Like many places, we have a challenge in South Carolina to educate the public and debunk myths about responsible pet ownership. The front line in this effort includes shelter directors as they are often given media opportunities to reach a mass audience.
That’s why I was so disappointed to read this article in which the director of the Walter Crowe Animal Shelter, Sharon Jones, squanders a media opportunity. The local news wanted to interview her about a recent grant making it possible for residents in her county to obtain free spay-neuter vouchers. This would have been a great time to not only spread the word about the vouchers but to promote pets in her shelter and adoption in general. Instead, the piece is full of myths and negativity:
Jones says that generations of animals multiply exponentially when they’re not spayed and neutered.
The problem multiplies over the years. Just one male and one female cat who have not been spayed or neutered can make 70,000 more cats in just 7 years’ time. That’s because they have litters of kittens. Then, those cats have more kittens. Those cats birth more kittens, and so on.
The 70,000 kittens figure, while grossly inaccurate, is at least better than the oft touted 420,000 figure we see from many sources. The true figure for how many cats are produced from an intact female cat over a 7 year period (with participation from an intact male cat, obviously) is actually 100 – 400. And even those figures are on the high side because they assume that no adult cats die, which we know to be false. See the math and the research behind the accurate estimates here (pdf).
On to the next myth:
About fifty percent of animals who come here must be put down because of illness, injury and lack of space.
As any pet owner can tell you, most illnesses and injuries can be treated and do not require euthanasia. And as Nathan Winograd’s math makes clear, no shelter pets need be killed for space. Pet overpopulation is a myth.
It’s certainly possible that this particular shelter has a higher intake than adoption rate. That’s exactly why shelters network with rescues and other shelters online and by phone to gets pets transported to areas where they will be adopted. Of course this is in addition to marketing the shelter pets in your care. If you can get them adopted directly from your shelter, all the better. Here are Ms. Jones’ efforts to whip up positive public sentiment about adopting from her shelter:
Most of the animals are healthy but simply have no homes.
“We euthanize on a daily basis,” she said.
“Euthanizing is by far the hardest part. It’s a heart-breaker. We kill our friend every day. Every day we watch a friend of ours die,” she said.
Gee, maybe the shelter could get “We kill our friend every day” emblazoned on tote bags for a fundraiser. It’s so motivating.
After seeing this news piece, I’m uber-excited to head down to Walter Crowe Animal Shelter where most of the animals are healthy and half of them are killed. Every day. That’s an experience I definitely want to have – walking through dog kennels and cat cages, knowing that half of these pets will be killed after I leave. So who’s with me?