In the past week, the killing of dogs in Sochi as the Russian community prepared for the Olympics has gotten a lot of attention. In case you missed the story, Olympic organizers hired a pest control company to exterminate the stray dogs they referred to as biological trash by shooting them with poison (see Steve Dale's post). Cats are so disregarded they didn't even get a mention in the coverage. This story, other human rights violations in Russia and the whole debacle that has become the Olympics has caused outrage and a lot of people to boycott watching the games. But what about the killing of dogs in America? Or closer to home, here in Chicago?
Part of the debate since the killing of dogs in Sochi hit the news has also been about the homeless pets in our own country. Yes, we do kill dogs in America and we kill cats too - millions of them. Although our dogs and cats are not being exterminated on the streets, they are still dying. Our method is more humane but the numbers are still staggering.
While we open the debate and drive attention to the situation in Russia, it is also very important to keep the spotlight on animal rescue here as well. Once the Olympic torch has gone out and the medal counts are over we need to keep that outrage focused here and work for changes in our communities.
The killing of dogs in America and the killing of cats in America goes on everyday. An estimated 4 million cats and dogs that enter animal controls in our country each year do not leave alive. That breaks out to an estimated 5 in 10 dogs and 7 in 10 cats that die in animal controls before they catch on to a rescue or get adopted from the facility - 5 in 10 and 7 in 10. Holy crap!
What about the killing of dogs in Chicago and the killing of cats in Chicago?
At Chicago Animal Care and Control, the city’s animal control facility, over 21,000 animals were admitted in 2011 and 9,624 or 46 percent of those animals were euthanized. In 2012, over 19,000 animals came into CACC with 7,653 or 39 percent of the animals euthanized.
Those numbers are way too high...and they used to be even higher still. Changes in the numbers haven't come about because of work done by the city...it's been thanks to Chicago's rescue community and a strong volunteer group at CACC that has networked and rescued thousands of cats and dogs.
Animal controls are overwhelmed and not equipped for these large numbers because they were originally created to take in strays and animals in need of help. As an open access shelter, CACC can't turn any animals away. Unfortunately, it has become a dumping ground for the unwanted and when the cages are full before pets are rescued, pets are euthanized.
What do we do now?
Many of my friends and the readers of this blog are already neck deep in rescue in their community. I would love to see people not already active take their anger at the killing of dogs in Sochi and use that for motivation to do something about the killing of dogs and cats in America. I would love to see action in the same way people were motivated by the story of Patrick the emaciated pit bull in New Jersey a few years ago.
But what can you do?
Consider adopting a pet - By considering, I don't just mean adding a pet...I mean consider everything that goes with it. Before adopting a cat or adopting a dog, I would like you to do the math - the cost of food, veterinary care and other incidentals. More importantly, the time factor - how much time do you have to devote to a pet and how many years they will live. You're taking on a life and bigger dogs live 10-15 years and cats and smaller dogs could be a 15-20 year commitment. Are you up for that? If so, consider this checklist and work with a rescue or shelter for a good fit for your family. If you look at most of the pets in shelters here, they are not puppies and kittens, they are adult dogs and cats. They had homes and either something happened or their original owners didn't truly want to make that commitment.
Spay or neuter - If you add a pet, shelters and rescues shouldn't release them until this is done. If your pet hasn't been spayed or neutered, check out the many low-cost options in your area. It's the only way to cut down on unwanted litters.
Adopt don't shop - Check with shelter and rescue organizations for a new pet. Don't purchase pets at pet stores...puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills...kittens from kitten mills. Unless the store has a rescue and adoption program, you're adding to the problem by shopping at pet stores.
Take responsibility for rehoming your pet - If you take on a pet and can't handle it, be part of your own solution. If you've adopted from a good group, they will require you return your pet to them. If your sole option is animal control, try networking your pet to your contacts and ask for some help from rescues to help you rehome your dog or cat while you can still care for him or her.
Volunteer - Groups need people to help care for the animals but there are also so many other ways to volunteer. Do you have a special talent? Rescues need photographers to take pet photos, marketing and PR people to get the word out, social media folks to keep the conversation going, party planners for events and people who can score awesome donations for events. Can you do any of that? Someone could use you.
Foster - Rescues need fosters to take in the animals they save. The more fosters they have, the more animals they can rescue. Fosters are needed for pets of all ages. They also need fosters for short periods of time and longer periods of time. You won't know until you ask.
Donate - Most shelters and rescues are non-profits and need donations of many types - money, food and supplies are top of the list. Many groups also have connections with various online shopping venues. You can donate just by shopping various sites.
Be the solution - If you know someone or meet someone that is considering relinquishing a pet, find out if there's a solution to keep families together. Pet food pantries offer food and supplies for lower income families, temporary foster homes are available when people are displaced, and low cost vaccinations and other services are available as well.
Say something - If you see a stray dog or cat in your community, take action. If you see abuse or find an injured animal, speak up. You are their voice.
Support TNR - One solution to the stray and feral cat problem is to support TNR - Trap Neuter Return - programs in your community. Cats are trapped, sterilized, and returned to the colony where caretakers keep tabs on the community. It saves lives and keeps many cats out of animal controls.
In the meantime, the outrage will continue over Sochi. While we're powerless to be the change there, we can make a huge difference here. The decision to watch the Olympics is still yours to make - team USA is competing everyday. And, when the dogs of Sochi disappear from you radar, remember the killing of dogs in America and do something to change it.
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