I remember walking into the shelter that day after seeing her picture online. As soon as I saw her photo with her sad blue eyes I knew she was a very special dog. Can’t tell you why – I just knew. I thought she may be deaf because she was pure white and with those light eyes the probability was high. I already had a soft spot for deaf doggies because of Dazy – a story for another time. My daughter and I were led back by one of the workers, got her out of the small cage and let us spend some time with her. She was as special as I thought she would be ((turned out her hearing was just fine). I knew then that her name would be Angel – and she would not be euthanized that day. It was her last day and we were there. Her spirit was so gentle and loving. She loved the workers there at the shelter and they felt the same about her – her tail just wagged when she saw any of the workers or people visiting.
To finish the adoption process they had to take Angel back to her cage as I signed the paperwork. I then had to go back to where she was to officially identify her as the dog I wanted to adopt at which point they would transport her to the veterinarian’s office to be examined, spayed and micro-chipped He led me through a set of large, gray doors only to quickly close them – but not before I saw all the animals lying on a table that had just been euthanized. They had been gently laid down, all next to one another. My eyes got big and he turned and apologized over and over. He had a sad look on his face and said he thought they had all been cleaned up. Surprisingly I wasn’t as upset as I may have been several years ago – I understood. For the one dog I was adopting that day I saw several cats, kittens, dogs and puppies all brought to the shelter. I had only made room for one more. In less than an hour so many animals were brought in but I was one of two there that came to adopt. For all of the rescues in our area that work hard everyday to rescue animals then to try and find homes for them – double the number they save are brought in every day! My mind, in that moment, was changed…
We all think that the kill shelters are doing this horrible thing. We want to blame government or someone else for the animals that die in shelters. Well – that is garbage. It is every person’s fault that does not report a stray animal, that doesn’t have his or her animal spayed or neutered, that just lets strays wander thinking that they have a “chance” because the shelter will just “kill them”. We think we need more rescues – no – we need more educated people on what our shelters do and can’t do and what we have to do in order to really save these animals lives.
A starving animal isn’t happy. An animal that keeps having litters and litters is not happy. An animal that has to dodge traffic, wild animals, and cruel humans is not happy. An animal stuck in a cage at a rescue facility for months is not happy. An animal at an animal shelter isn’t happy either – but the unhappy time is at least limited. They aren’t trapped for months, they aren’t starving – and when not adopted they are put to sleep when necessary. What is their alternative? Well – is everyone that hates that animals are being put to sleep going to go and adopt at least 10 animals a month? Are we going to start taking the strays and having them altered so there won’t be more? Are we going to take every animal to the vet when they need to go? Are we going to actually stop when we see an animal hit by a car that is still alive and take it to the emergency vet? Probably not. This is what I do know.
First – if you want a cat or dog go to the shelter first. For a fraction of the cost of a rescue group your new pet will be spayed/neutered, have all of its shots up to date, micro-chipped and saved. For everyone we adopt the rescues don’t have to go in a save them.
Second – if you own an animal – and yes the cat you feed that is the neighborhood cat is your responsibility too – have it spayed or neutered. There are low-cost spay neuter clinics all over the country (I’m talking $40-$100 max and many are free!) There are so many programs available now that are really trying to reduce the number of unwanted litters. Click here to find these clinics in North Carolina.
Third – if you are facing a financial hardship and you think you may have to give up your pet – there are also programs available out there that help you keep your pet! Do your research! Start with your local animal shelter – trust me they want you to keep your pet.
Fourth – Know the numbers…in 2011 in Gaston County alone – 4151 dogs were brought to the shelter – of those 1459 were euthanized (35%). 2234 were adopted out and 395 were returned safely to their owners. 3835 cats were brought to the shelter, 2518 were euthanized (65% – a huge difference from the percent of dogs), 1182 were adopted out and only 57 were returned to their owners (2011 Shelter Report). For every female cat that is spayed, approximately 18 kittens are prevented from being born into unwanted circumstances (North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association).
Fifth and finally – Be kind to the shelter workers – volunteer to help – donate money – but don’t just sit a criticize if you are doing nothing to help the situation. They have a job to do because so many of us have not.
I have started a fundraising initiative to raise $1000 to be donated to the Gaston Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic. This could help alter up to 50 cats and prevent up to 900 unwanted kittens from being born this year. I have started with cats because they are the ones most euthanized in shelters because of the extreme overpopulation. Please click the below link to donate – for every $38 donated you will receive a Mary Kay Satin Hands Set. If you want to donate the Satin Hands Set I will take them to the shelter and clinic so the workers and volunteers will feel valued as well.