If you are a dog person,who is in on any social media platform, you probably receive in your news feed tons of pictures of wonderful adoptable pooches with some piece of information about them and the shelter to contact for more information. Some of these "Ads" claim to be urgent and most of them probably are. Since they are desperate attempts to get a pet out of the row of death, the organization that posts these pictures only relies in people to quickly spread the news and find a home or another shelter wiling to adopt or foster. This is one of those situations when social media becomes an invaluable tool that could make the difference between life or death.
Last week end was not an exception and our facebook feed had many cries for help. However, we found one of them to be particularly touching, maybe because the story behind it. Two dogs were waiting for adoption in a shelter after their dad, a senior man, had to move to a nursing home. They were going to be euthanized if they could not find a home in the two days that followed.
Most of the time, these sort of messages make people think about non-responsible ownerssurrendering or abandoning their dogs. These cases exist and are numerous. However, this particular one involved somebody who just was simply unable to take care of himself and his canine friends due to his age. The story combines two different complex aspects: facing the changes associated with moving to an assisted living facility and the fate of one's pet when surrendering them to a shelter is the only option. Aging and the limitations that come with it is something that, hopefully, each and every one of us will have to live with. Moving to a place that doesn't allow pets can become a major issue, because that would mean spearing oneself from our animals with whom we share a strong bond.
Nobody is to blame for growing old, it is natural. Having to leave the house and dismantle everything one worked so hard for and that took so long to build should not be a wonderful feeling. It is even more painful if that implies leaving maybe one's only living companion for years, left to their fate. Worse yet is when you know that your furry friend has big chances of dying. Aware of the importance of a pet in a senior's life and the beneficial effects of regular contact with animals, some nursing homes allow the resident to bring in their pets. In some few other residences, there are even adopted community pets who stimulate and inspire residents to get up of the chair.
However, many nursing homes still don't allow pets and the stats evidence that many animals that arrive to shelters are euthanized. Unfortunately, and despite the efforts, millions of animals are killed by animal control every year, just because they are homeless. Animal rights is an area in which we still have a lot to do, and animal control is not an exception to this axiom.
Shelters, whether public or private, both with and without government contracts, always have a limited budget and a capacity that is always exceeded by the demand for it. Some shelters, specially those under animal control contracts, cannot refuse any dog or cat that is brought to them. The problem is that on top of from accepting lost and homeless dogs, these shelters also welcome animals sent there by courts. Also, they have a predetermined period of time during which they can return animals to their owners or get them adopted or relocated to other shelters. Unfortunately, when the dogs or cats remain in the shelter longer than their allotted time without any chances of getting relocated to a foster home or another shelter, their are euthanized.
On the other hand, "no kill shelters", in most cases, are non-profit organizations that only rely on donations. They can only accept animals when their resources, budget and room, make it possible. In the best case scenario, animals in regular shelters are relocated to no kill ones. However, if they are not adopted or fostered, this will contribute to reducing the limited capabilities of these shelters to adopt new animals, starting this horrible circle again.
While more and more people advocate in favor of no killing shelters, reality shows that there is yet a lot to accomplish. The goal of this article is not to point the finger at anyone, but to shed some light on this problem, tempting anyone who feel touched by the story to brainstorm, propose, and discuss ideas to advance in path to finding solutions. Perhaps redirecting animal control resources to families in order to encourage and make it easier and more affordable for them to adopt or foster could be one of them. This would make the process of relocating dogs and cats out of killing shelters easier and faster. Certainly, implementing policies to have more dog friendly accomodations, whether it is in assisted or regular living facilities, both for seniors and non seniors, could help remove housing from the list of pet ownership barriers. Both, reducing the number of euthanized dogs and finding ways of improving senior citizens' quality of life are challenges that modern society forces us to face, regardless of where we live. The responsibility is in our hands and we must do something.