A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 16, 2013

The Devil is in the Details not the Shelter

courtesy spcaLA
The latest salvo to reduce euthanasia in animal shelters is to increase the number of pets legally allowed in households. The theory is to increase output thereby reducing the population inside and presto - problem solved. Though spcaLA neither tolerates even one pet per household who is not properly cared for nor worries about those with an excess number of pets who are, the issue is one of responsible pet ownership, the maximum number of which varies in conjunction with the available resources of the adopters. In other words - some can handle 10 while others should not be allowed even 1.

That said, it is critical to understand the source of the problem before crafting a solution. Unregulated breeding, lack of sterilization and irresponsible owners cause pet overpopulation and high euthanasia rates in this country - not the shelters. The question, therefore, is whether increasing the number of pets per household will help. In a perfect humane world the answer is yes. Not so much in ours. First, this fix does not address the need to reduce the number of animals coming into shelters. Therefore, there will always be more unwanted pets than homes for them. Second, lack of pre-adoption screening, record numbers of pets being turned in due to economic pressures, and those unable to adequately care for the animals they have, suggests potential quality of life worries. For example, one might take 5 cats out of the shelter to "save" them only to leave them outside to be hit by cars. Or one might take 5 dogs but cannot really afford the food and veterinary care for them so they suffer slowly until they die or are rescued by us and returned to the shelter.

Glib sounding solutions - have more pets, leave cats in the street like wildlife, and refuse to take owned pets, without studying whether they address the root of the problem are simply catch phrases to politicians and catnip to the uninformed who seek credit and comfort in presenting an illusory fix to a tragic problem. We must legitimately stop the influx of animals in the first place by eliminating puppy mills, reporting back yard breeders, adopting from shelters, sterilizing along with ensuring pets are safe at home, wearing identification and retained for his/her natural life.

If not – do we increase the limit to 10 next year?

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