As a new member of the community I’ve been following the controversy about the Kauai Humane Society and I’m a little surprised by the number of animals that have to be put to sleep. I have visited the island many times and have always been impressed with the local humane society and the work that they do.
Although I can understand the sentiments of individuals who are opposed to euthanizing healthy animals, there’s a much bigger picture here that needs to be addressed. I have been a veterinarian for many, many years and have never personally taken part in convenience euthanasia. I have only put animals to sleep that had terminal illnesses, were in intractable pain or were a danger to humans.
The bigger picture here is that there’s obviously a lot of people on the island who are very, very irresponsible with their pets! Perhaps we should be volunteering instead of protesting and there should be some way of holding pet owners responsible for their pet’s reproduction.
I would make the following recommendations that I think will address all sides of the issues:
1) Protesters may not have any kind of voice before the board unless they have spent at least one month fostering animals or volunteering in taking care of animals at the shelter.
Anyone wishing to have a voice in this matter should be forced to work with feral cats and see the reality of the situation.
2) All pets should be required to be licensed at a reasonable price.
Any unneutered pets should have a $500 per year license fee as a registered breeding animal. Any unneutered pet found roaming loose or being unlicensed should have a $700 fine associated with its return. A second infraction should carry a $1,000 fine. This would not apply to those pets that are licensed and neutered.
This should dissuade irresponsible people and backyard breeders from causing the problem in the first place.
3) There’s a huge difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is just a feeling while compassion motivates me to do something to help. Some people want to protest and never actually do anything to help. The people who are protesting should form advocacy groups to foster pets in their own home and then find homes for them. These advocacy groups should bring community awareness to the problem and strongly encourage all people to have their pets spayed or neutered. This approach has worked very well in Scottsdale, Arizona.
So what can I do? I won’t participate in convenience euthanasia and put down an animal that is not terminally ill, a danger to others or in terrible pain … but I can volunteer my services for spaying and neutering! I think if all of us who are concerned look at the situation and try to find some way to help then there’ll be a whole lot less angry finger-pointing and a huge resolution to the awful problem of pet overpopulation due to irresponsible pet ownership. Let’s think of positive ways that we can all chip in.
Those who are not in a position to volunteer to help or foster animals could always donate some money to the humane society to help with the problem.
Dr. Gregg A. Townsley is a resident of Wailua Homesteads.