It can be unexpectedly expensive to share your home with a dog or cat, but many families attest there’s no greater joy. Certainly, I feel that way 10½ years later, after my daughter arrived at home during winter break from college with a bulldog she impulsively purchased when the puppy appeared in a New Jersey store window.
After a trip to investigate the Kansas puppy mill that sold her Lola, and interviews with bulldog rescuers who pointed us to auctions that puppy mills stage to sell off dogs they discard, we wrote a Summer 2004 Action Line exposé about puppy mills and Lola, who had so many health problems that she received a “not for sale” certificate from a vet.
Lola and our other large dog, Harry, came to work at Friends of Animals each day. Shockingly, Lola passed away in April, and thoughts about adopting another dog returned, which got me thinking about Meg McIntire’s poignant story in this issue of Action Line: “Stop. Think. Adopt. – How misconceptions about rescue animals are part of the homeless problem.”
Unfortunately, homelessness isn’t solved entirely by publicizing shelter adoptions. Sometimes, animals who make it into a home face people ill-equipped or incapable of assuming veterinary costs and responsibilities of lifetime care— not to mention paying to reupholster damaged furniture.
To help avert the perils of homelessness and draw attention to the financial commitments of rescuing an animal, FoA just launched a creative initiative to link adoptions to our affordable spay-neuter program. With our network of more than 600 veterinarians, FoA is the non-profit leader for spay-neuter efforts, as approximately 35,000 animals are sterilized through this project each year.
Through the talents of the Atlanta-based agency, Breensmith Advertising, thought-provoking outdoor billboards are appearing in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Georgia (with more states to follow), to educate folks that spay-neuter is a big part of the solution that protects dogs and cats from harm, abandonment and in some cases death.
Although the number has fallen, animals killed in U.S. animal shelters and pounds is still close to three million, and evenly divided between cats and dogs. Only 30 percent of pets come from shelters or rescues even though they typically provide shots plus spaying and neutering before animals are put up for adoption.
We will also target young people to remind them adopting an animal is not a harmless impulse-buy like purchasing a new pair of shoes or uploading a song from iTunes.
College students typically live in small dorm rooms. They’re always broke. As one 2013 graduate informed me, when colleges prohibit pets on campus, they’re often rescued and smuggled into the dorm, with no thought given to pet food costs, vet care, spay-neuter or even walking the dog. One roommate rescued a pregnant cat and then the cat had a litter. At the end of the school year many of these animals are not welcomed into the student’s home, so they’re abandoned on campus or dropped at a shelter.
Next fall, the University of Northern Colorado will become one of fewer than a dozen colleges in the United States that allows cats and dogs on campus – launching the ill-conceived effort “to beef up what it is like to live in a pet-friendly community,” says Jennifer Brundage, assistant director of apartment life and operations for the college.
That cats and dogs are any college’s experimental pilot program to attract and excite students is highly problematic.
We’ll aim to blanket college newspapers and social media with our new spay-neuter ads so that the best ideas flourish, and animals whose lives matter so much are beneficiaries.