For people actively involved in the humane world, we always hear a lot of stories about the daily happenings at animal shelters.
Unfortunately last week, a story one shelter worker recounted made her blood pressure rise as she explained to me the turn of events. She had been working with the cats at the facility when she received a call on her walkie-talkie. There was a cat in the front office that needed to be taken back to the kennels.When she arrived at the customer service desk,she encountered two women who were laughing and discussing the cutest dresses that were at a particular store in South Coast Plaza. Beside one of the women was a cat carrier containing a very frightened and distressed kitty.The shelter employee interrupted the two women and asked if the cat was a stray that they had found. One of the women replied, “Oh no. This is my cat. I’m moving so I am bringing it here.” Then, without skipping a beat, the woman got back to her conversation about the latest sale on women’s apparel.Looking at the paperwork that had been left on top of the cat carrier, the shelter employee noticed that this scared little pet had lived with its owner for TEN years. And now, through no fault of its own, it was being dumped like last season’s fashions, so that its owner could move on with the next phase of her life.Pulling together all the self-control she could muster, the shelter employee held her tongue (as is required in her role as public servant) and took the poor kitty back into the kennels where she placed it into a cold and solitary cage. She heard the cat’s owner say in a cheerful voice as she walked away, “Bye Peewee.” And then the two women were off to the mall, seemingly without even a second thought for the terrified cat.Angry cannot even describe how the shelter employee was feeling at that point in time. Yet she recognized that she needed to pull herself together quickly because the animals needed her and if she let these almost daily occurrences get the best of her, she wouldn’t be able to do much good. But still, it was clear to her that a ten-year-old cat in a shelter didn’t have the greatest odds of being adopted and she could not understand how someone could care for a pet for so long and then simply wash one’s hands of it. She was disgusted, as am I.Public animal shelters do charge an owner relinquishment fee to people who give up their pets. However it is nominal, and in reality doesn’t even cover the costs of the initial veterinary exam.Even for people who don’t have any particular affection for animals, this should raise some red flags. What we are essentially doing is allowing irresponsible pet owners to place the financial burden of taking care of their discarded pets via expenditure of tax dollars. That should not be OK with anyone. But that’s what we do.My concern, however, isn’t for the fiscal consequences; but rather for the innocent living beings who don’t understand why they are losing their familiar homes and being put into scary, lonely cages, with unfamiliar scents and sounds all around them.Nevertheless, if I can convince Joe Taxpayer that this is a problem – then perhaps we can solve both predicaments.Here is what needs to be done. First, all pets including cats should be licensed and microchipped.Next, there should be a waiting period and counseling for those individuals who wish to give up their pets. Alternatives to abandoning a companion animal at a shelter should be discussed, i.e., finding a friend, family member or co-worker who may be able to take in a pet.Finally, if a shelter does ultimately take custody of an animal, its owner should be responsible for all costs relating to its care and maintenance until the pet is adopted. There is no reason for the rest of society to pay for the cavalier irresponsibility of so many pet owners. And there is certainly no reason for a pet to pay, with suffering, fear, and potentially its life.
All About Marie
- Marie Hulett
- Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.