Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shelters struggle to care for dogs and cats in peak months

We thought it might be funny to have a “Vacancy/No Vacancy” neon sign that we could hang out front, letting people know our status of cage availability for new animals coming to the shelter. We wondered if it would make a difference.

Spring and Summer time signals kitten season plus an over-abundance of stray dogs and puppies. Shelters can’t handle the increased volume and it seems like everyone makes decisions in June, July and August to move to places that won’t allow pets or they decide that they can no longer handle pet responsibilities. Or, they decide the outside cat for which they have taken responsibility over months or years needs to go because it keeps having kittens or they are tired of it and it must go now; they can’t wait.


At this time of year we struggle to find the funds to take care of the little ones who are brought to us, we struggle to find the space to put them, and we struggle to control our emotions when they are too sick or too wild. We adopt out two animals and ten more come in. This June and July our cat intake has increased by 38% and dogs by 22%. It feels like we are bailing out a sinking boat without fixing the leak.

Animal shelters did not create the pet over-population problem but we are asked to clean up the mess created by society. That is why we all preach spay/neuter. It is hard to make a case for spay/neuter with people who are only captivated by the cuteness of kittens and puppies and do not understand the consequences of having so many of them. There are also those people who can’t afford to get their pets fixed or think that the stray cat having kittens in their neighborhood isn’t their problem. On the other hand, it would be repugnant for us to show pictures of sick, suffering and dead animals we deal with every kitten/cat season. But, consider this: the mortality rate of kittens born in the wild is estimated to be 50-75% before reaching six months of age and in many shelters it is 80-90%. Spay/Neuter can avoid misery on so many levels.

The Lynchburg Humane Society is committed to fixing the leak- this is another reason we preach spay/neuter and have our new City Cat Fix program where we are providing free spay/neuter services and a rabies shot for outdoor cats.

But spay/neuter isn’t the only thing we preach. It is just as important for owners to be responsible for their pets especially during this very busy time. We do ask owners to wait and to bring their pet in when we have space through our appointment system. We are here to help owners and we offer services such as behavior support and assistance with re-homing their pets, but the Lynchburg Humane Society does not feel we or any other shelter should take in an owned pet just to euthanize another for space reasons.

So, we ask for patience as we work with you to bring your pet in responsibly when we have the space to accommodate it. Of course not everyone can wait and we always bring those in that can’t but for those that are not in dire straits we ask for you to be honest and do what is right for your pet and the others in our shelters. Please continue to work with us to become part of the solution because we know most people want what is best for their pet.

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