It’s fitting that Pet Appreciation Week is followed immediately by World Pet Memorial Day on June 11. While we celebrate the furry friends currently in our lives, it’s good to remember those that warmed our hearts in the past and take action to honor their memory in the present.
Over the past half-century, the number of animals euthanized by shelters has dropped from approximately 20 million a year in 1970 to only 1.5 million a year today—down from an estimated 2.6 million in 2011. This is largely attributed to the proliferation of cheap spay and neutering techniques that limit the unwanted pet population.
But the sharp decrease over the past 5 years can likely be credited to more no-kill shelters and the trend of adopting pets.
Still, 1.5 million pets are too many. Putting aside the fact that many of the dogs put down are pit bulls—which have a bad reputation, fairly or unfairly, and are hard to adopt out—there are plenty of other dogs, as well as many cats, who ought to find homes.
The solution is easy: Give local.
Remarkably, shelters have been able to reduce euthanasia rates despite seeing little support from well-known national animal groups.
Groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) produce well-known commercials depicting pets in terrible conditions and rake in over $200 million a year, yet give little of the revenue to local shelters.
HSUS doesn’t operate any pet shelters and is not affiliated with similarly named local humane societies, contrary to the public perception. Nor is the ASPCA affiliated with local SPCAs. Only about 1% of HSUS revenue goes to helping pets and shelters, while most of the money pays for salaries, lobbyists, and investments—including over $50 million in Caribbean bank accounts. The ASPCA isn’t much better.
If people redirect their support directly to local shelters, these organizations will have the resources they need to house and care for animals until they find a forever home.
Shelters have also run into philosophical conflict with another large group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The general philosophy at PETA is that it is better that an animal is dead than for it to be a pet. PETA believes “that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of ‘pet keeping’ —i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as ‘pets’—never existed.”
And true to its word, PETA has killed over 36,000 animals at its Virginia headquarters, or about 85% of the animals it has taken into custody since 1998.
All pet deaths are unfortunate and sad, especially when there are loving homes across the country that are looking for a new companion. The trend of microchipping, neutering, and adopting from shelters is drastically improving the lives of all pets and limiting the death rate tremendously. Also, the practice of fostering animals – temporarily boarding animals at volunteers’ homes until they can be adopted – to expand housing opportunities for new admissions, instead of euthanizing, is a great way to help a specific animal while helping the general pet population.
But too many pets still meet an early end. Donating time, supplies, and money to local shelters helps them build and maintain facilities, advertise animals to the public, and pay qualified employees to take care of the animals while they wait to be adopted. What better way to honor an old pet than to give another a chance at life?
Will Coggin is the research director for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C.