08/23/12 — A story's moral: Dog and cat overpopulation persists. Spaying and neutering are critical.

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A story's moral: Dog and cat overpopulation persists. Spaying and neutering are critical.

Not too long ago, there was some sad news out of the county animal shelter -- suspected distemper forced shelter personnel to put down a potentially adoptable dog because it could have been infected with the deadly disease.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned here, and more than a few things to think about.

First, the obvious, there are too many homeless animals, and not enough people focused on performing the operations necessary to make sure there are not any more.

Dropping off an animal at a shelter, or abandoning one in the woods to fend for itself, are not victimless decisions. There are real consequences. Domestic animals are not built to survive in the wild. They often cannot eat, care for themselves or protect themselves. They starve, are hit by cars or are severely injured as they try to figure out how to navigate a world for which they have no preparation. Dropping an animal off at a shelter, especially one that has had no care or is very young or old, is often a death sentence. There are simply not enough homes for all those that are surrendered.

So what are we to do about the homeless animal population? The answer is simpler than you might think -- spay and neuter, and think long and hard before you buy that cute puppy or kitten at the pet store.

Owning an animal is a responsibility and an expense. There are ways to get animal care like spaying and neutering and basic shots at a discount rate, just ask around. There is one program in particular that visits the area once every month or so and will make sure you do not have unwanted litters or puppies or kittens that will then need new homes. The Wayne County Humane Society also offers a pet food pantry for those who are struggling to feed their animals in this tough economic time.

There are people who have good intentions and simply run out of options and are forced to surrender their animals. If there are fewer unwanted pets born, and more people taking responsibility for caring for the ones they have, there will be options for these families, and potential homes for the animals they might love but can no longer responsibly care for. Rescue groups would love to see that day.

And if you are looking for a pet, don't let the recent news from the shelter keep you from looking for a new best friend there. There are hundreds of Wayne County families who can tell you wonderful stories about the animals they have welcomed into their homes.

And if you are blessed with the ability to care for and love a special pet, make sure you remember the efforts of the Wayne County Humane Society and the other area rescue groups. They fund programs like spaying and neutering and battle the unwanted pet population issues every day, and could use all the support they can get.

Published in Editorials on August 23, 2012 11:06 AM