Established in 1992 by the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR), International Homeless Animals Day is recognized the third Saturday in August every year. The aim of this day is to increase awareness of the growing problem of pet overpopulation which has resulted in an ever-increasing number of adoptable pets who find themselves without a home. Because pet overpopulation is not a local or national problem, but rather a worldwide epidemic, the event is recognized by pet welfare groups around the world.
In the United States alone, 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters every year because there are simply not enough homes to go around. What can you do to help solve the homeless pet crisis? Let’s look at the main causes of pet overpopulation and what can be done on an individual basis to address each one:
Failing to spay or neuter your pet: Spaying or neutering your pet is the number one way to help reduce the number of homeless pets. Although it may seem harmless, it’s irresponsible to allow your pet to have “just one” litter while there are so many healthy, homeless animals being euthanized every day. Even if you have homes already lined up, remember that those puppies or kittens still take a home away from another homeless pet already waiting for a home. Besides reducing the pet overpopulation problem, spaying or neutering your pet at an early age results in many long-term health benefits for your pet.
Buying rather than adopting: According to the American Humane Society, only about 20% of people choose to adopt their new furry family member. Many people have the misconception that shelter pets have behavioral or health problems, or that they can’t find just the right pet at a shelter. The truth is, you can find dogs and cats of every type at your local shelter or rescue and shelter pets are just as smart, loving and deserving of a good home as any other pet. Whether you realize it or not, when you buy a dog from a pet store, you are most likely supporting the puppy mill industry. As an added bonus, when you adopt a pet you actually save two lives: the dog or cat you rescued, as well as another homeless pet who gets to take a coveted spot in the shelter that your adoption opened up.
Turning your back on your loyal pet: Bravo to you if you’ve decided to adopt your next dog or cat from a shelter or rescue. But remember that adoption is just the first step. Almost half of all pets entering an animal shelter every year are owner-surrenders. Additionally, a recent study by the American Humane Society found that one in ten adopted pets are no longer in the home just six months after the adoption. It’s easy to see a cute puppy or kitten and make an impulsive decision that you regret later. Before you adopt, become educated about the responsibilities of pet ownership and make certain that you are able to make a lifelong commitment to the dog or cat you bring into your home.
As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. While pet overpopulation can seem like an overwhelming problem, the solution lies with each one of us taking personal responsibility for our own pets until the days comes that every dog and cat has a home and a family to love them.