October is Homeless Animal Month

The massive number of homeless animals in the United States continues to be a major problem. In order to raise awareness of this predicament and to pose some solutions, FloridaWild Animal Hospital has proclaimed October as Homeless Animal Month.
Dogs and cats are the most popular animal companions in the United States. But in spite of the fact that many of these animals are treasured pets; there is a huge pet homeless problem which still exists in this country. In fact, when it comes to companion animals, homelessness is an overwhelming issue which doesnt even take into account the number of pets who are also subjected to cruelty and neglect.

Although folks in the United States are choosing to adopt cats and dogs, many people insist on buying a pure-bred animal from a breeder. While many breeders are responsible and ethical in their breeding programs, and extremely careful to whom they sell their animals; the puppy and kitten mills greatly add to the problem of the pet overpopulation. This demand for pure-breeds keeps these greedy and irresponsible profit- driven facilities in business. Additionally many animals born in these mills suffer medical and behavioral problems to which their owners are not equipped, or not willing to deal with. As a result many of them are surrendered to shelters.

The sad truth that is complicating matters is there are millions of homeless cats and dogs in the U.S. One must wonder why more cats and dogs are being born when there exists already huge numbers of these remarkable animal companions in shelters, desperately needing permanent loving homes. Unfortunately, only one out of ten of these animals will be adopted.

Lets explore some of the heartbreaking reasons for this phenomenon:
There are approximately 70 million stray animals living in the U. S. According the Humane Society of the United States, of these 70 million animals approximately only six to eight million cats and dogs cross the threshold of the 3,500 shelters in the U.S. each year. Of the six to eight million cats and dog livings in shelters, pit bulls or pit bull associated breeds and mixes are a quarter of the animals brought into shelters. Many of these animals wind up in shelters because their owners have surrendered or abandoned them; or they are lost without identification and are picked up as strays by animal control officers.

Approximately only 10 percent of the animals ending up in shelters are neutered or spayed. What is extremely challenging about this figure is, according to the mind-boggling statistics gathered from various shelters, one intact female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies and one intact female cat along with her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in seven years.

Although about 30 percent of shelter dogs are reclaimed by their owners, cats are rarely reunited with their owners. Compounding the situation annually only three to four million cats and dogs are adopted from shelters. This results in nearly fifty percent of all animals that end up in U.S. shelters being euthanized. The staggering figure of animals euthanized in shelters across the country every year is approximately 2.7 million, or 80,000 every week. The annual cost to U.S. taxpayers to pay for the cost of impounding, sheltering, euthanization and the disposal of these animals is between one to two billion dollars. Most of this expense is due to the folks who only want a certain breed while there are plenty of animals needing homes languishing in shelters.

As animal lovers, what can we do to help end homelessness?
Boycott pet stores that sell dogs and cats. Choose adoption over purchase. Many purebred animals are available in shelters, or find a breed rescue group. Spay or neuter your companion animal. Spay/neuter keeps pets healthier and prevents unwanted breeding. Support no kill shelters by volunteering time, donating funds, food and necessary supplies. Consider becoming a pet foster- parent.

Pet foster- parents are the lifes blood for no-kill shelters, reducing the number of pets living in the shelter and making room for more animals in need. Microchip your pets! If you pet should accidentally get lost microchipping can greatly increase the chances of being reunited with your pet. Make sure your pet always wears an identification tag that has your name, telephone number and your veterinarians phone number. Keep your information up to date in the microchip registry database.

To help celebrate Homeless Pet Month, Floridawild Veterinary Hospital is offering $20 microchips and 10 percent off of Red Dingo Tags and leashes and collars. Take advantage of these excellent products to help protect your beloved fur family member.

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW (Ret.)