Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Imagine it. Every month, our dog pound...which goes by the name of the O.C. Animal Shelter...exterminates an average of 3,500 dogs and cats. This adds up to thousands and thousands of animals each year. These pitiful creatures are given as pets to people who come to the pound to rescue a dog, but most of them are left behind and suffer a terrible fate. Sometimes the owners of these stray animals show up to identify them, then find they can't afford the price it takes to take them home again. The dogs wag their tails trustingly as they are led into the chamber where they are killed, and Heaven knows what happens to their dead bodies. There is no Potter's Field for homeless, helpless, unwanted dogs or cats.

When I think about this, my mind goes into imaginative, nightmarish regions. Are thousands of dead animals incinerated monthly in some kind of hellish, smelly, sizzling fire? Are these bodies donated to dog food companies and ground up to be fed to other, more fortunate creatures? Just what does one do with more than three thousand corpses every month?

Yet, despite this wholesale slaughter, there is little effort to bring down the price of spaying or neutering animals. A few organizations do try to lower the price and allow people to bring their dogs for this purpose, but they are few and not located where people know about them and can find them. To get an animal spayed can run into a couple of hundred dollars or more, although cats can be accommodated for a little less. Even so, many families are having trouble making ends meet. This price is a huge chunk out of a paycheck. When it comes to a choice between paying for expensive shots or surgery for a dog or feeding the kids, we all know which choice must be made.

At one time, I had two tiny Yorkies. They were being troubled by fleas. So, I went to a Pet Store in a nearby town and asked them what I could do. They led me to a counter where there were packages of a new medication, one you sprayed on the back of the dog's shoulder. It was a simple procedure and the clerk guaranteed it would work.

I was skeptical and told the clerk so, but I decided to try it. It cost me $10 to buy a three month supply for my two little dogs. Miraculously, the fleas disappeared and we had no more trouble with the itching and scratching these pesky creatures bring about.

Three months later,my packets of the medicine were gone, so I dropped into the Pet Store for a new supply. The clerk shook her head. "We don't carry it any more," she said. "We aren't allowed to carry it. The Vets took it over. It's a prescription item now."

So, off I went to my Vet. The medication that had formerly cost me $10 for a three month supply for two tiny little dogs now cost me $50. For Jedi, my Hearing Ear Dog, it costs $10 monthly for the same medication. Because service dogs use Flea Medication all year round, since they travel so much with their owners, I pay approximately $120 a year for Jedi's flea medicine. This is not counting the money I pay for her other shots and other procedures which she must have.

Dogs and cats are a part of the family life of younger people. Children love dogs and cats and it has proven to be helpful for them to love and help care for a pet. It is heartbreaking to lose a pet, simply because the procedures they need are so expensive. It seems to me that a Spaying Program might be cheaper than the practice of keeping them for several days, then killing them.

Because of the expense of caring for an animal, there are several stray cats that roam around the bushes and trees around my house. I am constantly out trying to protect my birds from harm. These cats are feral and very hungry. You can't catch them. I try to feed them, because I can't stand to see a hungry creature, thin as a bone and meowing pitifully. They are so frightened, so lost, so pathetic. They no longer trust any human being. Some of them are dropped off as kittens and know no other life besides roaming the fields in search of mice and birds. Sometimes, authorities will come and round them up, but then they are taken to the pound and destroyed.

We all know that it costs money to stay in business, that Vets have to pay their expenses, their employees, and hope to make a little profit, but I can't find pity for them when it comes to spaying animals. Let them overcharge for other items or give them a tax break, but let them help keep three thousand five hundred creatures from certain death every month. That's just in one county. If you added up the number of counties in the United States, the number of slaughtered animals would be mindboggling!

Wouldn't it be easier to instigate some National Spaying Program to help families take care of their pets? It would reduce the number of stray dogs and feral cats. It would wipe the tears from the eyes of many children. It would reach right out to the heart of this country, where our pets mean as much as any other family members.

I have had people say to me, "Good Grief, Herma! There are sick babies and people with no health insurance, and you are worried about the dogs and cats!"

You bet I am. They are helpless, trusting, loyal to the core. They are dependent upon us for kindness and shelter. If we are going to have some three thousand animals running around without homes, destined for death, it is time we started changing our procedures. A simple surgical procedure saves a dog from having one litter after another, saves those kittens from being tossed out on the roadside. If we love our pets, we should put a stop to this and insist upon safe, inexpensive spaying programs. It would save money if we did so.

So, speaking for those limpid eyes, those wagging tails, those canine and feline friends that have enriched our lives and broken our hearts, could anything be more worthwhile than preventing this stupendous number of dogs and cats being systematically and horribly gassed in some hideous Chamber of Death?