Written by: Tamar Auber
The economic downtown has not spared our four legged friends. Several animal shelters throughout the United States shuttered their doors at the end of 2011 or are at risk of imminent closure, leaving many homeless and lost pets literally out in the cold. The last hope for many cats and dogs, these non-profit animal organizations, such as the Kindred Spirit Animal Rescue in Ripley County, MO, cite the high cost of operations and lack of volunteers for the closings. As animal lovers, the news is disheartening. Less shelters mean that less deserving pets will be rescued or find homes in the coming year and many more may be left outside and vulnerable to being hit by cars or death by exposure. Yet as pet parents, another less obvious risk could ultimately harm our beloved pets. Without adequate shelters, what will happen to our furry friends if they are lost?
Animal shelters are often a first stop on the search when your cat or dog goes missing. Fortunately, most shelters regularly work hard reunite owners with their lost pets whenever possible. Shelter staff often rely on microchips or tattoos to reunify pets and owners. According to the ASPCA, animals with permanent markers are far more likely to be returned. However, once one local shelter has closed, remaining animal resources are bound to be overcrowded. This means fewer resources and less time will be available to care for and identify your pet and track you down if she is separated from you.
In fact, the lack of a well funded shelter for your lost pet can be downright deadly to your precious pooch or feline. At some overcrowded and under-funded animal shelters, such as California facilities, owners are given only a few days to claim their pets before their pets risk being euthanized. A critical lack of staffing at some shelters also means that your pet may not easily be identified as owned by the shelter staff. Such is the case at the Miami-Dade Shelter which makes it clear that with its high volume of intake that the responsibility is on the owner, not the shelter to identify your lost pet. This trend will only continue as funding for animal care facilities decreases and shelters close, placing your pet at greater risk if she is ever lost.
As animal lovers and responsible pet owners, then, it is very important that we both support our local shelters and invest in micro-chipping or other ways to identify your pet, which is the fastes and easiest way to reunite owner with pet.
Many local shelters have an on-line wish list of items needed for their animal friends and donations of any form and any amount is welcome. If you cannot invest in pet care products or cash, consider volunteering at your local shelter. While you may end up cleaning cages or filing paperwork, your extra hands will allow the staff more time to care for homeless animals and help reunite lost pets.
Finally, if your pet is not micro-chipped or tattooed, ask your local ASPCA or veterinary service about the procedure. Micro-chipping is a safe, cost-effective way to help your pet find her way back home and ensure your lost pet does not end up in an overcrowded and understaffed animal shelter.