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It’s Hardly Easy

My cat, Loa, recently died. Loa was a rescue and I know she would want another homeless animal to experience the love and caring she had in her short life.

I am an animal welfare advocate. I belong to the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I am actively involved in promoting humane legislation. I also volunteer at an animal shelter.

First thought was to get another cat. But introducing a new cat might be a problem. I have two other cats. They are obnoxious and they are pals. I can see them ganging up on a new cat for the sheer joy of messing with it. It was stress that led to Loa’s body shutting down and her eventual death. The new cat would certainly experience stress. That would be a major concern. It would lead to constant worry which would detract from my enjoyment of the new pet.

One of the worst reasons to get a pet is to “replace” one that died. This is not fair to the new animal or the family. Animals are unique and can’t be replaced like a broken window.

For these reasons, a dog would be a better choice.

Of course I want the most at-risk dog I could find. This means going to a kill shelter.

The reason I did not think to adopt a dog from my shelter is because it is no-kill. The dogs there don’t have to worry about being euthanized. They have it much better than those in other shelters. They have nice kennels, open air runs and the animals get a lot of love. Dogs in municipal shelters don’t have this advantage.

In Atlanta, pit bulls comprise about one-third of the dogs euthanized every year. Getting one directly from death row would be the most gratifying way to go.

So my mind was made up. I was going to rescue a pit bull from a county shelter. Very practical and very much in line with my principles.

The problem is that I know too much about animal shelters and animal rescues.

I can’t ignore the fact that an adult cat that goes to a shelter has a 1 in 9,000,000 chance to be adopted. They are the least adopted of all animals. My reason for not getting a cat is sound. But being reasonable does not take the sting out of knowing a cat may have missed its chance.

The dogs at our shelter have their physical needs met but they don’t have what they need most: a home and a family. They live but they are not happy. You can see it in the hopeful way they act when a person walks by their kennel. You can feel it in the joy they exude when you slip a lead on and take them for a walk.

The problem with no-kill shelters is that they run out of room. We would like to take all the dogs brought in but there are limits to how many dogs can be cared for in a given facility. This is why municipal shelters euthanize dogs. They have to take all dogs that are brought to them and, when they run out of space, they have to make some.

Taking a dog out of a kill shelter saves that dog and frees up space. But the next dog ends up in the same dismal conditions. It takes the adopted dog’s place on death row.

Adopting a dog from a no-kill shelter also frees up space. The next dog avoids death row. It gets the nicer place to live and better treatment.

The idea of a pit bull did not sit well with the family. I love the breed but the three girls are not so enthused about them. They want a big dog that looks pretty.

I could put my foot down and stand on principle. I am the one that knows about dogs so I should make the decision. Pit bulls are wonderful and the girls’ reasons for not wanting one are specious and unreasonable.

However, how happy will the dog’s life be if it is forced on the family? There will be resentment and a barrier between them. One of the reasons dogs end up in shelters is that they not compatible with family members.

As you can see, this valiant crusade to rescue an animal is not as laudable as it first seemed. There are a lot of variables, a lot of decisions and, invariably, a lot of regret for all of those that will be left behind.

I am doing it right. I am doing it the way we tell potential adopters to do. I am devoting a lot of thought and consideration to this. Most importantly, I am not taking it lightly. It’s a decision that I have to live with for, hopefully, many years.

Riding out like the White Knight and snatching some poor animal from the jaws of death seems to be the way an animal welfare advocate should act. But there is a lot more involved.

There are living beings with feelings.


One response to “It’s Hardly Easy

  1. Alex January 15, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Animal Lovers,

    I ask all the animal lovers around the area to join our animal rescue forums. Our message board are/is dedicated to discussing everything pet related, but our major emphasis is pet rescue.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog post, it was a good read 🙂

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