At a recent Tuesday evening Stammtisch, over at Track Town Pizza, where I get my weekly chance to listen and speak German, I had just explained, in German, the story behind our having a rather large number of house cats, all former strays.

One man, nice enough, commented that the local humane society was euthanizing animals and had a “red list” for dogs that at the end of the week: if they hadn’t been adopted, they were going to be euthanized.  He used as an example that a lady friend of his turned her cat over to the organization, offering to pay for everything, then had her check bounce.  The next day, the lady returned, paid again, and saw her former cat in a truck.  She wanted to say “good by” again, and related to the man who was telling me all this that her cat was going to be taken to be euthanized.

I listened, stunned.  I wasn’t so stunned, however, to wonder why the lady turned the cat over to the organization in the first place.  One reason to relinquish a cat is one’s inability to care for it.  If the lady could drive and pay, but her check bounced, perhaps she was a little demented and her memory inaccurate.  Since the story was being retold, the chance of inaccuracy increased.  I stayed silent.

The second issue was the “Red List”; the third was the man had once wanted a husky, and the society didn’t have any.  He got one from an ad in the newspaper.

I am a strong animal lover.  I was bummed and I left the Stammtisch shortly after, deciding I  would check his story out.  There is too much of what I call Fox News behavior, where poorly unsubstantiated rumors or outright lies are treated as fact.  I am a strong supporter of two Humane Societies in two states and wanted to learn if there were substance to these allegations.

Regarding the husky, the local humane society doesn’t have control over animals that are brought in; it isn’t their fault that they didn’t have what he wanted.  Stated less politely, obtaining an animal through a newspaper ad strongly suggests (although not completely) that the man paid for the dog, which were it the case, I find reprehensible, given that we euthanize 2.7 million a year in the United States.  Yes, read that number again.  I wonder how many were healthy huskies.

I learned that the local society transported cats only if the animal needed a higher level of care or had a better chance of being adopted at another facility.  They also euthanize on site, so the man’s story was wrong.  The Red List once existed, but with a former control facility, which no longer exists.  The current society has no such list.  In addition, if you sign over an animal, the animal is no longer yours.  If the animal has kidney failure, arthritis, or is FIL positive, it won’t be adopted, and it will be euthanized.  Adult cats are not very adoptable. Fact.

To summarize, when one checks facts carefully, many rumors are found to be partially or completely unfounded.  Keep that in mind, when reading or hearing shocking things.  There are facts, and there are unsubstantiated opinions.  A lot of the latter rule the day; the former tend not to be what people want to hear.

There is a huge problem with companion animal overpopulation, entirely the fault of irresponsible people in this country, and completely within our control to solve as a people.  The 2.7 million animals I mentioned are 55% cats, 45% dogs.  This number, of course, does not count the number of homeless animals poisoned, shot, run over, drowned, starve, die of hypothermia, disease, or other causes.  I do not have those data.  I assume in my county 5000 animals are euthanized annually and another 5000 die from homelessness.

Perhaps, we ought to ban breeding.  Period.  There are far too many “designer dogs” bought, when a mutt has hybrid vigor and can be a loving animal.  Fact: a group of pit bulls recently attacked a horse, requiring the latter to be euthanized. However, some solutions cause new problems:  spaying and neutering requirements might lead to people hiding their animals to avoid what I would charge: $1000 a year for an unneutered animal. Portland, Oregon, euthanizes 30% of animals that come into their shelters.  Birmingham has more than double the rate, as do Charlotte and Memphis.  Yet, in Atlanta, some shelters went from 85% being euthanized to 20% by adoption programs and other measures.  It is no coincidence that most of our house cats came from rural Arizona, red as red can get, where litters were dumped, healthy cats were tossed out to fend for themselves, because of divorce, moving, “they don’t allow animals,” “they are too much work,” “I became allergic,” and other examples of boorish, non-thinking people who would do the same to their kids if they could.  Come to think of it, they do.  This is the God, guns, and guts group, who shame the country and their Bible, where in at least six different places speaks to the need for us to care for animals.

We ought to publicize the numbers of euthanized animals in the county each month as part of my definition of how healthy my city is and the state of society.  The government does not fund humane societies.  These organizations exist through donations and charges for animal adoption and care.  It will get worse in Tea Party America, where people should be left alone, because people do such a good job of taking care of themselves.  It’s no secret that the five worst states for health insurance, a basic need, are Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Georgia.  The five best are Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Washington D.C., and Connecticut.  The worst for teen pregnancy are New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  The five best are New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Utah.  When people regulate themselves effectively, we won’t need government to do it.  I’m not holding my breath.

Americans need a whopping big dose of the ugliness here about our treatment of animals.  If a thin stray cat or dog that is eating garbage here doesn’t arouse something sad, then some of our humanity has been lost.  Nearly all of these stray animals will remain homeless, dying slowly by a host of conditions, none pretty.  Frankly, the lucky ones will be euthanized.  To think euthanasia of healthy cats and dogs does not happen in one’s community is to deny reality of an ugly, sad, unnecessary, completely treatable condition, a national disgrace.  Want to fix it?  Ask for monthly counts of euthanasia to be publicized, to keep the issue before the public. Donate money, work to ban breeding, and make crimes against animals severely punishable, for animal abuse correlates very strongly with human abuse.

We rank livability of cities using climate, median income and cultural opportunities, certainly not mentioning how many animals are dumped at the local shelter.  I am not surprised.  Healthier golf courses, excellent medical care and more cultured rich people rank higher than the stray animals population and euthanasias performed on animals who could give more love than one can imagine.


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