Before adopting, make sure pets will have a good home for life
My stomach did a double flip
when a friend of mine told me that her dog had given birth to six
puppies two weeks ago.
that happen?” I asked. Of course, I know how that happens, but she
knew what I meant. How, after watching me rescue, adopt and find
homes for unwanted animals for the past 15 years, did she allow her
eight-month-old puppy to contribute to the pet overpopulation
one way, 'tis the season. It's the season when puppies who were born
in the early summer months are mature enough to have offspring of
their own, and some people, like my friend, may believe that animals
need to come into heat once before being spayed. 'Tis the season
also when some people think it's OK to find a cute little puppy or
kitten and give it as a holiday gift.
Jones, interim director the Unified Government's Animal Control
division, has nearly 3,000 reasons to dispel such animal myths. That
is the number of dogs and cats the division has impounded this year.
Of those, at least 60 percent, or 1,800 Fidos and Fluffys, were put
ugly side of the pet industry that most breeders and irresponsible
pet owners don't want to acknowledge, but it's a huge problem,
particularly in Missouri and Kansas, which rank No. 1 and 2 in the
nation for commercial pet breeding. Several years ago, while
reporting on a story about a vicious dog, I was led through the
animal control facility to see it on a day when animals were being
put down. The number of dead animal bodies being prepared for
disposal made me sick.
parent who tells me that they want their children to see the miracle
of birth by allowing their animals to breed, I tell them they should
see the tragedy of death,” Jones told me then.
Unified Government isn't to blame. We expect the government to
protect us from threats, such as wild animals, and they are doing so
in rounding up the strays in the city. However, they only have room
for so many — 95 to be exact, and if animals are not claimed by
their owners or adopted, some won't make it out of the shelter
It is the
responsibility of citizen pet owners to make sure their animals have
a good home for life, which can mean anywhere from five to 20 years.
Jones said that the cycle of problems usually start around the
holiday season, when parents or others decide that children or other
family members would like to have a cuddly puppy or kitten for a
grow up, they aren't cute anymore,” Jones said. “That's when people
will usually turn on their pet.”
is that between March and August municipal shelters are usually full
and rescue organizations overwhelmed.
when frustrated pet owners may let their animals roam, or worse yet,
dump them into another neighborhood, thinking someone will take them
the belief that animals make good gifts could help the problem. The
Humane Society of Greater Kansas City and other organizations try to
discourage people from giving pets as gifts.
person who receives a pet may not be ready for a pet, or it may not
be suited to their lifestyle,” said Sarah Spearman, development
director for the Humane Society.
suggests giving a pet bed or a box filled with collars, toys, bowls
and leashes and allowing people to choose the pet best suited for
them after the holidays are over. People may also get someone a gift
certificate for spaying or neutering an animal they already own.
Many organizations, such as the Humane Society, also have a Sponsor
a Pet program, which gives someone a chance to sponsor a shelter
might help to dispel the myth that animals should reach puberty and
come into heat at least once before having them spayed. Quite the
opposite is true, according to Emily Edgar, a veterinarian with
Welborn Pet Hospital.
of mammary cancer in female animals drops significantly if they are
sterilized before their first heat, which usually occurs at about
six months of age. Neutering male animals early also will reduce
their risk of prostate and testicular cancer later in life, as well
as helping to reduce male aggressive behavior and other behavioral
problems, such as spraying by cats.
recommend having an animal spayed or neutered by six months,” Edgar
Control is already making inroads to help people understand the pet
overpopulation problem. Pet adoption at the municipal shelter was up
this year. Euthanasia rates have dropped from about 80 percent to
about 65 percent due to education programs in the community, as well
as better advertising about adoptable pets. But putting to death
nearly 1,800 animals a year still isn't acceptable. Jones and other
animal advocates hope that more people will become better informed.
owners need to take responsibility and realize that these are
companion animals, …,” Jones said. “… They get attached to people
and then, when their owners tire of them, I'm sure the animals don't
understand why these people suddenly don't love them any more.”
I can only
hope that come January, my friend's puppies are able to find good
homes with stable people ready for their lifelong commitment and
that by summer, the puppies don't join the ranks of animals facing
“the tragedy of death.”
Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance writer whose
work appears frequently in the Neighborhood News.