Warning: Graphic photos below.
This blog post may shock you with its bluntness, but it is the truth. It’s also a call to action. This is your chance to weigh in and help the unloved, the unwanted, and the throwaways from our convenience-oriented society. I want to ask you to look at some photographs that may haunt you, but they may also prompt you to act.
PETA never turns away an animal for being “unadoptable.” Ever. In fact, in our area, as is likely the case in yours, the “no-kill” facility is usually full—full of dogs and cats who have been sitting in cages for months and, in some cases, years. And that facility, while basking in the glory of its “no-kill” pledge, often refers animals to us and to the city pound. We receive calls from desperate people who cannot afford the “no-kill” shelter’s admission fee or can’t cope with its waiting list. We do not turn our back on these animals. Never have and never will. So we take in the animals no one wants, and we ease their pain so that they don’t languish unaided or fall into the wrong hands—which often would mean going right back to where they came from. We will always be here for animals who need and deserve a kind hand, a loving word, and a peaceful exit from a world that has treated them like trash.
Last year, PETA did many things: We helped countless dogs and cats in “our own backyard.” Our phenomenal mobile spay-and-neuter clinics sterilized 8,677 animals (562 of whom we picked up for surgery and then took back home in PETA’s Animal Birth Control van). We built and delivered more than 300 sturdy doghouses and delivered about 5,000 bags of straw to warm up cold dogs who were chained or penned outside in all weather extremes. We provided free veterinary care for animals with infections, wounds, and illnesses. And we did something else that made a difference: Our shelter of last resort took in 2,352 injured, ill, elderly, and unwanted animals for euthanasia. Our Community Animal Project staffers showered each of them with love and affection in their final moments, gave them their very first soft caress, in many cases, and told them, “Good puppy!” often for the very first time.
No one feels anything other than crushed to euthanize animals; those who hate euthanasia the most are the truly kind people whose job it is to perform it—people on our staff and in other animal shelters. It’s so easy for some people to turn away, to condemn, or to create the very problem that these brave souls deal with, but they are only cleaning up after the people who neglected those animals; who never showed them a shred of commitment or an ounce of compassion, who thought nothing of crating, penning, or chaining them up with a tractor-trailer chain because it was inconvenient to walk them or secure daycare for them; who didn’t think twice about leaving them behind when their house was foreclosed on or dog food became expensive; or who left the door open and let the dog or cat get hit by a car. Our staff is grateful that people in our community know to call upon us when someone needs to do what’s necessary.
The animals who come through PETA’s doors are but a tiny fraction of the estimated 6 to 8 million homeless dogs and cats who are handed over the counter in animal shelters nationwide every year. These animals are abandoned, and many are left to languish in cages—waiting, looking up anxiously and hopefully at every person who enters, in the hope that he or she will save them and take them home. A whopping half of them will be “put to sleep” because that someone never showed up (the girl who stopped at the cage and giggled, the man who said, “Isn’t he weird-looking?”—they moved on with their lives). The people who are kind enough to hold these animals and stroke their fur as they take their last breath are not to blame for any of it. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of each person who refuses or “forgets” to have his or her cat or dog sterilized and everyone who has purchased an animal from a pet shop or a breeder instead of adopting from their local shelter.
PETA is calling on the governors of all 50 states to endorse mandatory spay-and-neuter laws that would require dogs and cats to be sterilized unless their owners purchase an annual breeding permit, the cost of which would fund low-cost spay-and-neuter services. You can help—you have a governor, and you may know a state senator or council member—or perhaps you could get to know one. Please join us in this effort, and please recruit everyone you know to do so as well. We will provide language for model legislation, but please, talk to everyone in the dog parks, at the vet’s office, and on the street. Download our posters and fliers and hand them out and put them up; pick a low-income block and help the people there spay and neuter their animals; and please, go down to city hall or up to the statehouse and lobby so that next year the nation’s homeless animal population will be lower. Individual dogs and cats would ask you to do this if they could.
Written by Ingrid E. Newkirk