Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vast numbers of cats and dogs are euthanized

I recently found a missing photo album that had a picture of my cat Elizabeth when she was just six weeks old. Each of Elizabeth’s ears was as big as her entire face. She was so comically adorable! She looked like a fluffy little bat.

My husband gave Elizabeth to me a few days before my 30th birthday. When he brought Elizabeth home, she fit in the palm of his hand.

My wonderful, precious cat is 10 years old today but in many ways she still acts like a kitten. The nighttime crazies propel her from room to room and she invites her humans to give chase.

Throughout my life, my family has been enriched by many wonderful cats. They are truly a blessing. But this blessing comes with responsibility that lasts for the animal’s lifetime.

Sadly, for many dogs and catsthere are just not enough homes and it’s now kitten season again. Many of the kittens that have just recently been born will be abandoned or put to death.

Lake County Animal Care and Control posts chilling statistics on its Web site for the previous year. Out of 3,275 cats that were impounded, only 87 cats were redeemed by their owners and only 540 were adopted. A vast 2,648 were euthanized.

Think of the toll that is placed upon the staff of Animal Care and Control. I doubt that any technician in that facility consciously took on this career for the burden of ending the lives of dogs and cats.

Think too of the tragic short existence of these unwanted animals, whose only “crime” was that they are surplus.

Some cats are simply abandoned and, unless they have been spayed or neutered, produce more litters in the wild. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that one female cat will produce three litters in one year with each litter averaging between four to six kittens.

Cats are equipped to be hunters and could feasibly be successful in an outdoor environment — assuming their numbers stabilized but unfortunately this is not the case. Feral colonies tend to grow, supplemented not only by more offspring but by more “drop-offs” of unwanted cats.

These feral or semi-domesticated cats tend to group near residents’ homes, which poses an additional risk. Unvaccinated against feline diseases, they could infect any nearby housecats whose immunizations have lapsed.

The solution to this dilemma absolutely has to be our taking responsibility for companion animals. Any local resident who intentionally gives care to a cat or dog is required by county ordinance to spay or neuter that animal. No one should take on pet ownership unless he or she is prepared to be responsible for the lifetime of that animal.

Lake County Animal Care and Control works to provide low-cost or no-cost assistance with spaying and neutering dogs and cats. Director Denise Johnson and Program Manager Paula Werner are also available to make presentations on responsibly taking care of our companion animals.

For more information, call 263-0278, e-mail or visit the department Web site via the Lake County government portal,

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