The issues relating to shelters, why people give up pets to shelters and pet adoption are very complex. I don't maintain to have all the answers. Still, I do have some ideas.
For sure, what won't work - that's mandatory spay/neuter. There's new information which demonstrates how MSN has failed, maybe even costing communities more money and animals more lives.
So, what can we do?
- Sociologists tell me that Government can't overnight mandate cultural changes with laws which don't make sense (to the population that would be affected) and are not likely to be enforced anyway. In fact, the attempt to mandate these cultural changes may be offensive and counter-productive.
It's ironic that in Chicago, we already have a solution demonstrating effectiveness, called Safe Humane Chicago. A part of their function is reach into the community and work with the community to affect change demonstrating kindness and compassion to animals. Safe Humane participates with community leaders, schools and young people.
In general, animal welfare experts have been behind shelter animal related initiatives. I propose getting sociologists and psychologists involved; they have the expertise on how to affect change.
- We know finances are an issue, more people giving up pets because of foreclosures. We happen to have a superb resource here, Realtors to the Rescue.
Also, people giving up animals because they can not afford veterinary care. Again, we have the start of local help, called the Trio Animal Foundation. That's better than most cities - but the need is greater than one group.
- Perhaps the most prevalent explanation for people giving up pets are behavior issues (or perceived behavior issue - the pet is behaving naturally, like urinating - it's where the pet is urinating that matters). Increasingly, shelters in the Chicago area following the Anti Cruelty Society lead on this, offering behavior advice. Legendary veterinary behaviorist Dr. R.K. Anderson has looked at the data for decades. He says that if there are no behavioral concerns the bond with the pet and the family is stronger, making it less likely that when something happens - like the family needs to move, that the pet will ever be left behind.
-Due to the economy, low cost spay/neuter is more important than ever. We know that for this to be most effective, providing mobile services is very important - going to people who may not be able to visit you or inclined to. We have these mobile services in Chicago, but our resources are not focused on them.
- Begin a campaign to keep cats indoors. If we can succeed at this - cats will be spay/neutered! Also, they will be safer (living indoors is safer than life outside), and fewer stray cats and fewer injuries and behavior issues relating to being indoors/outdoors (lessening relinquishments as well).
Meanwhile, encourage trap/neuter/return (volunteer caretakers trap colony cats, spay/neuter, vaccinate for rabies - which is important for public health reasons, and in Chicago microchip). Tree House Humane Society has carved a special TNR niche, and this resource is in Chicago and ready to snip.
- And shelters, rescues, etc. should be communicating and working together to share resources and exchange animals as they can to best find forever homes...unfortunately, right now, there's a massive road block to this spirit of trust in Chicago. The good news is that Denver, and many other cities are succeeding.
Tags: animal shelter issues, animal shelter problems, Anti Cruelty Society of Chicago, behavior and pets, cats indoors, Dr R K Anderson, indoor cats, low cost spay/neuter, mandatory spay/neuter, mandatory spay/neuter fails, mobile spay/neuter, pets and foreclosures, Realtors to the Rescue, Safe Humane Chicago, Steve Dale, Steve Dale archives, trap neuter return, Tree House Humane Society, Trio Animal Foundation