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Archive for April 2012

Spring: The saddest season for animal shelters

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

For most of us, the unusually warm spring that much of the country is experiencing is a welcome relief from winter. But for people who work in animal shelters, it signals an early start to the most dreaded time of year: kitten and puppy season.

Dogs and cats reproduce year-round, but early spring through late fall is prime breeding time—especially for cats, whose heat cycles are triggered by increased daylight hours. People who thought they could wait “just a bit longer” to have their cat spayed are often surprised to find out their kitten has become a mother herself. Female cats can go into heat every two to three weeks and can become pregnant while they are still nursing kittens—which means that one cat can give birth to multiple litters over the course of a single season.

Where do all these kittens and puppies go? Some end up on the streets, where many die young and in pain after being hit by cars, succumbing to diseases, starving or crossing paths with cruel people. Others pour into animal shelters across the country, leaving them scrambling to accommodate the surge of kittens and puppies. One shelter near Atlanta reported that it typically takes in 400 to 500 stray kittens each month during kitten season.

Baby animals may be cute, but their overabundance leaves shelters in an ugly situation. With 6 to 8 million animals entering U.S. shelters every year, most are constantly filled to capacity. In order to accommodate the deluge of baby animals during kitten and puppy season, open-admission shelters (those that never turn animals away) must euthanize other animals who have been at the shelter for a while to make room for the newcomers.

Playful kittens and puppies tend to steal the show (and people’s hearts), making it even less likely that the gentle, affectionate adult animals who have been waiting in shelters for homes will ever be adopted. But with so many litters flooding shelters, not even adorable kittens and puppies are guaranteed a home. Every day, caring shelter workers are forced to hold animals in their arms and euthanize them—including those whose lives have just begun—simply because there aren’t enough good homes for them all.

This tragedy could end if we all spayed or neutered our animals. Sterilizing even one cat or dog can prevent thousands more from being born only to end up on the streets, in the hands of abusive people or in shelters. Without spaying, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years, and one unaltered female cat and her descendants can lead to a staggering 370,000 cats in only seven years. Male animals contribute to the overpopulation crisis even more than females do: Just one unsterilized male animal can impregnate dozens of females, creating hundreds of unwanted offspring.

Sterilization also has many health benefits for animals. Female cats and dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle have one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer. Spaying eliminates female animals’ risk of diseases and cancers of the ovaries and uterus, which are often life-threatening and can require expensive treatments, including surgery. Neutering eliminates male animals’ risk of testicular cancer and reduces unwanted forms of behavior such as biting.

By having our animal companions sterilized and helping our friends, family and everyone we know understand why it’s so important for them to do the same, we can save lives and make spring a season of hope instead of sadness for animals and the people who care about them.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Save a bundle and a bunny this Easter

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By Robyn Wesley

Here’s an easy way to save almost $8,000 this Easter: Surprise your child with a plush toy bunny instead of a living, breathing Peter Cottontail.

A real rabbit may not seem like a big investment initially, but Thumper’s tab soon adds up when you throw in food, nail trimmers, brushes, veterinarian visits, spaying or neutering and other necessities. Caring for a rabbit is an 8- to 12-year commitment that typically costs more than $7,600.

A plush rabbit, on the other hand, won’t set you back more than a few bucks and can be donated or tossed into a closet after “bunny fever” has subsided.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve cared for several rescued rabbits over the years, and they make loving companions for someone who is committed to giving them the time and attention that they need. They just don’t belong in an Easter basket.

Pet stores love to display adorable bunnies this time of year—most of whom likely came from filthy, severely crowded mass-breeding facilities. These stores rarely inform buyers that rabbits are high-maintenance animals who require specialized care.

For example, although rabbits can be shy, they are not solitary animals. They love to be stroked and spoken to gently, and they want to be part of the family. One of my rabbits, Henry, loved to be the center of attention and would sit in the middle of the living room while I watched TV. When I petted my rabbit Cozy, he’d respond by giving me tons of kisses. Freya, my other rabbit, would gently nibble on my inner arm.

Cozy and Freya fell in love and became inseparable. No matter where they went, they would always sit with their bodies pressed together. Henry and my cat Winnie used to chase each other around the house and playfully wrestle. When my cat Josie groomed Henry, he would grind his teeth with pleasure.

Locking a rabbit in a cage makes for a lonely and depressed bunny. In order to let them have some freedom, rabbits need to be litterbox-trained, and your house needs to be rabbit-proofed. Bunnies chew on anything and everything in order to keep their teeth trimmed. Electrical cords, books, furniture, molding, carpets and shoes will need to be covered or moved out of the rabbit’s reach if you don’t want them to be gnawed.

Regular brushing is a must since rabbits shed profusely and hairballs can be fatal (they can’t cough them up like cats can). They also need a high-fiber diet including grass, timothy or oat hay, and fresh veggies. Dry pellets alone aren’t sufficient. Spaying or neutering is vital to prevent rabbits from spraying urine—and from making more bunnies.

Another fact that pet shops don’t point out is that bunnies aren’t good companions for children. Rabbits don’t like to be picked up and will kick, scratch and bite to defend themselves. Their bodies are so fragile that an overly enthusiastic “hug” can break their bones.

When reality sets in and people who bought bunnies on impulse discover that they are more work than they expected, scores of these sensitive animals are tossed out like stale jellybeans. Many rabbits are euthanized in shelters because there aren’t enough people lining up to give them a lifetime of love and care. Other rabbits are banished to solitary confinement in a hutch or are simply turned loose outdoors, where they don’t stand a chance against the elements and predators.

If you’re certain that you’re prepared to care for a real rabbit for the next 12 or so Easters to come, please rescue one of the many affectionate and deserving rabbits waiting in animal shelters and rabbit rescue groups across the country. If not, opt for a bunny that’s stuffed with fluff instead. Not only will it save you a bundle of bucks, it could also save a real bunny from a lifetime of suffering.

Robyn Wesley is the senior editor of publications for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

April 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm