BY TERESA LYNN CHAGRIN – Honolulu council member Tom Berg should be applauded for his concern for the plight of homeless dogs and cats (“Oahu’s Cats and Dogs on Death Row Deserve Better,” Sept. 24). The legislation he proposes, however, fails to address the source of the problem and would cause more animals to suffer.
Though it’s clear that Mr. Berg has the best of intentions, he fails to consider that the humane society is run by trained professionals familiar with all aspects of the animal overpopulation crisis. Their primary mission is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of animals while protecting the public, not to buoy the spirits of the people who bring animals to shelters.
California’s disastrous Hayden Law, cited by Mr. Berg as the inspiration for his bill, was put together by lawyers and aides with no experience running animal shelters, and it shows: Doing nothing to curb breeding—the real cause of the animal overpopulation crisis—it instead takes away shelters’ ability to keep animals healthy by controlling the spread of diseases and to give the most adoptable animals the best chance of finding a home through necessary means, including euthanasia of animals with little to no chance of adoption.
Under the Hayden Law, shelters couldn’t euthanize the animals they took in unless the animals were already to the point of death—even if that meant enduring prolonged suffering from diseases or injuries that made them unlikely prospects for adoption. One California newspaper, in an article titled, “Too Close for Comfort: New State Law Is Killing Animals,” explained how the law reduced adoptions while raising euthanasia rates.
We all want to see the number of euthanized animals decrease, but the Hayden Law debacle shows that this goal can’t be accomplished just by making it nearly impossible for shelters to use euthanasia to address the current crisis. As one former shelter volunteer explained after visiting an overburdened facility, “As I passed the kennels, each crammed with too many dogs and puppies, many of them sick or diseased, I was reminded again that euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen.”
To become a truly no-kill community means becoming a no-birth community by mandating spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to stop the flow of unwanted litters into shelters. Readers (or council members) who wish to learn more about helping homeless animals can visit www.PETA.org.
Teresa Lynn Chagrin is an Animal Care & Control Specialist for PETA in Norfolk, VA