I admit it, I've been on the bitter bus lately. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the summer is the height of kitten season and everyone's stressed to the gills trying to save as many as we can. Or perhaps I'm losing my ability to deal with the public at large since now most of my time is spent being an administrator compared to 2 years ago when I was out there in the trenches.
I've always held the belief that we can end the killing of cats and dogs by:
1. Giving people access to services they may not otherwise have access to. The Free Fix program is the perfect example. It is a proven fact that low-income populations contribute greatly to pet overpopulation because they don't have neutered pets. For years people claimed that this population was "irresponsible" but we now know that many low-income families simply can't afford to fix their pets. The Free Fix program is in huge demand and we are now being forced to reduce our Free Fix services due to the demand for service outpacing our resources. Yet the demand for service proves that many of these people aren't in fact "irresponsible", they simply have a financial barrier which prevents them from fixing their pets.
2. Educating people about the basics of pet overpopulation. If just 1/3 of Americans who acquired pets from a pet store or backyard breeder (and by this I mean any person who allows their pets to breed) instead chose to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, we would no longer have to kill pets in America. This is why it is so important that we spread the word how cool it is to adopt and quite frankly how lame it is to get an animal from your neighbor who bred their pet or from a pet store who likely is supplied by horrific puppy mills. Educate!
3. Punish, yes I do believe in punitive measure as a means to end unnecessary killing, but only when access to services and education have failed. I do support mandatory spay/neuter laws but only if no and low-cost spay/neuter options are available to help people comply without undue burden. I don't like to think punitive measure would be necessary but I have encountered a number of people lately who simply want to breed their dog, for selfish and silly reasons, and who still want to breed them after hearing all the compelling reasons why a responsible, ethical person should opt instead for spay/neuter.
I will eventually get off the bitter bus because I am also witness to the amazing work on behalf of our donors, our communities, and animal welfare advocates who inspire me everyday and who really are making a difference. But today I am still riding that bus.