No-kill status is doable if we work together

In this country, an estimated six to eight million dogs and cats end up in shelters each year. It’s estimated that three million of them are euthanized. Call it what you will — put to sleep, put down, euthanized, killed — the result is the same.

They lose their lives for many reasons. Too aggressive. Too old. Too shy. Too many medical problems. Shelter too crowded. No space. Unadoptable. Can’t find a home. The list could go on. It’s sad, really, that in this country with all its vast resources can’t figure out how to stop killing so many pets, not to mention the millions that are abused. Three million dogs and cats — more than 8,000 each day, being euthanized each year sounds like something that would catch the attention of people and say, “Hey, wait a minute. We’ve got to do something about this. That’s unacceptable.”

But there is no major outcry.

It’s not high on the priority list for most of us. It could be because we have so many other issues that go unresolved in America — violence, poverty, crime, rising cost of living, depression and anger — that putting million of dogs and cats to sleep because they happen to be homeless isn’t something many of us are going to get too excited about. We’re not calling for mass rallies and protests. But we are calling on people to do what they can.

That’s why we were glad Nathan Winograd, director of No Kill Advocacy Center, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit, brought his message to Kauai. It’s one we all need to hear. He cited some of the ways to achieve no kill status — rescue partnerships; developing volunteer, foster and trap-neuter-release programs; increasing pet retention; setting up comprehensive adoption programs; and involving the community through public relations and outreach events. That all sounds good.

The Kauai Humane Society has a foster program and a field trip program. It has a mobile clinic for neutering and spaying. It has a transfer program that sends pets to the Mainland. It promotes adoptions. And these programs are effective. The numbers of cats and dogs ending up at KHS, and the number being put down, are falling. That’s good. We realize not every single animal can be saved for reasons already cited. But let’s keep pushing toward that goal that no adoptable dog or cat be put down. KHS must be the leader in this goal.

When it comes to euthanizing dogs and cats, it’s easy to point fingers at others and blame them. We can call on the shelters to stop euthanizing dogs and cats and say new policies and rules and even directors are needed. But if there is to be a solution, a lasting one, it must start with the person looking at us in the mirror every morning. That’s us. Each has a part to play.

We’re off to a good start. There are many, many people here who take an active role in providing and seeking homes for abandoned dogs and cats. They go above and beyond what most do when it comes to helping pets have good lives. There are many volunteers at KHS who are having an impact for the better on the island’s homeless pet population, and we thank them.

But the fact is, most of us do little or nothing that could help prevent animals from being killed. We don’t volunteer. We don’t donate. We don’t adopt. Perhaps worse, many of us don’t care.

So what can we do?

There are ways to make a difference and some won’t cost us anything but our time.

Adopting a pet is one way. Volunteering to walk dogs at KHS is another, because dogs that spend time with people have a better chance of adoption than ones that are rarely get out of their kennel and are afraid of people because they’ve been abused. When traveling to the Mainland, let KHS know so they can try to arrange a pet transfer. If you can provide a foster home, great. Donations, too, that go toward spaying the neutering programs or even providing pet food for low-income pet owners so they can keep their dog or cat, will make a difference. And if you’re a landlord, allow your tenant to have a pet.

We can all agree we don’t want dogs and cats unnecessarily euthanized. Now, let’s work together to make that happen.

Mahatma Gandhi put it well:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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