Curb pet overpopulation by spaying or neutering
By Chandra Orr
Copley News Service
It's a sad fact that a trip to the shelter is a dead-end road for some 4 million animals each year.
In fact, about half of all animals entering shelters are euthanized each year, according to estimates by the Humane Society of the United States. It's the end result of pet overpopulation, but there are plenty of proactive steps every pet owner can take to help put an end to the problem:
SPAY AND NEUTER
Having your pets spayed or neutered is the single most important step you can take to reduce pet overpopulation.
"Every animal that gets spayed or neutered means less animals that have to be euthanized due to overpopulation," explained Kimberley Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States.
If you've already had your cat or dog fixed, extend the favor to the neighborhood stray.
"Some people will take care of outdoor cats as if they're pets. They put out food and provide shelter, but it never dawns on them to get the cat spayed or neutered," Intino said. "If you're providing for a stray, take it one step further and help prevent the birth of another unwanted litter."
Lure the cat into a pet carrier and make a quick visit to your veterinarian to get him fixed. Afterward, he can return to his tomcat lifestyle, and you can rest knowing he won't be adding to the overpopulation problem.
Also, consider making a donation to a spay/neuter fund. Many shelters and rescue groups offer assistance to those who can't afford the procedure, but the donations to fund such programs have to come from somewhere.
HAVE PROPER ID
In addition to spaying or neutering your pet, do the responsible thing and invest in proper identification.
"One of biggest reasons for pets being euthanized is that they get lost," Intino explained. "If an animal can't be identified, it can't be returned - and if the animal isn't adopted, it might be euthanized."
A simple collar and tag with your name, address and phone number can go a long way to reuniting you with your lost pet - the key is keeping it up-to-date. Check the tag frequently to make sure it's securely attached and that the information is still legible. If you move or change your phone number, get a new tag ASAP.
If you're looking for another pet, look to your local shelter first. "There are many wonderful pets at the animal shelter, including purebred dogs and cats," Intino said. In fact, according to HSUS estimates, some 25 percent of all dogs in shelters are purebred.
Visit the shelter often and check online for new arrivals. Animals are brought to the shelter every day, and you never know when the perfect pet will show up. In the meantime, contact breed-specific rescue groups and check with your neighborhood pet store. It may not be the first place you think to look, but both PetsMart and Petco sponsor in-store pet adoption days where local rescue groups rally to match homeless dogs and cats with new families.
Generally, animals adopted through rescue groups have been spayed or neutered and are current on their vaccines. In many cases, the animals have lived in foster homes and passed an informal series of personality screenings, making it easy to find the perfect pet for your lifestyle.
"If you do decide to adopt, make sure that the decision is well thought out. People have good intentions, but they don't always understand what a big responsibility a pet is," Intino said.
Do your research to make sure you're ready for the challenge. If you think you want a puppy, spend time around a puppy. You might find that the level of energy and upkeep required is more than you bargained for.
Maybe a middle-aged cat is more your style - it's better to find out before you adopt.
MAKE A DONATION
Shelters frequently need donations of food, cat litter, blankets, newspaper, dishes and toys, but call ahead before dropping off supplies. You might find that they could benefit from something unexpected like a gently used digital camera or a color printer.
"Although shelters appreciate all donations and they don't want to turn anyone away, they don't usually have long-term storage for large quantities, so ask what they need before donating," Intino said.
Better yet, donate your time. There's always room for an extra helping hand, especially if you're willing to clean cages, dispense food, walk dogs or play with the cats.
"Whether your donation frees up funds or frees up workers so they can focus on advancing animal welfare programs, it helps shelters do their job - and their job is to find as many animals good homes as possible," Intino said.
? Copley News Service
Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.