COLUMN: Lower the statistics, consider shelter pets

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By Sandy Kiser

I love my dog. A simple statement, but so true. For those of you who know me, you know just how true it really is. My dog, Molly, is like my baby… literally.

I found her abandoned as a small puppy and I fell in love right away. Yes, I’m one of those “idiots” who treats her dog like a family member. And I’m not alone in this category.

No, there are plenty of others just like me. But whether you are an animal lover or not, I’d like to bring to your attention the plight of homeless animals in Anderson County, and let you know what you can do to change the future for them. 

In 2008, our local shelter took in 1,123 animals. I know that may be hard to believe. Anderson County is such a small town that it seems unreal that so many animals could end up at the shelter in just one year. Even more amazing is that this is comparable to the intake each and every year.

The Humane Society was able to adopt out 555 of these animals, just under 50 percent. Only 114 of them were returned to their owners. This means that of all the stray animals taken in, just over 10 percent of them were claimed by their families. The rest, 454 dogs and cats, were euthanized due to overcrowding, illness or injury, or behavioral issues. This is a staggering 40 percent.

Now for the national statistics — 39 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog, and 34 percent own at least one cat. Sadly, only about 10 percent of dog owners and 18 percent of cat owners adopted their pets from an animal shelter.

It is estimated that 64 percent of animals entering shelters nationwide are put to sleep every year. This number is in the millions.

On a national scale, about 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. More cats are euthanized because they are less likely to have any owner identification, such as a pet ID tag or microchip. About 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats entering this nation’s shelters are reunited with their owners. About 25 percent of homeless shelter animals will be adopted to new families.

So you’re thinking, ”What an enormous problem? What can one little person do?”

The pet overpopulation and euthanasia crisis is one that everyone can do something about. First and foremost, have your pets spayed or neutered. Even if you find homes for all your puppies and kittens, they will take the place of loving animals at the shelter that need a home.

Every animal that is sold or given away means that a shelter animal will die. That’s just the cold hard truth.

Even if you have a beautiful dog or cat, and you want another one just like them, there’s no guarantee that the babies will look like them. You’re really just taking a spin of the dice, and shelter animals are the ones that will pay the price.

If you need financial help getting your pet fixed, the Humane Society has a discount voucher program. Just download an application on our website. www.andersonhumane.org.

Secondly, if you want to add a new member to the family, please consider adopting. There are lots of great dogs and cats at the shelter.

It is estimated that around 25 percent of animals at shelters are purebred. Mutts are the best dogs in my own personal opinion, but hey, to each his own. No matter what breed you’re looking for, you can find it on www.petfinder.com. But please don’t breed and buy while shelter pets die.

And last but certainly not least, be sure your pet has some kind of identification.

Getting a microchip or an ID tag for your pet is the best way to be sure that we can contact you if your pet ends up at the shelter. Even for “inside” dogs and cats, this is a good idea because any pet can get loose from time to time. A door left ajar, a whole under the fence, or a broken collar can all lead to your pet running off and getting lost.

Be sure we can find you, if we find your pet. Don’t let your family friend become a statistic.

Sandy Kiser is a volunteer with the Anderson Humane Society.