Earlier this week I read an article written by a prominent veterinarian concerning his desire to do something about the over-population of dogs in America. His theory is based on a very valid need in our society to persuade dog owners to spay or neuter their dogs. This hypothesis brings to mind many facets of the situation including backyard breeders, puppy mills, and the growing population in our country that make their living by selling “high quality” puppies.
But the point that struck me as simple minded about his article was that he feels that rescues are wasting the money that Americans generously donate to help with the mission of rescue. He believes that every penny aimed at doing something about our over-population of dogs should instead go to spay and neuter. While I don’t disagree with the obvious fact that we as a society have got to stop producing more dogs, I believe his axiom is severely flawed.
I know there are a few states that are imposing fines (in the form of higher registration costs) on pet owners that do not spay or neuter their animals. From my point of view as a rescuer with almost 20 years experience, I cannot see that these laws are changing our problem at all. In Texas, the law states that breeders must be licensed and inspected on a regular basis. Because of the lack of revenue and the emphasis of using those resources to fight criminal activity that far outweighs having a litter of pups every few months, those laws are basically useless, and certainly ignored in far too many communities.
So if laws to control overbreeding don’t work, then what alternative is worth pursuing? What will stop the massive amount of senior dogs that end up in our shelters every year because their senior owners passed away or had to go into an assisted care facility? What will stop the breeding of a family’s pet because they simply must have an offspring of that individual dog? What will stop the immoral and massive abandonment of dogs that no longer fit in with the families’ life style? Is there a simple answer to all of these situations?
Education is one answer that SHOULD certainly help curb the activities that fill our shelters with beautiful, intelligent, and loving dogs. Rescue groups pride themselves with the education of the public about our teeming shelters. Our sanctuary certainly makes concerted efforts to educate about the fate of senior and special needs dogs that are left to fall thru the cracks of the rescue safety net. When I did an internet search of the rescue groups in Texas my computer timed out before it could load the enormous list! Texas has one of the worst canine over-population problems in the country. It is certainly not caused by a lack of compassionate rescuers that give their entire lives to the care of the “disposable” dogs in our state, and to the massive imperative of educating the public.
Perhaps this phenomenon of the colossal efforts put forth by rescue groups is part of the reason this particular veterinarian believes we waste our money by supporting these endeavors. If he is indeed correct, what would happen if we all suddenly stopped rescuing and used all of our donations to just spay and neuter every dog we could get our hands on? The theory is that eventually we would have our dog population under control. But at what cost?
The pressure put on our animal shelters from animal activists have persuaded many institutions that are supposed to be havens for our homeless or temporarily misplaced babies to become No Kill. What that really means is that those shelters turn down the dogs that are hardest to adopt. They turn down the seniors. They turn down the special needs babies. They turn down certain breeds that are difficult to re-home. At some point they have to close to intake completely. So what happens to the dogs they turn away?
We have a local Humane Society shelter that is No Kill. They turn down dogs everyday. Those dogs end up in our county shelter that has to euthanize up to 30 dogs a day to keep their facility from overflowing with discarded pets. Our sanctuary, just like all rescue groups is No Kill. What happens when we turn down a dog because we have been surpassing our capacity for over a year? They end up on the streets or in the local shelter, or at the very least they end up in someone’s back yard who has no desire to care for the animal. They are basically abandoned to their fate.
Is this the price we must pay for neglecting these precious lives that God has gifted to us? Is this the best we can do for these loving souls that depend on us to protect and care for them? Is this the final result of our fast paced society that values their new car or their fancy computer more than the four legged creatures that love us more than they love themselves?
I would bet everything I own that if the vet that wrote that article were to spend two hours here at the sanctuary loving on and getting to know my babies, he would rethink his ultimate answer to the devastating situation we have created as a society. I would bet he would realize very quickly that the money we spend to care for the old, the time we spend loving on the ill, the efforts we make to provide for the forsaken would not, COULD NOT be classified as throwing good money after bad!