Until there are none, adopt one
In the United States, 4 to 5 million dogs and cats are killed in animal shelters each year because there aren’t enough homes for them. This epidemic could be solved if everyone took the responsible step of spaying or neutering their pets and adopting homeless pets from animal shelters.Some people think all dogs and cats that end up in shelters are there because they have problems. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After working in animal welfare for the past nine years, I have discovered that most of the animals in shelters are wonderful, kind hearted souls who were dealt an unfortunate card and ended up without someone to love and care for them.One of my earliest memories of our tragic solution to pet overpopulation happened when I was working for the Humane Society of Utah. A wonderful pair of labradors, Sadie and Lady, came in because their owners were moving and couldn’t take them along. They sat in our incredibly crowded shelter for two months leaning against their cages and looking up with longing eyes as people passed them by each day. During this time, I fell in love with them (as I did with hundreds of dogs and cats over the next few years). I knew their time in the kennel was almost over and I tried hard to find them a good home. We did find a home for Sadie. But a home for Lady never came. On her last day, I walked her back to the room where animals were put to sleep and I cried as I said goodbye. She looked up at me with her begging, beautiful brown eyes, licked my tears, and kindly lifted her paw. We injected the solution into her arm and she was gone in moments. She was one of 30 animals that were euthanized that day for no reason other than there was nowhere for them to go. The pet overpopulation problem is well hidden. Animals are taken to shelters where they wait in cages until they find a home or are put to death. Don’t blame the animal shelters for this. It isn’t their fault. Most of the people who choose to work in any type of animal shelter, be it one that euthanizes or doesn’t, care passionately about animals and hate seeing so many of them homeless. It is a job that only the people with the biggest hearts can do.I am now the executive director for the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. We are blessed to have many great volunteers and supporters in our community. We work hard to find every adoptable dog and cat the perfect home. We always have pets available for adoption. If we don’t have the type of animal you are looking for, we will look to other shelters to help you find the perfect pet. When you adopt from us, your pet will be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, tested for certain diseases and ready to go home.We have also teamed up with the Town of Truckee and several veterinarians to offer a low-cost spay/neuter program for permanent residents of Truckee, North Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas because we want everyone in our community to be able to have their animal sterilized.When it comes to dealing with the pet overpopulation crisis, education is the key. Many people who allow their pets to breed are not bad, they simply don’t know about the problem. We often hear “My dog is so good I want her to have puppies. I know I can find homes for all of the babies.” Because dogs and cats each have their own unique personalities, they won’t be just like their parents or littermates. Also, while it is likely that each of these puppies and kittens will find homes, there are that many more who will die in a shelter because yet another home was taken away.If people understand the difference they can make by going to a shelter instead of a pet store or a breeder for their next pet, many of them will choose to adopt. Until there are none, adopt one.If it is a specific breed you require, you should know that 25 percent of all animals in shelters nationwide are purebred. There are also specific breed rescue organizations that only take in certain breeds of animals. You can almost always find what you are looking for if you are patient. If you decide to go to a breeder, it is critical that you do your research. Good breeders do it because they care passionately about the breed, not about making money. Of course, you should always consider adopting a mixed breed because there are many wonderful mixes waiting for homes.The answer to saving lives lies with each of us. If we adopt from shelters, spay or neuter our pets, and spread the word, we can make a difference. My favorite quote is one by Margaret Meade that reads “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Please contact Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe or visit http://www.hstt.org to learn more about our spay/neuter programs, adoption programs and volunteer opportunities. Stephanie Hiemstra is the executive director of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe.