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November 23, 2010 > Ohlone Humane Society: Moving on

Ohlone Humane Society: Moving on

By Nancy Lyon

The faltering economy of the last ten years has taken a heavy toll not only on the human community, but has directly contributed to a mushrooming overflow of stray or owner-surrendered companion animals ending up in shelters.

Many shelters charge a fee to take in surrendered animals, so a number of former animal companions end up being dumped by the wayside while their "family" goes on its way, comforting themselves by thinking that someone will give the poor abandoned critter a "good home." Except for the occasional animal-caring Good Samaritan that steps in and saves a life, this is just not the usual case, and future prospects for the poor animal are pretty grim.

Probably the greatest increase is in the cat population. You can walk into just about any municipal animal shelter and the number of cats - beautiful, social cats - is staggering. The story of people moving because of lost jobs with multiple reasons of why they can't bring along Rover or Fluffy is all too common. In some instances there really is no choice and the need to surrender is legitimate, but more often it's just a case of out with the old, we're moving on.

Older shelter dogs and cats often wait for long periods of time for that special person who will take them home. But sometimes that person doesn't come along and the animal becomes depressed, sickens, and euthanasia is judged the most humane course of action. A sad end for a bewildered and faithful old friend.

Unaltered cats (and other animals), can produce, even in a relatively short lifespan, an astronomical number of offspring. Unwanted cats and their feral young are often trapped by neighbors who consider them a nuisance or simply by people who don't like cats. Victims of human irresponsibility and negligence, they end up in shelters and, if deemed feral, with few exceptions, are killed after three days.

A female cat can become pregnant as early as four months and have from three to six kittens a litter, up to five litters a year. The kittens of an abandoned domestic mom cat will become feral if not socialized within a short time after birth; the surviving kittens will grow into cats that are no longer companion animals in the accepted sense. Ferals are defined as animals that are not domesticated or cultivated and have escaped or been abandoned from domestication, essentially wild and are generally unadoptable. And the problem grows and grows, with feral cats being a large part of an animal shelter's population.

What, if any, answers are there to the problem?

First and foremost, have your cat, dog, rabbit spayed or neutered. No excuses. Then if your fortunes take a sudden downturn, you'll have a better chance of finding a place that will accept pets or a friend that will consider fostering while you re-establish your residence.

While veterinary fees for altering animals have climbed to an all time high that borders on the ridiculous, there are low-cost and sometimes no cost programs and clinics that can fit most budgets. Learn to prioritize. If your present financial circumstance or job is looking uncertain, by-pass an evening of movie and pizza once in a while and get your animal altered ASAP; it will be worth it in the long run.

If you are sincere in keeping your pet, there are apartments that will take animals, some reasonably priced if you really search and start early. Some will only allow spayed/neutered animals. If your animal friend means a lot to you there are resources that you need to pursue as soon as you find your living circumstances are going to be changing.

If family and friends can't temporarily help you with housing your animal companion, then perhaps for a period of time, you can accept living in a less desirable rental situation until a place can be found to accommodate you both. This gives you breathing space while you look for better options. If you decide to share accommodations, make sure the person is animal-friendly and has no allergy to animals.

A word of warning - don't innocently think that it is safe to give away a beloved companion animal to strangers, through the newspaper or online. Craig's List may be recommended but some very dangerous people that have ill intentions for your animal lurk there. Get placement advice from a rescue or shelter.

With overcrowded shelters bulging at the seams with animals, especially cats, and adoptions often slow or non-existent, a shelter should be your last option.

Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Assistance programs/clinics:
Ohlone Humane Society (510) 792-4587
East Bay S.P.C.A. (510) 639-7387
Tri-Valley S.P.C.A. (925) 479-9674
Humane Society of the Silicon Valley (408) 262-2133
Palo Alto Spay/Neuter Clinic (650) 496-5933

Animal-Friendly Rental Search:
MyNewPlace, http://www.mynewplace.com

Housing issues and companion animals -Animal Law
http://www.animallaw.info/journals/jo_pdf/vol11_p69.pdf

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