Was chatting with a friend over lunch and the conversation got around to the pet overpopulation problem.
Most of the people I associate with are extreme animals lovers, as am I. I think we all hurt when we see healthy, loving animals, mostly dogs and cats, who lose their lives due to the selfishness and greed of others. A small minority of those who cause a very big problem. That is a discussion for another day.
Safe to say, millions of cats and dogs (and horses) die each year simply because no one wants them or has use for them anymore. The primary purpose for their initial breeding was money, and when they are not valuable anymore, they are discarded. It is a sad commentary on humans that we treat animals this way.
I like to think of myself as a problem solver. Obviously, we have a very big problem here. This has been going on forever and we seem helpless to stop it.
But we can stop it, and we can stop it now.
What would you do, if you could, to help put a stop to this?
First, you could simply stop buying animals from a pet store. But most of us wont do that anyway and those that would aren't going to stop unless we make them. So, for now, that is a non starter in terms of solving the immediate problem.
Second, you could picket and bring attention to the problem these pet stores cause, albeit they are not breaking the law. But most of us are not in your face type of people, and being that these stores are not breaking any laws, in the short term this is not likely to make any headway. The only result would be to get arrested and look like crazy radicals. Again, another time and place this might work, but it doesn't solve the problem. Pets will still get bred, sold and die in spite of this.
Third, you could encourage politicians to make harsher laws for those who breed recklessly and abuse animals without recourse. This is something we should be doing, but again, it wont save any dogs, cats or horses in the short term. This is the long term strategy to end the cycle once the political and public will is on our side.
You could do all those things, but even still, those are tough things to get done and even if they are achievable, they wont help existing animals in need of help now stave off certain death.
So, what will?
Here is what you and I can do right now. It is likely a small percentage of the population can foster a dog or cat at least one month out of the year. What would this achieve? This buys the animals the time they need to find the long term owner they need.
There are 350 million people in the United States and about 30 million in Canada. If 1% of 1% of those people fostered one animal for one month a year, that is 3.5 million people in the States who could save one dog or cat for at least a month. In the meantime, those animals have a chance to flourish and possibly get exposure in their own neighborhoods and find a long term home.
Secondly, there should be an immediate excise tax for selling any pet in a store or even breeding for profit. Say 100 dollars on top of everything else to be paid by the buyer of the animal. If you want to buy a pet, you pay this. This gets put into a fund to support these foster animals so the people that take them in don't have to shoulder the cost.
Most of us probably would do this if we just knew how easy it would be to achieve. The key is to make it easy and accessible.
Start a network, make it non profit, and engage those who can foster and even those who can't but want to volunteer their time in helping others do so.
This is very doable. Once this is done, and in the meantime, it is time to stem the tide of overbreeding for profit and selfish reasons. If that means a license for every animal and full accountability as to what happened to that animal, then SO BE IT!
And I am going to use facebook to do it. Facebook, with all its faults, does have some great uses. This can be one of them.
A shelter should be a place where very sick or injured animals stay to get the intense, expertise care they need. Not a place to house healthy animals until they die.
Lets find a way to change that, for good.