told horrifying cases of boxes of puppies left in the blazing desert summer, some survived and others died an excruciating death.

Why do animals come into shelters? Many are strays, some dumped out of cars. People losing their homes may relocate to places that don’t allow pets. Some reasons are trivial such as one woman who turned her dog into a shelter when it didn’t match the color of her new carpeting. “Backyard breeders” produce many unwanted animals who end up in shelters. Folks who fail to spay and neuter bring multiple litters to shelters. Some animals are brought in by family members when their owners die. Understand that your folks’ treasured pet (or your own!) may not make it out of the shelter alive. Over 30% of the animals in shelters are pure breeds. I recently saw two pure breed Golden Retriever puppies at the Thousand Palms shelter, not unusual in these economic times.

It is shocking that puppies and kittens under 8 weeks of age are routinely euthanized. Public shelters do not have the staff to provide the required continuous bottle feeding. Furthermore, these animals are too young to be sterilized and cannot legally be adopted. Dogs that catch “kennel cough”, a relatively minor medical problem, are euthanized to prevent its spread in the kennel population. Cats with respiratory infections are quickly euthanized. Others are deemed “unadoptable” and euthanized for minor behavior problems in a shelter system that does not have the resources to rehabilitate.

It is heartbreaking to report that so many animals are euthanized when their only crime is not having a home, but the public needs to know this is still going on. This is also an expensive problem for society. It costs taxpayers over $400 for animal control to capture, house, feed, provide minimal vet care, and euthanize ONE animal. Imagine the cost when a litter of 10 puppies comes into a shelter.

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My friend’s neighbor wanted her dog to have a litter of puppies so that her young daughter could “see the miracle of life”. This friend responded, “How about I take your daughter to an animal shelter so she can learn about the miracle of death that results from pet overpopulation?” Her neighbor was shocked and went off in a huff. But she thought about it overnight, and later reported they had an appointment to spay their dog. You might want to try a more genteel approach with your own acquaintences. Some might insist they will find good homes for their kittens or puppies. But in a world of “supply and demand” each new litter means fewer good homes available and more shelter animals will die. If one of your kittens goes out unspayed, she and her offspring can produce between 100 and 400 cats at the end of 7 years.

If people knew better, most of them would do better! As responsible citizens and animal lovers, what can we do to solve this problem?
• SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PET! GET YOUR FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO SPAY THEIR PETS.
• ADOPT FROM A SHELTER OR PRIVATE RESCUE GROUP. ABOUT 30% OF ALL ANIMALS IN SHELTERS ARE PURE BREEDS
• CONSIDER FOSTERING AN ANIMAL
• VOLUNTEER AT A SHELTER…YOUR HELP IS WELCOME
• MAKE A DONATION TO A PRIVATE SHELTER OR LOCAL ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION
• TAKE RESPONSIBILITY TO REHOME YOUR UNWANTED PET BEFORE GOING TO A PUBLIC SHELTER
• DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR PET’S BEHAVIOR PROBLEM…HIRE A TRAINER OR RESEARCH SOLUTIONS ONLINE
Riverside County Department of Animal Services is one of the BETTER counties. They are making an effort to get more animals adopted in spite of reduced staff
and increased intakes. The public-private partnership with Animal Samaritans “rescue coordinator” is an example, with Michelle Bergeron working tirelessly to transfer county animals into foster homes, private rescue groups, and specific breed rescues. The new Palm Springs shelter, buoyed by an active volunteer team known as Friends of the Palm Springs shelter, is making great strides to reduce euthanasia in that community.

THE COACHELLA VALLEY ANIMAL CAMPUS OFFERS A SPECIAL ADOPTION RATE THROUGH AUGUST 14, $15 FOR A CAT AND $20 FOR A DOG. THIS INCLUDES SPAY AND NEUTERING. Now is the time to go out and get that special pet. Pay them a visit at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms. View their available animals online at www.rcdas.org.

Two low cost spay and neuter clinics operate in our Valley. You can contact Save a Pet clinic at (760) 251-1400 or Animal Samaritans clinic at (760) 343-3477 or book a vet appointment online at www.animalsamaritans.org . To foster a county shelter animal, email foster@animalsamaritans.org

“Rescue dogs aren’t broken, they’ve simply experienced more life than other dogs. If they were human, we would call them wise, they would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write, the ones dealt a bad hand who responded with courage. Don’t pity a rescue dog. Adopt one. And be proud to have their greatness by your side.”
jmcafee7@verizon.net

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