Steve, Robin and Ethel on her first day as a part of their family.
I resolve in 2007 to encourage adoption from animal shelters or breed rescue. On December 1, 2006, my wife Robin and I put a puppy where our mouth is. We adopted a pup that in all honesty really shouldn’t have been born. The entire litter of sneezy, wormy pups was unceremoniously dumped at Animal Care and Control in Chicago before being re-located to the no-kill PAWS Chicago facility. I’m grateful that we found little Ethel in that litter. This story of unwanted animals happens daily at shelters around America.
“Of course, the mother of those puppies should have been spayed,” says Paula Fasseas, founder and chair of PAWS Chicago. “There are so many unwanted pets out there; it’s all about spay/neuter to prevent future generations. I think the message about spay/neuter has mostly gotten through to more educated people, but there are still many who just don’t do it, particularly those in impoverished communities. They just don’t understand why spaying or neutering benefits them, and benefits their animals.”
PAWS Chicago, like so many shelters around America, now offers low-cost and even no-cost spay/neuter and public relations campaigns touting the benefits. Efforts like those of PAWS Chicago are working. Far more pets are being spayed and neutered than a decade ago. Certainly the proliferation of so-called no-kill facilities has garnered huge public support and awareness. Sadly, in the real world, just because there are no-kill shelters doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer pets are dumped or given up to the municipal shelter.
Today, there are adoption options outside the traditional shelter arena, most significantly purebred dog and pedigreed cat rescue. For example, if a dog looks like a Basset Hound, Basset Hound rescue will swoop in to rescue the dog from the shelter and place the pooch into a foster home. This frees up shelter cage space and also offers that rescued animal a chance to live with a caring family while awaiting a permanent home rather than languishing in a noisy shelter. Also, the Internet makes it possible to search for a rescued pet from the comfort of your living room.
“I don’t know that people understand all breeds are now available through rescue,” says Emily Scott Pottruck, San Francisco, Calif.-based author of her self-published “Tails of Devotion: A Look at the Bond Between People and Their Pets,” $29.95 (available at www.tailsofdevotion.com). “Even though there are rescue groups, you can still visit a local shelter and find a purebred dog, or at least a dog that very closely resembles the breed you like.”
More dogs like Ethel have a new home and plenty of toys thanks to organizations like PAWS Chicago and the good hearts of pet-lovers.
Marketing matters, and in recent years adoption has simply become “cool,” and so is rescuing a pet. “People have big hearts when they know there’s a need,” says Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States. He says adoptions increased after Hurricane Katrina. Still, he says, fewer than 20 percent of all dogs are adopted from shelters.
According to the American Humane Association, approximately 9 million animals were euthanized at shelters in 2005. Diane Leigh, co-author of “ONE at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter” (No Voice Unheard, Santa Cruz, Calif.; 2003, $16.95), says she’s done the math. The heartbreaking news is that every nine seconds one animal in an American animal shelter is put to death. She says, “The overwhelming majority of these animals have done nothing wrong; circumstances have just put them in a shelter.”
Think about it ” in the time you’ve read this story, so far, several animals have been put to death in shelters for crimes they did not commit. “Let’s tell the truth, these animals are killed,” says Scott Pottruck. “Euthanized makes it almost sound pleasant, or at least acceptable.”
While adopting pets in need from shelters has become a cool trend, so is the purchasing of high priced so-called designer dog “breeds,” such as labradoodles and goldendoodles. “It just drives me crazy,” says Scott Pottruck. “I mean, they’re bred, but when it comes down to it, they’re what we used to all call mutts. The only thing to come out of this trend is that one day soon we could need labradoodle rescues.”
Another issue is the stigma of getting damaged goods when adopting from a shelter, according to Pacelle. “It’s a perception, and one we have to do a better job at changing.”
Scott Pottruck, who is donating the proceeds from her book to shelters and animal welfare groups adds, “Awareness and education are needed in the world of pet adoption. I believe that many of us involved in the pet world think everyone knows what we know. I’m a classic example of a person who loves animals and yet was so clueless about the world of adoption. There are so many reasons to adopt from a reputable shelter.”
Aside from considering your local shelter, available pets are listed at www.pets911.com, www.petfinder.com and www.1-800-save-a-pet.com. American Kennel Club breed rescue groups can be found at http://www.akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm.