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Shelter animals getting bad rap from young adults

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

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I tout adoptions statistics for the four major animal rescue operations in Summit County as proof that here, at least, we seem to be doing something right for homeless animals.

In 2012, Summit County Animal Control, the Humane Society of Greater Akron, Paws and Prayers and One of a Kind Pet Rescue rescued 7,000 homeless animals. Since two of the rescue groups pull animals from the county facility, some of the numbers are duplicated.

But what is more important, each cat or dog that left one of these facilities was spayed or neutered or received the procedure following their adoption, helping curtail pet overpopulation at its source. The animals also received the medical attention they needed, including vaccines and inoculations, before they left the facility.

However, 4 million animals still die in shelters across the country each year.

The statewide average compiled last year by the Columbus Dispatch showed that 70 percent of the dogs impounded in Ohio shelters were redeemed or adopted and 30 percent were euthanized.

Summit County Animal Shelter has a kill rate of 18.8 percent, but those figures represent owner requests to have dogs euthanized and any dog that must be destroyed because it looks like a pit bull or any of several similar looking breeds. An ordinance that I believe discriminates against a dog’s breeding rather than the animal’s biting (or lack of biting) history requires it must be destroyed whether it is vicious or not. Still, the 81.2 live rate is pretty darn good and is a direct response to the county’s efforts to move dogs into new homes. The shelter works well with rescue groups who pull animals from the facility before they are euthanized.

Other surrounding counties that had similar kill rates are reporting improving figures because the state dropped pit bulls from its vicious dog law last summer and they are no longer required to kill dogs because of their looks. Medina County deserves kudos for topping the list with an excellent 90.3 live rate.

So, it was disturbing when I read in a recent survey that young adults erroneously believe that shelter animals are somehow inferior and less desirable to those they can buy from stores or from a breeder.

I am not opposed to people breeding animals responsibly, but buyers should take home a pet because of its personality and breeding history as opposed to the way it looks. The fact that a puppy or adult cat or dog is cute is the worst possible reason for choosing an animal that may not fit into the new owner’s lifestyle.

Even if a person desires a particular kind of dog or cat, there are rescue groups for every kind of breed you are looking for. Through no fault of their own these animals are homeless — in many cases because the owner failed to understand the breed before he or she bought it.

But to buy a pet at a store in a mall is just downright irresponsible. You shouldn’t be able to pick up a pet at the same place you can get a pair of jeans AND discard them as easily when they turn out not to be what you wanted. When you purchase an animal from a store, you are also taking a chance that the animal is a product of a puppy mill that produces unhealthy and unsocialized animals. Due to the number of these operations in areas south of us, the buyer should be doubly aware they could be supporting inhumane treatment of animals with their purchases.

In a recent survey, Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals, found that people ages 18-34 have the misconception that most shelter animals are safe and will not be killed to make room for more animals. This age group is 50 percent more likely to purchase an animal through a breeder or store.

No More Homeless Pets, a partnership of Best Friends and a network of more than 1,000 grass roots animal welfare groups, is committed to changing those misconceptions.

The results of the survey of 1,000 adults 18 and older in the U.S. came up with these results:

• While the vast majority of people surveyed believe that shelter animals are lovable, companionable and sweet, six in 10 think they are poorly behaved, unhealthy and malnourished.

• Eighty-six percent of Americans would recommend a shelter animal to a friend.

• Four in five people surveyed said they believe all animals should be spayed or neutered. Sixty-five percent thought the procedures are important to prevent unwanted litters; 33 percent realize they will improve an animal’s behavior; 25 percent understand that the procedures will improve an animal’s health.

• In other disappointing findings, the survey shows that 33 percent of Americans believe it is important for their pets to get annual checkups by a veterinarian; 35 percent think it is important to spay and neuter their pets; and only 42 percent believe regular grooming is important. In actuality, all three things are vital to maintain the health of a pet, Best Friends advises.

Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.


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