One more round of thoughts about pet abandonment

Alabama Living Magazine

The last article was about pet overpopulation and abandonment. As expected, it generated strong passions and I got more emails than usual. It is evident that everyone who took the time to write cares deeply about the welfare of our pets. 

One reader suggested going deeper into the legislative process and increasing fines for dumping live animals. This is definitely a good suggestion. The problem is who is, going to enforce it? We need political will and people in power to care. 

Another reader was slightly upset that I did not propose spay-neuter as a solution. My heartfelt thanks to the great folks who are involved in the rescue/spay/neuter and re-homing of abandoned pets. I support spay/neuter programs with passion. I worked in Philadelphia SPCA in the late ’90s and spent many days doing just spay and neuters. 

The problem is, this pathway, albeit very important, cannot quite help us solve the bigger problem. We cannot spay/neuter animals who do not walk through the doors of a spay-neuter clinic. We need regulatory changes. We need licensing laws (and a way to enforce the laws), and we need higher licensing fees for intact dogs above a certain age.

Another person thought that in our county, there are so many abandoned pets because we do not have spay-neuter vouchers. Another wonderful idea. Spay-neuter vouchers help, but first, people have to be motivated to spay or neuter. 

It is not an easy task to change people’s minds. How do we teach our fellow citizens about thinking beyond their own yard, or even letting their dogs roam free? You would not believe how many people told me that they do not believe in restricting their dog’s movements (free-roaming) and how many ladies have told me that their counterparts refuse to neuter their dogs!  

To summarize, we need:

• Better laws (rules, or safety agreements if you please)

• Better enforcement

• Better access to inexpensive spay-neuter programs and, maybe

• Better awareness (I am not banking on this one; call me a cynic). 

The bottom line is that we’re not going to solve this problem tomorrow! To show you how difficult it is to make any meaningful change, a bipartisan bill about unlawful outdoor restraints for dogs (TX Senate Bill 474) passed both houses with flying colors and then got vetoed by the governor. We have our own examples, but that will be hitting too close to home! 

But, no matter how hard things are, we do not quit. Please make friends with your local legislators. Drop by the mayor’s office one day, take the council some goodies, thank them for the hard work they do, and tell them as voters, you are interested in reducing loose dogs, abandoned dogs, or whatever may move you. 

By the way, did you know that you can support your favorite animal support groups without spending a penny with smile.amazon.com? We shop at Amazon all the time. Why not shop through smile.Amazon and help support these poor creatures for free?

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at contact@alabamaliving.coop

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