An estimated 3-4 million cats and dogs are put to death in the US alone (according to the APPA statistics). That’s a fantastic decrease from to 12-20 million that were euthanized in the 70s, especially since the overall number of cats and dogs has more than doubled since. As we’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I wanted to offer a special thanks to the men and women behind these statistics. To those who dedicate their lives to working with the animals who, for no reason of their own, have become a burden to their humans, just another waste of our gluttonous society. To those who make a real difference in the life of millions of animals, helplessly subject to mankind’s dysfunctions and abuses.
‘The new landlord won’t allow cats’, ‘we’re moving out of state’, ‘I can’t afford the cost of keeping the dog’. Every single day, thousands of cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, birds and animals of all sorts are either dumped on the doorsteps of shelters across the country or pulled away by animal control from the hands of their careless owners.
Many animals end up at the pound for behavioral or health problems that their owners simply couldn’t deal with. From aggression to house soiling, destruction or escapes, dogs and cats are too active, too vocal, require too much attention, are not friendly enough, are afraid, jump on people, are jealous, are too old, too sick, shed too much, too mellow, not protective enough, etc. Without the right knowledge and understanding of what animals require, many underestimate how much time and effort they will add to their busy life when acquiring a pet. We’ve become confident that through TV shows and common conceptions, we know enough to feed, educate and properly care for any animal, no matter what the species. When the reality of pet guardianship finally strikes, the price is to the animal, to the one who has no voice to speak up and no power to decide.
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP), owners who surrender their pet don’t fit in any particular category. They come from a broad range of age, ethnicity, education and income level. They’re our neighbors, our co-workers and friends. Day after day, the thousands of men and women who chose to dedicate their lives to those who don’t have a voice are the witnesses of a broken system where anyone can claim the right to own an animal. Through their continuous efforts, the animal rescue organizations and shelters such as the Humane Society or SPCA, help the animals in crisis, but also advocate for their rights. Millions of animals suffer from cruelty in factory farms, in animal testing labs, puppy mills and animal fighting rings. Their passion for animals leads them in the heart of the most desperate of situations.
It takes courage to face the sadness and despair of so many traumatized animals on a daily basis. It takes strength to watch animals that have become familiar after many months at the shelter have to be euthanized. More than a job, these animal advocates are passionate about what they do, about those they rescue and care for. Compassionate and caring, many spend much of their time cleaning cages, picking up feces, preparing meals and doing laundry. Their necessarily dirty, but often unnoticed duties contribute to making lives of those rejected pets a little better.
While visiting shelters across the country, I’ve come to meet many amazing people whose life mission is to give the animals a second chance. From large organizations to the smaller ones many dedicate time and resources into educating the public about pet ownership, providing low cost spaying and neutering and offering training and behavior counseling. The San Francisco SPCA for instance, one of the largest SPCA in the US, offers state of the art housing for the animals and all the services pet owners could need, from veterinary care, to boarding and training. In Monterey, CA, in addition to the typical cats and dogs, rabbits and chinchillas, they also specialize in rescuing horses, goats, exotic animals and wildlife. Their staff provides full care and rehabilitation to injured raptors, possums, snakes and ducks. AngelDogs Foundation Deaf Dog Ranch in Acton, CA, has specialized in taking on deaf dogs, commonly on death row for lack of potential adopters. They strive to prove that just like other dogs, deaf dogs are smart, affectionate and easy to train. Through their post-adoption services, they help create a positive transition into their forever homes. Just like them, many organizations provide low cost veterinary care and mobile clinics to bring services to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them. More than providing assistance to those who have already been let down, most shelters and rescues do the best they can to help animals stay in their families.
As we sit around the table, celebrating Thanksgiving with our families, let’s be thankful to those who everyday save the life of the animals who are abused and powerless. Thank you to the shelter and rescue workers, to the animal advocates of all sorts, paid or volunteers, donors and adopters for giving your heart to those who so desperately need it. Through your dedication and hard work, you make this world a little better for all of us.
Thanks for Giving. Happy Thanksgiving!
Jennifer Cattet Ph.D.