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Today's animal shelters: an often sure-fire death sentence

Animals in public shelters face a high probability of being euthanized due to a number of factors.
Animals in public shelters face a high probability of being euthanized due to a number of factors. Gary London

If you find yourself in a situation where an animal—a pet, yours or someone else's, or a stray, or one which is otherwise homeless and in need of a safe haven, think about this:

The term animal “shelter” can be and often is a misleading one.

Unless you can either find a free or low cost private, no-kill shelter, chances are your pet, someone else's, or any animal for that matter, is facing a better than 50-50 chance of being killed in one of today's overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed public shelters.

While the exact percentage/ratio of no-kill shelters to kill shelters isn't clearly known, it can be safely assumed (and statistical evidence bears this out)...that because public shelters are NOT no kill, they more than likely at least match the number of private no-kill shelters in the U.S.

In the last several decades, changes in the U.S. economic climate have caused massive cuts in state, county and city funded animal services. In southern California, San Bernardino county has earned the reputation of one of the deadliest in the country for animals who are relinquished to, or otherwise end up in shelters there. Studies have borne out the realization that stray cats and dogs here actually have a better statistical chance at survival roaming free as strays--than at one of the county's "shelters."

While on the outside, these and similar facilities appear to be viable alternatives for animals in need of protective custody, temporary or otherwise, the hard truth is that while a small percentage of (mostly) cats and dogs are adopted or rescued from public (kill) shelters, 60 to 70 percent will be euthanized. This, according to American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., and Pet Finder.

Experienced animal rescuers will tell you that on a day to day basis, in California's San Bernardino county alone, (the largest in the contiguous U.S.) their hands are full, their personal resources are stretched to the limit (and often beyond) because so many animals end up in this area's “high kill” shelters. And Facebook is livid with daily “emergencies” nationwide, from coast to coast, border to border with horror stories in the making at countless non-private “shelters” where animals sit in cramped often unkempt cages, imprisoned for an often short life—sick, unwanted, trapped, or otherwise “turned in” by uneducated, uninformed individuals mistakenly mislead by the term “shelter.” In hundreds and thousands of instances, nothing could be further from the truth.

The core of the problem seems to be that there is an apparent lack of interest, or willingness on the part of pet owners and others to pursue reasonable control and management of pet and animal populations. The first item in any dialogue concerning the animal overpopulation problem especially with seasoned animal rescuers and their organizations is the absolute and unequivocal need for and availability of the spay/neuter option. If left on their own, animals multiply exponentially. Perhaps if there were better awareness of the many low-cost or no-cost spay/neuter programs available through many organizations across the country, including local humane societies and others, successful inroads might begin to made into this ever-increasing problem. The problem of identification of lost or missing pets is also significant, and the importance of micro-chipping cannot be over stressed. In many instances, pets turn up in shelters with collars or clear evidence of ownership. Micro chipping greatly aids in the timely reuniting of lost pets with their owners.

But what is also clearly needed is a major change in the way all animals are perceived and treated...

NOT as second class citizens, NOT as replaceable merchandise, NOT as a temporary solution to loneliness, and not as a nice holiday, birthday, or otherwise “toy” or gift. A living and breathing companion is just that...and a LONG TERM commitment as well as expense.

Unfortunately, in this 21st century the value and sacredness of all life seems to have taken a back seat to other “priorities”. Until this begins to change, it might be safe to assume that human beings may continue to be the most destructive and dangerous species to all living things upon planet earth.