6 Actions You Can Take To Be A Responsible Pet Owner.
In the frozen heart of winter, we are reminded to rekindle our passions and hopes with the celebration of Valentine’s Day — a make-believe Hallmark holiday some begrudgingly acknowledge or choose to ignore all together.
However, many of us take this opportunity to celebrate those we love, reawaken our passions, and hope for spring. However, February also marks the recognition of World Spay Day, and how appropriate that February should contain both days.
We, Americans, are passionate about our pets — or should I say, mad about them. Mad, as with all bad love affairs, we have a twisted relationship with our beloved animals. Statistics show that the United States has the largest population of domestic dogs and cats in the world.
Last year, Americans spent a record all-time high of over 55 billion dollars in the pet industry, with projections for another record-breaking year in 2015. In direct contrast to our pet penchants are the numbers which say something else about ourselves.
Those numbers, which we turn away from, are the numbers of euthanized animals which never make it out of local, animal shelters. These numbers are far more difficult to access, due to under-reporting.
Conservatively, statistics estimate that 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats in shelter are euthanized each year, resulting in millions of sentient beings discarded like so much garbage.
So where was I? Oh yes, World Spay Day. Let me get off my soapbox. What to do? You need not subject yourself to another Sarah McLachlan commercial. You are probably a very responsible pet owner, but there are actions you can take and there is information for arsenal:
1. Spay and Neuter: You’re not a professional breeder and accidents can happen.
2. Identification: Lost dogs seem to find me, and invariably, the pooch has no ID. Less than one quarter of found animals will be reunited with their owners. Microchips are a backup, but not all animal control authorities can scan for a microchip.
3. An animal’s license is not an ID: If your pet is taken to a shelter, often in overcrowded shelters, another animal will be euthanized to make room for the incoming animal. I once found a dog which luckily hadn’t wondered too far from its home, and I returned the dog to its owner.
When I mentioned that the dog didn’t have any ID, the owner stated, “Well, he has his license; someone could call the Township.” I said calmly, “The Township is closed on nights and weekends.” It was a weekend.
4. When you call for your missing companion: If you call the police department to report your missing animal or to see if someone else has reported having found your animal, do not accept that the person on the other end is fully informed, especially in a world of shared and regionalized services.
5. Adopt, don’t shop: I have had the honor of knowing many people in the pedigree community who travel around the country showing their animals. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you don’t need a papered animal.
If you have a fondness for a particular breed, trust me — you can find one in a shelter as statistics have shown that 25 percent of shelter animals are purebred. Moreover, there countless rescues which specialize in certain breeds.
6. Donate: Donate to your local rescue or shelter.
While there aren’t any three dog nights remaining in February, the month has quickly come to a close as the days lengthen subtly and the birds find their voices in protest of the groundhog. The memory of those we love, fury and other, sustain our souls and warm our hearts.
As I contemplate the undeniable bond between ourselves and our companions, I am reminded of a woman in my community whom I would often see walking her dog about town. She was never with anyone, and she didn’t have great control over the animal. She was a regular. Doggy people tend to notice other doggy people.
I hadn’t seen her out with her mutt in a while, and hadn’t thought too much of it. Then one day, I saw her walking with her dog — and a man. I noticed that she must have suffered a stroke or something which affected her ability to walk. Her husband was by her side helping her to walk her dog.
Thinking about love, I am reminded of this couple, and I think that this is one of the most beautiful expressions of love that I have ever witnessed.
Wishing you warmer days, and hoping that we not only remember the love we have for our domestic animal companions, but also our responsibility to do better by them.
Barbara Prince received her B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University (2007 Camden). After graduating, she took a position with Haddon Township where she is currently employed. As the Township’s Sustainability Coordinator, she brings her passion for the environment to the community and has initiated and managed multiple events from environmental justice awareness, community gardening to an annual ‘green for good’ event. Under her direction, Haddon Township was one of the first municipalities in the county, and state, to receive the prestigious Sustainable Jersey Bronze and Silver Certification. Barbara has taken a special interest in engaging the youth of the community by developing programs which combine environmental advocacy, the arts, and humane education. In her role as office manager and safety coordinator, Barbara is responsible for multiple facets of employee relations; such as working with labor council on collective bargaining agreements, managing the Township’s Joint Insurance Safety Program, and payroll. Barbara is a Certified Recycling Professional, accomplished grant writer, and has been honored as a distinguished, safety professional having received the John A. Wagner Memorial Award in 2010. She has two children, two mutts and husband, and has been a life-long resident of Camden County. She has recently taken up writing personal essays about adventures in public employment and life, is a novice dog-trainer, and an observer of the human-condition. In her spare time, Barbara is a volunteer and member of the Regional Urban Partnership for Sustainability (RUPS) and an advisory board member of New Jersey Aid For Animals (NJAFA).